League Season Kicks off with Hard Fought Win
By Paddy Davenport
Late Try Seal's Victory
Sandbach made hard work of their win, against a well organised and committed Burton outfit. Indeed, it was only a late Jack Seddon try, with a couple of minutes left on the clock, that sealed the victory, and though territorially Sandbach dominated the game, mistakes and spirited opposition, pushed them all the way. Sandbach will need to ensure some of these errors are eliminated, if they are to improve on their position in the league last season, but any win at this level is a good one and they will take heart from that.
Sandbach started brightly and soon had the visitors under pressure. So, it was no surprise when centre Jimmy Gore scrambled over for a debut try, with three minutes gone, after a series of forward drives. Mark Bird adding the conversion. Sandbach’s bright start was soon punctured, as a midfield pass was intercepted by Burton’s second row Windibank, and he romped home from thirty metres out. Burton fullback Simpson striking over the conversion, evening up the score. This rather took the wind out of the sails for the home side and quietened the large Bradwall Road crowd, who were enjoying some late summer sunshine. So, when Burton nudged into the lead, with a Simpson penalty on twelve minutes, that early confidence seemed to disappear.
Slowly however, Sandbach worked their way back into the game and sticking to their patterns of play, created the opening, as outside centre Joe Gammage cut back against a stretched defence, to score by the side of the posts. Mark Bird knocking over his second conversion. Burton then again immediately hit back, with some disappointing Sandbach defence from a set play move, that saw the blind side wing Williams burst through the middle, fending off the last line of cover, to score in the corner. Sandbach though got back on the horse and again continued to pressure the visitors defence, resulting in two Bird penalties, and a half time score of 20 v 15 to the red, gold & greens.
Sandbach continued to have the upper hand in the second half, and Burton were forced into desperate defence, resulting in Windibank receiving a yellow card for coming in at the side of the maul, when Sandbach looked certain to score. The referee Dan Rowlands was soon upsetting the home faithful, in disallowing an Andy Nash effort, judging it to be a double movement, rather than reaching out for the line. The pressure and numbers were beginning to tell, when flanker Nash got his try, as he forced his way over, following a driving maul. Bird once more adding the conversion.
Having lost just twice last season in their promotion campaign, Burton continued to make sure it was a tight contest, as Sandbach made a mess of their own lineout and the resulting kick to the corner and a kindly bounce, resulted in another Williams try. At 27 v 20 things were getting tense, particularly as Sandbach lost skipper Dan Stubbs and hooker Josh Longson, resulting in three props in the front row. So, when the Sandbach defence got stretched out wide and Williams went over again, there was now just two points in it and fifteen minutes to go. As it was, Sandbach regrouped and ground away at the Burton defence, ensuring the play was very much in the visitors back third. However, there was great relief when Seddon got his try after a series of drives from a five-metre scrum, and Bird’s conversion put the game out of reach.
Overall a win is a win and though Sandbach deserved the victory, it is fair to say, that they could also have lost it. Plenty to work on for the coaching team, but what did shine through was the team spirit and character, and that, can still be a significant factor in rugby at this level. The selection team will also be buoyed by an impressive 7 v 57 win by the Saxons away at Kirby Lonsdale. So, there is some real challenge for places, for next week’s difficult visit to Derby.