Much Needed Victory
By Paddy Davenport
Battling First Away Win of the Season
Sandbach battled to a much-needed win over Bournville, with their dominant pack proving to be the decisive factor on the day. It was nevertheless a bit of a mixed bag from the visitors, being guilty on occasion of making simple errors and lacking composure, but also dominating many aspects of play, most notably in the set piece. Overall it was a deserved win that moved them out of the relegation zone and it should do wonders for their confidence, as new league leaders Bridgnorth visit next week.
At Bournville’s brand-new ground at Avery Fields, Sandbach kicked off against the wind and slope and quickly had the upper hand. The pack were pushing their opponents around in the scrummage and gaining penalties, whilst Matt Jackson was dominating the lineout. Despite being camped in the scoring red zone though they couldn’t find their way over the line, often rushing things or showing inaccuracy at the critical moments. So, it was against the run of play when Bournville took the lead, as Sandbach made a mess of trying to find touch from a long clearance kick. The kick only finding the home team’s speedster Ethan Walker, whose arcing run saw him round the cover defence to score under the posts. Bourn’s scrum half Harrhy adding the conversion.
Sandbach reverted to their original plan of dominating the set piece and playing territory and this brought dividends, when after a series of drives down the middle, numbers were exposed on the short side. Winger Jack Leech then exploited the cover defence, to step inside for Sandbach’s opening score. Fly half Benny Elliot’s conversion attempt drifting across the posts on the breeze. Sandbach were still prone to slip-ups though and when a laboured pass in mid-field was intercepted, Bournville were in again and with another Harrhy conversion, Bournville despite hardly having been in the Sandbach half were 14 v 5 up. Sandbach did continue to batter away for the rest of the half, resulting in Bournville’s prop being binned, as referee Laura Pettingale lost patience with their scrum, however Sandbach were unable to break down a committed home defence.
Sandbach made changes at the break with Mike Eggleston entering the fray and his physical presence had an impact, as Sandbach made use of the elements which were now in their favour. Sandbach quickly reduced the gap to just two points, when the chocolate boys, made a similar mistake as Sandbach had done, in trying to clear long against the wind. This time Elliot Morris showing Sandbach too had players with fleetness and his fast feet and pace saw him slice through to score under the sticks. Benny Elliot adding the extras. Rather unfortunately though for the Bradwall Road boys the wind dropped and Bournville started to get more into the game, as Sandbach began to concede penalties. From one of these Bournville stretched their lead to five as Harrhy slotted over, with thirty minutes to play.
Undaunted Sandbach began to exert control again and though Elliot missed a chance to reduce the deficit with a penalty, they were again forcing Bournville to defend deep in their half. So, when Sandbach got another penalty chance, this time they kicked to the corner and a well-executed catch and drive saw prop Gareth Caen over, for his third try in four games. Benny Elliot in typically enigmatic style, then landed a fantastic conversion from the touch line, on the wrong side for a right footed kicker. With ten to go, Sandbach had a two-point lead and Bournville were testing the visitors defence. Though there was the odd anxious moment the cover held true and Elliot then knocked over a penalty with just a couple of minutes on the clock. Sandbach then had enough control to see out the game and gain their first away win of the season.
This result saw Sandbach jump four places in a highly congested league and though there was some good stuff, there were also areas that still need work. What was pleasing was the solid midfield defence with centres Jimmy Reilly and Jimmy Gore shoring up that area, against a dangerous Bournville back line, and another top performance from the front row. Further the other teams continue to put in impressive performances, with the Saxons winning 64 v 24 against Liverpool University Veterinarians, whilst the Stormers triumphed 7 v 54 against Linley & Kidsgrove 2’s, for a good weekend all round.