Sodbury Lose 9 Try Thriller
Cheltenham Saracens 1st XV – 32
Chipping Sodbury 1st XV – 24
This was a game that lurched one way then the other. Sodbury had a good start but ruined it with penalties which let their hosts off the hook: this turned out to be the pattern for the rest of the game. After just 5 minutes, the Sodbury flair was on display. A scrum on halfway provided the platform for a sweeping move down the right. It was a lesson in simplicity: straight running, drawing players, followed by soft passes. When the ball got to Jon Cook the magic really began. His footwork and searing pace embarrassed the defence as he scored with a majestic dive.
Sodbury were soon reeling from two tries by Saracens, along with a yellow card. During this period, Saracens enjoyed some time in Sodbury's 22. They were brilliantly repelled with some robust work by Matt Cook and Niall Kincaid at the lineout. At the mighty hands of Sodbury’s front row – Lee Ralph, Dave Guest and Luke Balentine-Smith – the Saracens scrum was splintered, and the fact that there were no penalties forthcoming certainly raised an eyebrow.
It was from an advancing Sodbury scrum that the next try came. The Sods had a central position on Saracens’ 22; livewire Tom Head found Dan Bradley, and he in turn gave a super pass to Dom Pullen. Pullen came from depth and at a fearsome pace. His rapid advance toward the posts made the defenders look like turnstiles. J.Cook converted and Sodbury’s tails were up.
On the cusp of halftime, Saracens shanked a kick infield while attempting to clear their lines. James Bennett fielded the ball, setting off at pace and evading the first tackler. When caught by the second, he provided a brilliant pass out of contact to Bradley. Seemingly inspired, Bradley did the same and found cloud-topt Joe Horton; his powerful frame dragged three men and, in doing so, set up a ruck. It was devastatingly quick ball that found a rampaging M.Cook, by now Bradley was re-involved as he took Cook's pass after a lung-bursting run. His progress was tracked by Guest, who accepted a basketball- style pass for a beautifully crafted try. This sent Sodbury into the break 14-17 ahead.
Early in the second half the Sodbury penalty disease struck. Despite some defensive heroics on the try line, Saracens couldn’t be stopped from retaking the lead. However, when they made a crooked throw into a lineout in their own 22, the Sodbury pack licked their lips. A powerful drive kept their back row engaged, which Head noticed. .His scampering break was followed by Tom Farthing, whose coordination and bravery under the high ball is unmatched. He also displays excellent linking skills, none of which he needed for this try. What he did need was a decent pass, which he got. His strength and determination helped him squeeze through the melee, then, with what might be the longest arm in the Combination, he touched down from an impossible distance. Again, J.Cook converted.
Saracens drew level with a penalty while Sodbury suffered another yellow card. They went on to receive two more and for an interminable period were down to 12 men. Perhaps surprisingly, Sodbury only conceded one try during this period, mainly thanks to the fact that they battled like the Spartans against the Persians, standing strong together in the face of insurmountable odds.
Sadly, it wasn’t enough. As the game drew to a close, Sodbury had a losing bonus point in sight until a penalty on 47 minutes was converted, leaving the team and supporters bereft.