Crewe and Nantwich 2nd team 7 – Sale FC 2nd Team 31
With the seasons results at the back of their minds The Mighty Black and Whites stepped with some in trepidation into the murky depths of Haywood Road on Saturday. A team that averaged 64 points and had conceded an average of less than 3 points per game prior to our fixture was going to be a tough team to handle!
With a number of personnel not available, a few last minute drop outs and some worthy promotions to the first XV the Super 2s looked a little light on paper. Holes at fly half, centre and full back needed to be filled. A huge thanks must go to Simon King, back from Uni for the weekend, who stepped into the vacant 15 shirt for his first game for the 2s this season and he played a valiant role in keeping the side in the game with his attacking running. Rian Whittaker must also take credit for his first game at centre for the club – they don’t get much harder than that and he walked away from the pitch with an outstanding performance under his belt. Thanks to Andre Zwijnen for marshalling the back line and keeping us on our toes, enforcing the attack and defense. Sadly that left a vacant position at fly half, where Julian Gilding yet again stepped reluctantly into the unfamiliar role. It was also great to have Matt Ambrose back in the fold, he has been sorely missed this season.
Neil Edge, visiting the club whilst staying in the vicinity added a steely edge to the pre-match preparations. Neil had made some useful observations the previous week and looked at ironing out a few technical aspects in what was a restricted warm up time. But whatever he did it certainly paid dividends when from Andre Zwijnen’s kick off the Black and Whites came away with the ball. This was a wakeup call to the home side and continued pressure from the away team forced them to re-think their usual open style of play. Dom Bradley again looked particularly sharp with the ball in hand and his footwork and ball carrying improves with every game. In the background the back room team of Wayne Kirby and the recuperating Ian Moss have been a welcome addition to the squad and add a professional touch to the set up as they quietly ensure the engine runs smoothly and efficiently.
The first half saw notable performances from all of those up front as they all put their bodies on the line. No nonsense running from Drew Latham, Phil Alcock and Rob Black kept the Black and Whites on the front foot but eventually the home team showed their colours as they started to play the open style of rugby that we had anticipated and eventually spaces appeared in the away teams defence and tries were eagerly snapped up by the Blue and Whites taking them into the break with a not so comfortable couple of tries lead.
A change of tactics in the second half brought about a change in fortune for the Super 2s and Dan Lawrence came to the fore with some inspirational charges. Interplay between the forwards and backs in the form of Alcock, Bradley and Gilding eventually saw Alcock re-claim the ball and crash over the white wash under the posts. Bradley added the extras. Josh Howard started to get in behind the defense with his support running and the forwards continued to cause the home team some problems with their continued driving. However this hard graft started to take its toll on our otherwise secure scrum and the home team’s superior fitness came to the fore as they started to dominate that area.
However, the extra effort put in around the pitch sapped the strength from the visitors and a slight altercation between Howard and the referee saw him take a 10 minute breather behind the sticks. A poor kick from hand by Gilding gave the home side the opportunity that they had been waiting for as they ran the ball back with interest and eventually the defense ran out of players and more points were added. Positively the pack increased their intensity and held the line well while the home time tried to turn the screw. Valuable turnover ball superbly worked from James Guy relieved the pressure and the game finished in good spirit.
‘Statistics never lie’ – and we were informed, post match, that the Mighty Black and Whites had 60 present of the possession throughout the game. Last season’s achievements were based on a solid platform of a dependable squad and as the season goes on that unity is starting to come together again.
Thanks must be said to our Hosts, who played the game in good spirit and looked after us so well away from the pitch. We look forward to their visiting our humble abode where we hope to be able to offer a similar warm welcome.
This week sees the Super 2’s welcome New Brighton to the Vagrants. Neil has asked if the team could get to training on Tuesday – if possible where he hopes to work on the line out and a few technical bits and pieces.