With the end of season tour to Newcastle a fitting finale to a great season, Sandal descended on Seaton Burn and the palatial Holiday Inn (by the A1)!! Actually an excellent tour billet choice and ideal for the array of activities, the hotel played host to Foxy Bingo, Karaoke, Spa Delights,Wet n Wild, Bowling, the Tour Court and Shaun's brilliant Freddie Mercury reincarnation....
Fresh from 2 late nights, too much pop and the shock of seeing Harry in a morph suit we decamped to the warm welcome of Blaydon rugby club, some 10 minutes from the hotel. Judge Tovey was amazed at the sea of cars at Blaydon indicating a large crowd had assembled for the clubs only match of the day. Such a shame that was due to a car boot sale at the grounds - bless him, old Colin was deflated. Strangely the sight of c70 'Wallys' wandering the club grounds brought more than the odd stare from the locals. As it was pointed out donning the colours of Sunderland FC was maybe not the best move. 'Them lot' were in for a hot reception.
The encounter with Blaydon was a very competitive affair with our hosts set on revenge for a Driffield festival defeat at the hands of 'Them lot' a couple of weeks earlier. Played over three 20 minute periods, the match gave Sandal coach Oli Reynolds the opportunity to mix, match and experiment with all players getting a good run out.
With a very strong wind and Lucozade Sport on sale at the car boot at £3 for 12 dozen bottles, the early exchanges were a little disjointed as the sides came to terms with the conditions. The pitch was fantastic bearing in mind the rain that had meant the fixture was in a little doubt up until Saturday afternoon. Sandal settled first and having absorbed some robust incursions from Blaydon started to play direct, running rugby mixed up with tactical kicks that turned and confused the hosts rearguard. There was also excellent hooking from skipper Henshall that saw three scrums won against the head. Racing to a 24 - 0 lead, Blaydon pegged Sandal back with a late try in the corner following sustained pressure and a torrent of penalties against the visitors. 24 - 5 at the break.
'Oli' rang the changes that saw fresh faces across the park. Blaydon came back well and exerted some pressure on the Sandal line. Blighted again by a high penalty count against, Sandal concede a lot of territory but managed parity with the hosts at 12 - 12 for the period and 36 - 17 overall. Moving into the final '20' Sandal again rang the changes and Blaydon saw the opportunity to pressurise the visitors try line, throwing bodies at the ruck and making direct, powerful runs at the Sandal defence. Met by heroic defence, the Sharks kept the attacking waves at bay before territory was regained and Sandal returned to the front foot - aided by a great kick and chase by Alex Ward and a dance off on opposite sides of the pitch by the Sandal Sharkettes. This final period saw Sandal edge matters 15 - 5. Overall match score Sandal 51 - 22 Blaydon. The dance off was declared a draw to avoid any unseemly disagreements in the clubhouse.
In the absence of any notes try scorers are not available for the nine Sandal 5 pointers but my fading memory recalls scores for Alex Ward, Ryan Bolger
, Reece Chapman Smith and Rhys Matysiak
. The Blaydon 14 impressed throughout and scored 2 maybe 3 first rate tries - a real hand full.
Festivities ended with a players tour court overseen by 13s Captain and 'Judge' Will Henshall. A big thank you to Jason and all at Blaydon for the hospitality and we hope to see you in the coming seasons in Gods Country or the North East.
As the curtain does finally fall on a season that has seen the development of so many players and the addition of fresh faces that have made a real impact across the squad, it is great for the next years 14s, and Sandal rugby club, that we take a squad of some 40 lads on - all of which have improved this season under the guidance and commitment of Darren and the coaching team. Rumour has it there are extra players set to augment the squad and the future looks rosy for the Sharks. With the defence of the Yorkshire Cup and a challenging fixture list there is much to look forward to.