Perfect start for Sandal Cougars.
Sandal Cougars entertained Old Brods at Milnthorpe Green on Saturday with high expectation of getting a result. Sandal had lost the earlier fixture 39 - 14 but the squads improovment in recent weeks meant that a repeat of that result was unlikely.
Coach Stephenson asked for a performance and thats exactly what the team delivered.
From the kick off and playing up the slope Harry Cotterill claimed a towering high ball under pressure and Sandal immediately showed their attacking intensions with two searing breaks, first out wide and then through the centers bursting through the middle. Crucially support flooded through and recycled the ball with forwards & backs working in tandem & although the momentum was stopped a yard short of the line veteran number 8 Mark Sowerby was on hand to pick up & drive over for the Cougars 1st try of the afternoon after only a minute on the clock. Tom Smith converted a tricky kick from the left hand side of the upright and Sandal had had the perfect start! 7-0
From the restart Cotterill again claimed the ball, (something he did all afternoon) Sandal moved the ball again and good hands and support meant Old Brods were continually on the back foot. It wasn't long before the second try came after loverly interplay in mid field put Jonny Matthews clear, Sandal again recycled and left wing Chris Carroll popped up in mid field Ashton esk, to out pace the cover & score on the right after only 9 minutes. Tom Smith again adding the extras. 14-0
The game then settled down a little and it was another 10 minutes before Sandal regestered another score. Fullback Mike Brown, who was a danger in attack as well as a rock in defence, hit the line and carried the ball strongly with support from the forwards, quick ball from the resulting ruck saw Josh Bird set the backs in motion and that man again Chris Carroll popped up on the other side to score. Tom Smith again adding the extras to bring the score to 21-0 after 20 minutes of play.
Sandal were running riot and After concerted pressure in the attacking 22 Ben Brindley dummied & stepped his way over without a finger being layed on him. Tom Smith had and easy conversion, 28-0 after 27 minutes!
Old Brods had no answer to wave after wave of Sandal pressure and almost a carbon copy of his last try saw Brindley go over again. T.S. Had another easy conversion taking the score to 35-0 in 30 breathless minutes of rugby where everyone played their part.
Old Brods did respond with a try of their own from a well worked back row move in which their pacy winger rounded the defence leaving the score at half time 35-7, one blip on an otherwise perfect performance. Champagne rugby? No! This was built on hard work & a willingness to do the hard yards for each other.
Sandal started the second half as they did the first putting pressure on the reciever and after a couple of phases Old Brods were penalised T.S. Stepped up for the penalty but pushed them ball wide into the stiff breeze.
It was probably only to be expected that Sandal couldnt keep the pace of the game up and to their credit Brods came back and scored also adding the conversion 35-14. Sandal were now guilty of rushing things and as a result mistakes crept in. Time for substitutions to freshen things up.
New dad Ben Mitchell came into the center and ran straight and James Chappel replaced Josh Whiteley who had run his blood to water in the loose.
Captain Tom Smith guided the team around the park with his astute kicking game and Sandal settled back into a tighter game plan which paid off when Josh Bird got on the scored sheet. Reward for his excellent distribution & bossing of his forwards. T.S. missed the conversion putting the scores at 40-14. With a bonus point already in the bag it was now about stopping Old brods.
However Brods would not lay down & came back up field & with the Cougars defence on their heels Old Brods stole an easy try. Making the scores 40-19.
Sandal responded almost immediately andy excellent build up play saw substitute winger Luke Jackson cut an exquisite line to cross unopposed.
Sandal now had their second wind and as Brods faded break away tries came for back rower Piers Goodwill (less about the chip the better) and versatile Jonny Matthews now playing in the back row. T.S. Made good both conversations to leave the score 59-19 and Sandal then played out the remaining 5 minutes with 14 men after Will Russell-Smith suffered a knee injury.
Special mentions go to the front five of Rob Page, Josh Whitley (James Chappell) Tim Wicks who layed the foundation at the set piece. Second row of Harry Cotterill, Will Russell-Smith who worked tirelessly in defence & set piece. Back row of Arran Tasker, Piers Goodhill and Mark Sowerby (Jonny Matthews) who provided support in attack, half backs of Josh Bird and Tom Smith who guided the team around the park. Mid field of Ben Brindley, Jonny Matthews (Ben Mitchell) with Busting line breaks & shuddering defence & Back three of Dan Hodson (Luke Jackson) Chris Carroll and towering Mike Brown for their incisive running lines, hard as it was to pick someone out out of a terrific team performance MOTM was Harry Cotterill from minute one to the final whistle for an overall excellent display.