Saturday was a big game for Sheffield’s 3rd team who again faced another organised 2nd team. Another loss would put 4 losses on the results sheet. A big performance was required. Having pinpointed the first 10mins of the game as an area of their underperformance, Sheffield reorganised their pre-match warm up which certainly paid off territorially in the opening stage of the game.
It was obvious Wath were serious opposition who let loose an organised and powerful attack from the kick off. Sheffield took confidence from a watertight defence which brought down Wath’s key runners on the gain line, an element missing from last week’s performance. The pressure from Sheffield’s tackling around the breakdown forced Wath to use all 8 forwards in their early phases and forced them to move the ball wide with little support. Centres Andy Logan
and Edd Anglin relished the challenge and finished the defensive job by forcing a knock on in the tackle. Scrum to Sheffield just shy of half way. Confidence was high as both teams packed down, however the physicality and organisation of Wath’s second team was far superior. Wath instantly pushed a surprised Sheffield off the ball to regain possession and cleverly kicked the ball deep into Sheffield’s 22. With Shef organised for attack, Wath were able to give a pressurising chase and the ball was eventually kicked to relative safety under pressure by full back Ben Shore
. Wath’s line out was just as effective as their scrummage an again they forced Sheffield back with some powerful running. Sheffield’s defence was again strong continued to test the rucking ability of the Wath pack. Eventually, Sheffield gave away a penalty 10m from their line. An unfortunate end to a physical passage of play. With dominant set piece, Wath had the pick of options from an excellent field position. They took the scrummage and again pushed Sheffield back. Under the immense pressure, the Sheffield front row lost their binding. Penalty Wath. Instinctively the Wath number 9 quick tapped and with 2 simple passes scored in the corner. Luckily the kick was missed. Wath led 5-0 after 15 mins.
This time, Sheffield heads stayed up. Encouraged by the physicality they had shown, Sheffield kicked short allowing the increasingly dominant No7 Rob Price
to make a tackle on the catcher and regain territory, if not yet possession. Sheffield battled hard over the following 20 mins turning Wath over several times, but the lack of set piece dominance hindered Sheffield’s ability to turn any possession into pressure. Wath’s line out had height and the organisation to pressurise hooker Peter Walker’s throws to both 2 and 4 and their pack continued to dominate both their own and Sheffield’s Scrummage. Sheffield held the game in Wath’s half until half time and were fired up during the break ready to again take them on in the second half.
Fresh from the break Sheffield came out firing. Fly half Jonny Shaw organised the game well allowing the Sheffield centres to take the game to Wath. Consistently ,the Sheffield back row secured quick ball giving George Leech, Jack Acorn
and Ben Shore
opportunities to take Sheffield deep into the Wath half. Unfortunately, during these phases second row Kirk Andrews
was injured and had to leave the field forcing Sheffield to reorganise their pack. Sheffield looked on top at this stage of the game; surely points would come from the pressure. A frustrated Wath back row eventually gave away the penalty to which Jonny Shaw skilfully placed into the left hand corner. By this time, Sheffield’s line out had begun to read the Wath defensive line and front ball was secured with an accurate lob between the two Wath jumpers. Scrum half John Briston
held the Wath 7 and gave a beautifully weighted pass to No8 Phil Tomlinson to crash into the Wath defence. Quick ball again from the base set second row Scott Belamy on the charge meters from the posts and sucked in 3 defenders from the Wath line. A neat offload to hooker Peter Walker
resulted in a simple hand off on the covering defence and a score under the posts. A full 7 points scored. Sheffield were in front with 20 mins to go. Sheffield continued to play hard, not happy with a 2 point lead. Despite their best efforts, Sheffield just did not have the set piece to turn possession into pressure. Wath, who were well aware of this, repeatedly kicked Sheffield back into their 22. Rob Price
, the back row and centres continued to get Sheffield out of trouble with some excellent tackles and turn overs. Sheffield looked as if they were going to hold on for a win. A penalty under their own posts gave them the chance to clear their lines and win the game. But a knock on in the line out surrendered possession back to Wath with only seconds to go. Desperate tackling held Wath on the 22 well into extra time. But then disaster. A penalty to the attacking right of the posts. The game came down to an 82nd min kick from the Wath No10, who kept his head, and put the visitors 1 point ahead on the final whistle.
Despite the loss, an inspired Sheffield played to their potential and felt they were again developing as a side. The monkey was definitely off their back. Pleased with their tackling, patterns and cohesion, Sheffield can now work had on their set piece during the week and move into next week’s game with confidence.