Match Report by Matthew Miles
In rugby it’s always vital for players to ‘turn up’ both mentally and physically. Unfortunately for Sandbach, they failed on the second criteria as they were only able to field nine players. Given that it was Valentine’s Day, we can only assume that the visitors are a romantic lot and had a preference for wooing over rucking.
Either way, Ben Gill 'showed the love’ by volunteering to swap allegiances for the next 70 minutes and bolstered the Sandbach front row to good effect (too good at times). In doing so, he allowed the match to commence with 11 home team players versus 10.
It was a strange and at times disjointed affair, more akin to sevens rather than the 15 aside version of the game. All the same, Manchester raced into a comfortable 26-0 lead within 22 minutes thanks to a brace of tries from Jack Ronnie (we won’t dwell on the hat-trick opportunity) and one each for Jake and Will (Will also adding 3 conversions).
This early dominance seemed to spark a certain degree of lethargy in the home ranks. Manch switched off in attack and defence so much so that Sandbach capitalised with a try of their own after a fine break down their left flank. With the extras slotted over, the half finished 26-7.
Fortunately, the Academy team, strengthened by a steady stream of fresh legs, pushed home their advantage in the second period. On 40 minutes, Ryan crashed over to score. It proved to be his last action of the day as he jogged over to the bench to enjoy the adulation of his team mates. Tries from Conor, H, Louis and Ollie followed and the match was won.
Credit again must go to Ben for sacrificing his Manchester shirt to allow for a more competitive contest and much credit deserves to go the way of the visitors. It can’t be easy turning up with only a squad of just nine - equally, it can’t be easy putting in a creditable rearguard performance. Manchester should have been out of sight by half time given the difference in squad strength, but Sandbach provided a sturdy defensive performance and should have come away from the match with at least one more try.
With the Academy still in top spot and with a one point cushion, we now head into the final two2 league games of the season. Macc are the visitors in a fortnight's time followed by an away day at Blackburn.
Glory beckons. Make it happen boys!