The Greens arrived at Sandbach’s Bradwell Road ground to the sight of steady rain falling on an already soaked pitch. In addition, the kick off was delayed due to the referee being stuck in a Manchester traffic jam. The waiting fans therefore could have been forgiven for not expecting a classic game of open rugby.
What they got was a fiercely contested thriller with the result in doubt until the final whistle.
The Greens started the brighter, with telling positional kicking by stand off Tom Foster and full back Steve Johnson and well executed phases of play driving the ball deep into the home team’s half. This allowed Tom Foster space to kick a drop goal to open the scoring.
From the restart Scunthorpe again put on the pressure with only the occasional error allowing Sandbach to show that, if given the chance, they could swiftly and skilfully counter attack. Finally, the Greens dominance produced points when a penalty into the corner resulted in a good catch and drive that gave James Dyson a try.
The home side then, against the run of play, hit back. Sandbach right winger Fraser Ashman made a great inside break to send flanker Len Carpenter through a gap to score under the posts. A Luke Butler conversion put the home team right back in the game.
Although Scunthorpe resumed their attack, after ‘butchering’ a couple of final passes that could have brought tries they did force a penalty that Steve Johnson converted.
The 7-11 half time score line seemed a worryingly meagre return for all the possession and play the visitors had enjoyed.
Playing down the slope, and having survived the first half onslaught, Sandbach started the second half with high hopes.
It was the Greens, however, who took up where they left off and the home side were again under pressure, conceding another penalty that Steve Johnson converted.
Sandbach now moved up a gear. They competed furiously for the lions share of possession and used it to launch a series of quick and varied attacks. The Greens defended resolutely. It seemed they would resist all that the home side could throw at them. Then, as they pushed back and disrupted the Sandbach scrum the home side managed to scramble the ball out to their full back Stu Butler who put up a superb cross kick. This was well fielded by Fraser Ashman who scored in the corner. A very good conversion kick put the teams level with twenty minutes remaining.
With the game on a knife edge the slope and elements favoured the home side and they were playing with skill and aggression to, and sometimes beyond, the limit of the laws. The Scunthorpe side fought back and more than match them. Always having the edge at scrum and lineout their well co-ordinated attacks pushed their opponents back until their increasingly desperate defence gave away yet another penalty which Johnson converted for what was the winning score of 14-17.
Sandbach were a dangerous side, capable of speedy, high tempo rugby who ‘blitzed’ their way back into the game twice and always looked as if they could do it again and snatch victory. The Greens showed firm resolve, patience and skill to win.
Match report courtesy of Mr K Robinson