Following the excellent win over Peterborough last Saturday, The Greens travelled to Cheshire to face Sandbach at their Bradwall Road ground. Scunthorpe were without influential goal kicker and fullback, Steve Johnson who is suffering from a groin injury. Colin Chapman moved from wing threequarter to the No. 15 position and Tim Robinson gave young winger James Ashton a debut start. On the bench, young prop forward Aaron Coulthard came into the squad for only the second time.
Playing on a very good surface, Scunthorpe were first to settle and took the game to their hosts. The ball was moved out wide and recycled several times before Colin Chapman took an inside pass through midfield, to beat the remaining cover and score under the posts. Will Harrison was handed the kicking duties on the day and duly added the extras. With a 7 points to nil advantage after only 5 minutes things were looking good.
The home boys soon got into their stride and moved the ball around in their usual style and gained a penalty after 12 minutes which the usually accurate Benny Elliott missed. Scunthorpe seemed unable to satisfy the referee at the breakdown and were penalised several times at this phase of play. Defences were generally holding strong although The Greens had an advantage at the set piece.
After 27 minutes the home side got on the board with a try when they put the ball through the hand out to the right wing where it was held long enough for Elliott to run around for the pass and cross half-way out. He converted his own try to put his side level at 7 points all. The Greens had their first penalty awarded after 30 minutes of play and Tom Foster put the ball into the home ‘22’. The usually safe lineout failed to function and an opportunity to exploit the forward’s advantage was lost.
The forwards redeemed themselves a few minutes later when they drove powerfully from half-way and the ever alert James Dyson spotted a gap and broke from the back of the maul. He was pulled down in the home ‘22’ but with the ball being recycled a couple of times, a pass went out to the supporting Will Harrison who crossed close to the posts. He duly added the extras to give The Greens a 14 points to 7 lead after 32 minutes.
Four minutes later the Cheshire boys moved the ball once more through several hands with good awareness from ball carriers and excellent supporting play, allowing Ben Tremlow to take the final pass and cross under the posts. Elliott converted and the teams went into the break at 14 points each.
Scunthorpe must have been well aware of the second half collapse at Heslam Park when they conceded several tries by poor ball control against today’s opponents and a repeat was not an option.
They started with a great sense of purpose keeping the ball close and driving forward, gaining a foothold in the home ‘22’. It was fitting that Aaron Coulthard should be the one that punched the final hole through the home defence for an excellent try. Harrison was unable to convert but The Greens now held a 19 points to 14 advantage after only 4 minutes into the second period. The Scunthorpe pack continued to dominate and a position was gained close to the home line. As the ball was recycled going left, Tom Foster put in a telling grubber kick which Chapman followed over the line for an excellent try, completing his brace. Harrison failed to convert from wide out but Scunthorpe now held a 24 points to 14 lead after 17 minutes of the second half.
The Greens seemed well able to hold this advantage as the strategy of not committing too many players to the breakdown seemed to work well as players held their defensive shape thus preventing the lively Sandbach threequarters any room to work in. The Home boys however also changed their strategy with Elliot putting telling kicks in just behind the rush defence and it was from one such kick that the ball bounced kindly into the arms of centre Forbes Edwards who touched down close to the posts. Elliott added the extras and Sandbach were back in the game at 24 points to 21 after 32 minutes of the second half.
The whole dynamic of play changed as the revitalised home team now threw everything at Scunthorpe and only 3 minutes later it was that man Elliott who stepped inside the cover and touchdown under the posts. His subsequent conversion put Sandbach in the lead for the first time in the match at 28 points to 24.
With time ebbing away the Scunthorpe pack once more imposed themselves on the game and drove several times from an attacking lineout. James Dyson once more spotted the gap and detached himself to beat the remaining cover for the winning try.
Even though the conversion failed, The Greens had now gained a one point advantage at 29 points to 28. They had four minutes to close out the game. They opted to drive close to the breakdown through the pack but were penalised for not releasing and had to defend for the final seconds. This late drama was also laced with humour as Dave Garbutt wrenched the ball clear and everyone on his side telling him to get the ball into touch, the No. 8 did a virtual pirouette before taking the ball into contact and from the subsequent ruck, Foster was allowed to apply the coup de grace and put the ball into the crowd allowing the final whistle.
A game that was entertaining for the spectators, played in a good spirit but more sweet for the victors who came away with a bonus point win.
Scunthorpe undertake the trek to Sutton Coldfield next week and hope to keep the good run going.
Match Report by LWJClayton