Vandals win Promotion back in London SW 3
By Keith Crabb
Sandown & Shanklin 18 Weybridge Vandals 22
As reported by John Farrow......
Witnessed by a large contingent of supporters from both sides this game had all the ingredients of a Cup final playing for promotion to London SW 3. Both Sandown and Vandals played with great commitment and although understandably there were plenty of errors in a match of high intensity there was also plenty of fine rugby played with the teams willing to run the ball which brought out the best in defence. In this respect Vandals defence was superb, they had to put in the tackles time and time again as Sandown powered forward in efforts to get the winning try, and this heroic rear-guard action deservedly gave them the win which even with the most hard-nosed home supporters admitted was fully justified.
Vandals got an immediate confidence boost when they forced Sandown to concede a penalty at the first scrum. Number 8 Joshua Carter followed this up with a great break from a line out, making yards into the Sandown half. Sandown then showed their prowess with a driving line out and a winning good second phase ball they had a good opportunity to open the scoring but knocked on to give the scrum to vandals and from this set piece they kicked deep into Sandown's 22 and went close from a short line out before fly half James Welldend gave his side the lead with a penalty after Sandown out lost a player to the sin bin for deliberate knock on. Further woes befell the home side as fly half Wellden then intercepted a loose pass and raced away to score in the corner.
This was a fine start for Vandals but there 8 -0 lead was soon wiped out as Sandown piled on some pressure. Vandals scrum half Dave Loubser was sin binned and having converted the penalty they took advantage of Vandals kicking the ball dead to penalise them in their own 22. Despite Vandals efforts to keep their line intact from the resultant scrum, Sandown managed to squeeze over to level the scores.
From the restart Vandals roared back into the attack and from a scrum full back Harry Weatherall burst through to score a superb individual try which Wellden converted. Another poor kick from vandals then saw Sandown looking to counter attack but a timely turnover saw Vandals go into half time leading by 15 points to 8 .
Weatherall was soon back in action on the resumption with some penetrating play and although Vandals conceded 2 penalties Sandown were unable to turn these to their advantage. Winning another turnover Vandals Wellden put in a tantalising kick which centre Cassian Bramham Law latched onto to go close. The referee awarded a penalty and then a scrum to Vandals with Sandown defending desperately but they were unable to prevent Bramham- Law powering over for the try which Wellden converted leaving his side a comfortable lead. It was a crucial try and proved to be the decisive one. Winger Olli Day set up another attack but Sandown repelled his effort and pushed up field to win a penalty and reduce vandals lead to 11 points at 11-22 . With a second yellow card and a missed penalty Vandals found themselves under tremendous pressure as the home side sensed they could still come out on top. A lovely run by their fly half confirmed this positivity and when they did score their second try and convert it, they were just one score from victory. The minutes were ticking by and Sandown were driving hard through all 15 players to get the elusive try but Vandals held onto their lead, their magnificent defence merited.
Since the turn of the New Year Vandals performances for the most part have been outstanding and to finish as runners up in Surrey1 and then cap this with a promotion winning effort deserves all the plaudits. Well led by skipper Adam Bullet who had another massive game and supported by all squad members from the front row to the bench players they will feel confident they can hold their own in London SW 3 the players will now prepare for their Surrey Cup final (May 6th!) and coaches Merlin O'Donnell and David Hoade, who apart from their expertise and great commitment throughout the season, will do their best in this preparation to ensure that vandals have every chance of winning another trophy.