Match report - Sat 5th Mar 2016
By Ken Sims
Sandbach RFC 50 pts v Sutton Coldfield 3 pts
SCRFC 1st XV Team Manager
Sandbach RFC 50 pts v Sutton Coldfield 3 pts
National League 3 Midlands
Once again Sutton made a spirited start to their latest National 3 encounter but after taking a deserved 3-0 lead 5 minutes into the game following a period of sustained pressure, unfortunately typical of their season to date... within 2 minutes of the restart the visitors conceded a soft try to trail 7-3 and in spite of some valiant and at times impressive play, every mistake Sutton made was punished by a fired up Sandbach side focused on survival and Sutton slumped to a 50-3, 8 try defeat.
The heavy defeat condemns Sutton to level 6 rugby next season as they drop down into Midlands 1 West but the win gives Sandbach a fighting chance in the close fought battle at the lower end of the table, with 4 games to play to the end of the season.
Sutton again faced selection problems ahead of the game particularly in the front row, where veteran prop Dave Smith (note: Dave is only 43 years old) continued to prove his longevity with a stirring performance at loose head alongside newly installed hooker Luke Hennessy and fellow prop and team captain Chris Hanley, who is still recovering match fitness after a long absence due to injury but needs must!!
Sam Harris also stepped into the pack at openside flanker for his first appearance of the season, working alongside the stately Ben Bottomley, continuing to ply his trade expertly at blind side with the relatively youthful Matt Black returning to the fray at no8 but with 5 out the 7 backs 21 years or under, Sutton paraded a youthful looking cutting edge behind the scrum, which carried a serious and exciting strike threat but not surprisingly, at times the collective game management skills of the team were shown to be lacking for this level of league rugby and exposed the unforgiving nature of the game in the National Leagues.
Sutton kicked off facing up the slope on a wet but reasonable playing surface considering the recent rain and immediately the visitors forced the play winning a penalty on 5 minutes in midfield 40 metres from the posts. Centre Alex White confidently stepped forward and landed the kick perfectly to give Sutton an encouraging 3-0 lead ... but the restart kick was played down the Sandbach right wing and although Sutton gathered the ball and drove play back up to the halfway line Sandbach stole the ball and lightning winger Jack Leech found space on the right to race 50 minutes down the touchline taking advantage of half tackles to score a spectacular try in the right corner. To compound Sutton's problems fly half Ben Elliott claimed the extra 2 points with a perfectly judged touchline conversion to give Sandbach a 7-3 lead after 7 minutes of play.
Unfortunately the score proved to be the turning point of the game as Sutton suffered a further setback when Ben Bottomley was laid low with a blow to the head to be replaced by Lewis Snowden, who performed well but collectively Sandbach stole the initiative and went on a try scoring spree scoring 2 more converted tries before the break. First on 15 minutes Sutton appeared to have stolen a Sandbach lineout on the halfway line but as the ball was knocked back onto the ground Sandbach flanker Liam Carpenter was quickest to react as he broke through the Sutton line, snatched the ball and raced 50 metres into the right corner for another long distance converted try against the run of play taking the score to 14-3. Although the game was slipping away, Sutton continued to press their cause with good play but subsequent turnovers proved costly and 30 minutes into the game Sutton suffered a further blow when they conceded a penalty in the opposition half. The regrettable penalty enabled Sandbach to take play back into the Sutton half and as the home side drove the ball down the left touchline they switched play from left to right across the Sutton 22 drawing in the defenders to create an overlap for their ace finisher Jack Leech, who scored a fine try in the right corner and with his sights firmly set, Ben Elliott unerringly added both conversions to give Sandbach a convincing 21-3 with 10 minutes to play to the break.
To their credit Sutton continued to compete well and take the game to their opponents but the only thing they had to show for their efforts before the break was a yellow card against their hosts when flanker Ross Sunderland was binned for a trip 5 minutes before halftime. Sutton were unable to take advantage of the extra man and the 21-3 deficit was carried into the second half.
Although Sutton again made a good start to the second half it was Sandbach who added to the scoreboard 6 minutes into the second period.
The score came from another mistake by Sutton, which surrendered the ball and the home side took full advantage as they drove play deep into the Sutton 22, second row Will Stockdale forced his way over from close range to score to the left of the posts. Once again fly half Ben Elliott was spot on with the conversion to put Sandbach 28-3 ahead.
With the mountain they had to climb growing ever bigger Sutton continued to battle bravely but nothing they tried would go their way and as happens in such situations, the bounce of the ball always seemed to favour their opponents with Sandbach stretching their lead to 33-3, when fullback Stuart Buttons raced over for an unconverted try with 15 minutes of the second half played and then midway through the second half flanker Liam Carpenter went over for his second try of the day from a catch and drive at a lineout 5 metre from the Sutton try line on the right wing.
Again the conversion drifted wide but Sandbach moved into a 38-3 lead and then Sutton suffered a further blow when skipper Chris Hanley twisted his knee and had to leave the field to be replaced by Matt Black who moved from the back row to fill the vacancy in the front row. 17 year old Harry Bamber came off the bench to make an impressive debut for the 1st XV with 20 minutes of the game remaining.
Unfortunately 5 minutes later, Sutton suffered a further blow when Matt Black twisted his ankle in open play and had to be assisted from the field. With no further front row replacements available to Sutton the final 15 minutes of the game was completed with uncontested scrums and Sutton reduced to 14 men in accordance with the RFU laws and regulations.
In the remaining period Sandbach took full advantage of the numerical advantage to run in 2 more tries. The first came from Sam Morris on the left wing with 10 minutes to play and the final score was a third try of the day for right wing Jack Leech, who collected a cleverly placed cross field kick from within the Sutton 22 taking play from left to right catching the Sutton defence out as the lively winger grounded the ball to complete his hat trick with just 2 minutes to play.
Ben Elliott was back on target for Sandbach with the conversion to secure a 50-3 victory and give them a better than even chance of avoiding relegation as Sutton now prepare for life outside the National leagues after 4 seasons at the National level but they will be back!!!
Sutton take a break from league rugby this weekend and then they return to face high flying Scunthorpe at the RSG, Walmley Road on Sat 19th Mar 2016. KO 15.00