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1st XV - Match centre

Sandbach
Wirral RUFC
Tue 24 Apr 20:00 - Cup Full time

Wirral Win Cheshire Vase

Wirral overcome Sandbach in the Vase Final at Winnington Park to lift the trophy.

The Cheshire Vase Final was played at Winnington Park against Midlands Premier league team, Sandbach with an 8.00pm kick off on a day when there had been continuous rain for over 9 hours making the conditions heavy, although the pitch had been well prepared.
Wirral’s league form in 2018 had been poor with only 1 win due to numerous injuries and work commitments of the players but all the players had been looking forward to this final and with the benefit of having the option of calling on 7 substitutes (12 interchanges) were able to reward the players who had played during this difficult season. Accordingly the squad was as follows:
1. Jack Yarker 2. Stuart Gratton 3. Ryan Higginson 4. Matt Dalton 5. Chris Tyson 6. Paul Lewis 7. Tom Parry 8. Chris Speed 9. Joe Murray 10. James Annetts 11. Ben Brooks 12. Craig Harvey 13. Dan Harvey 14. Matt Loon 15. Ben Cornford Subs: Chris Hughes , Steve Pendergast, Joe Paton, Haydn Long, Josh Stead, Tom Stephens and Keith Mahon
Wirral played towards the WP clubhouse and from the first meaningful possession a swift pass from Joe Murray to James Annetts, saw James spot a gap, which he raced through from 35m to score under the posts and he duly converted, to give Wirral a great start, 0-7 (1 minute). Both teams were looking to kick long to avoid trying to make ground in the heavy conditions as both defences were very much on top except for that error in the first minute by Sandbach. A long kick to touch by Craig Harvey a few metres from the Sandbach line eventually led to a penalty opportunity by James Annetts from15m in from the touchline, which just failed. Another long kick by DAN HARVEY did not find touch but stopped close to the Sandbach line but the player then carried it over the whitewash and touched down giving Wirral a 5m scrum. The ball came quickly down the line to the left wing where Ben Brooks was left with an easy run into score his first try for the first team. A great conversion from close to the touchline by James Annetts extended the Wirral lead to 0-14 (17mins). Few minutes later a penalty from 38m out by James Annetts was kicked. 0-17 (24 mins).
From the kick off collected by Wirral, they failed to clear to touch and looked to play it out of the 20m area only to lose control and for the remainder of the half were camped in the 20m area. It was apparent that Sandbach had weight dominance in the scrum and were rewarded with a number of penalties but persisted with kicks to touch for 5/10m line outs/ further scrums. The Wirral defence withstood the onslaught. On 30 minutes Wirral changed their props, Jack Yarker and Ryan Higginson for Steve Pendergast and CHRIS (BENTLEY) HUGHES. After being on the field for 4 minutes, CHRIS was yellow carded as the referee looked for a Wirral player to sin bin following the collapse of a scrum. Jack Yarker returned to the scrum with Chris Speed being made the sacrificial lamb. Even down to 14 the Wirral line remained intact as they showed great discipline. Sandbach had tried passing the ball out wide where we were a man down: the No8 picking up at the back of the scrum only for Wirral to stifle these plays. Finally the whistle went for half time to the relief of the Wirral team.
As expected Sandbach came out with greater determination and the early play of the second half was concentrated in the Wirral half as they controlled the ball and advanced forward. The pressure finally told when a Sandbach forward took a crash ball some 5m out and went over under the posts, the try was converted. 7-17 (46 minutes).
Wirral reverted to their game plan with long kicks downfield and on a couple of occasions catch and drives from line outs brought significant metres and when close to the opposition line the maul was being brought down. Eventually cleared and a long kick downfield was fielded by Wirral and with Sandbach advancing the clearance kick was charged down and an onrushing Sandbach player collected and had an unopposed run to score under the posts and the conversion reduced the Wirral lead to 3 points (54 minutes).
At this stage Sandbach had the territorial advantage, which was aided by an element of panic as Wirral rushed their clearances giving the opposition the opportunity to set up another attack rather than finding touch. Gradually as the time wore on Wirral came back into the game, a number of substitutions had been made to keep the front row fresh along with Keith Mahon coming on for Chris Speed and HAYDN LONG for Chris Tyson both of whom had put in excellent stints. Classic No 8 play by KEITH saw a pick up at the scrum and go blind to take out two players before passing to Matt Loon who made a valuable 25metres before being tackled into touch. At this stage Wirral had a couple of opportunities to kick for goal but instead went for the line out options.
With 5 minutes remaining Sandbach had a kickable penalty from in front of the posts some 38m out but the kick went wide. Wirral kicked long and on regaining control of the ball resorted to “up the jumper” tactics as they played out time in the centre of the park, making little progress downfield. Sandbach in frustration gave away a penalty and the kick to touch ended the game.
Defences on both sides had been on top throughout the game but given Wirral’s recent run in 2018 it was pleasing to see such a gutsy performance from a team that had not played together previously and coach, MATT CAIRNS wondering why he had had to wait until the last game of the season for a performance that he had seen in the early part of the season.
The players from both sides collected their medals from the County President before CRAIG went up to collect the Cheshire Vase and plinth.

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