First Team's First Win at Sandal
An excellent first 60 mins provide the win on the road.
For the long away trip to Sandal, Wirral’s first problem was trying to negotiate the coach out of the car park given that parents supporting the school teams had filled the car park.
With BEN BROOKS injured from last week (and not available due to work commitments), Matt Loon
started on the right wing with James Adams
coming on to the subs bench. Wirral won the toss and elected to play up the slope in the first half.
In the second minute, Sandal took the lead with a penalty from James Ellar some 20m out and quickly increased their lead after 4 minutes to 8-0 with their first attack of the game as they created an overlap down the left and good support play led to second row, Austen Thompson scoring in the corner.
Gradually Wirral came into the game and missed getting on the scorecard when a James Annetts
penalty opportunity from 30m was missed. Wirral’s inter passing was effective as they made ground up field and put pressure on the home side in their 20m area. Ryan Higginson
suffered a leg injury in a tackle and was replaced by DAN LIGHT. A good period of play ensued with a half break by Chris Crowley
and then pass to Matt Loon
almost brought a try as Matt was hauled down near the whitewash. Pressure was mounting and after a number of thrusts at the Sandal line, Captain Craig Harvey
crossed for his 100th try and James Annetts
tagged on the points. 8-7 (18 minutes). Despite playing up the slope Wirral maintained pressure on Sandal and were rewarded with a second try, from Chris Speed
following a pass from Jack Yarker
, again converted to give Wirral the lead 8-14 (25 minutes).
Two penalties in quick succession enabled Sandal to progress down to 10m from the Wirral line where Wirral defended stoutly to ensure there line was not crossed. However a subsequent penalty led to Paul Lewis
having a 10 minute sit out on the touchline and from in front of the posts, James Ellar reduced the arrears to 11-14, 30 mins. Wirral continued to work hard in taking the ball up the slope and I had made a note that the current score would be a satisfactory result at the end of the first half. However Sandal came back and on the stroke of half time Sandal appeared to have scored but the referee deemed it to be a double movement, which according to observers appeared to have been a harsh decision.
At the start of the second half, Ryan Higginson
returned to the game in place of Danny Light
. From a position some 45m out, Chris Speed
took a pass at pace and broke through the Sandal defence and this was followed on by James Reeve
, which took play to within 10m of the Sandal line. After a number of thrusts at the line the ball was spun left and Craig Harvey
crashed over from 7 m out, the conversion was missed. 11-19 (46 mins). Sandal continued to press but were losing ball as the Wirral back row were quicker to the breakdown. The next piece of play brought the try of the match with Wirral in possession from a scrum, James Annetts
chipped over the oncoming defensive line, the ball was caught by Matt Loon
and the pair were now clear, the full back was drawn in as the ball was released to James Annetts
to score under the posts, which he converted himself. 11-26 (51 mins). This was the try bonus point. Ryan Stead
came on for Paul Lewis
At this stage there was no holding Wirral as they exerted pressure on Sandal whenever they were in possession and were able to make ground downhill into the Sandal half. JAMES ADAM came on for Matt Loon
. Wirral had a scrum under the Sandal posts and were deemed to have dropped the scrum when in possession, penalty against!!. From the clearance, Wirral regained possession as the ball was dropped by Sandal some 30m out and picked up by Ryan Higginson
who ran straight and hard through the Sandal defence to score 10m from the posts, the conversion was missed but extended Wirral’s lead to 11-31. (60mins). It will be recalled that last year Wirral held a commanding lead only to lose the game in the last minute.
Finally Sandal came alive in the final 10 minutes when a good move down the left wing enabled Danny Grainger, who raced in from 40m with the try being also converted, 18-31. Danny Light
came on for Jack Yarker
. This score seemed to galvanise Sandal and one wondered whether we were going to see a repeat of last year’s match. Sandal were now putting pressure on Wirral in the 20m area and after a rumpus under the posts, Craig Harvey
was sin binned and this led to Sandal scoring two tries in the last two minutes with scores by Jack Townend and Danny Grainger. Fortunately the tries were scored wide out and were not converted to leave the score 28-31, with the last attempt at conversion being the final act of the game.
If Wirral had taken all their scoring opportunities and kicking had been more accurate they could have won the game more comfortably but as with the Lymm game, tries were scored by the opposition in the final 10 minutes and they need to tighten up this aspect of their game. The first 70 minutes was one of their best away performances for two seasons and to pull off a win at Sandal where they have not won before is credit to the team. Wirral have now climbed to 5th in the table and need to consolidate this position with a good performance next week against 2nd placed Billingham where the kick off will be slightly earlier than usual at 2.00pm.