Wirral vs Sale
You can't always get what you want.....
You can’t always get what you want…… so sang Mick and the boys on the 1969 Rolling Stones album Let It Bleed. It was also the flip side of their Honky Tonk Woman single. Wirral’s own Honky Tonk Woman was at the club early doing what the Chairman of Minis and Juniors rugby does on a Sunday morning- getting breakfast. “What, no sausages?” he was heard to exclaim as Erin told him there were no sausages left to go in his sausage bap, sausage toasty and two loose sausages for his boy who had given up bread despite not being intolerant of gluten. “I’ll have a coffee then.”
You can’t always get what you want……..
Despite this early setback to his day, Coach Shaun Seddon was upbeat with feelings of positivity- until someone reminded him of Everton’s calamitous failings at Arsenal the previous evening. But, as far as his Under 15’s were concerned, he would be able to field a full team of fifteen players for the first time since 2016. Reasons to be cheerful, then. His mood was further lifted when he received news that another player would be present, so we’d have a substitute as well. Before this news, Wirral’s bench was reading Oscar the dog, Lord Lucan, Cuco Martina (never present), the Invisible Man and Marie Celeste.
You can’t always get what you want……..
Today’s match was the Cheshire Cup or whatever we were in at this stage. Nobody was actually sure if it was the cup, the plate, the vase or the ash tray that we were currently playing for. After two, or possibly three, rounds we were still unbeaten though it has to be said that we hadn’t actually played a match yet. When Fishy Chandler arrived it was time to put the team together for the match.
Wirral would start with a front row of props Isaac S and Curtis G with Ben S playing hooker. The locks would be Caleb M-S and Laurie S (back from a loan spell at BHP) and flankers Christie C and Cameron McC-M and No8 (and team captain) Josh C would make up the back row. In the backs division, Ollie P and Peter B would make up the 9-10 partnership with Isaac N and Evan R at centres and Miles H and Sam H on the wings. Tom P ‘with a Y’ would play the full back role. Luke H would be our only substitute, so ‘emptying the bench’ for the last quarter would be a simple business. Unless he was already on for some reason, of course. Then we’d be out looking for Lord Lucan.
You can’t always get what you want………..
Sale arrived, almost unnoticed, (everybody at the club was looking for sausages) and set about going through their pre-match warm up and set-plays. The supporters of both teams turned up in their droves for this must-win game and the noise of the packed Memorial Ground rose to a crescendo as kick-off approached. Such was the volume of noise that they had to halt proceedings at Anselmians where they feared an imminent attack from 30,000 Zulus- you’ve all seen the film Zulu, so you know what I mean. Wirral first team coach Matty Cairns was woken from his Sandal nightmare and he was left dreaming of what it would be like to play in front of the sort of crowd that Coach Seddon’s team could pull in.
You can’t always get what you want………….
Referee ‘Tom’ had put down his Physics text books to come and referee the game and he called the team captains over and a coin was tossed. Mr Nisbet was given a flag and told to run up and down the touchline and wave it at appropriate moments. A Sale coach was asked to so likewise on the other touchline. The teams lined up and on a blast of Mr Tom’s whistle, Sale kicked off.
Play ebbed and flowed back and forth, to the left and to the right, though never venturing beyond the Wirral 10 metre line. Wirral soon had themselves a penalty and the ball was fed to Laurie S who did his human battering ram impersonation charging into the packed defence like a bull elephant taking four to bring him down. Then they set about him like pecking vultures to grab the ball. Sale soon had a scrum and their forwards were dominant and they set off down the field like a whole herd of elephants. Brave tackling from Caleb M-S and Josh C put a brake on things but as the visitors went through the phases, they were able to exploit the blind side and dart round the remnants of a ruck to score in the right hand corner. The Sale kicker wanted the ball changing to one of the correct size but still missed his conversion- should have stuck with the original.
From the re-start, Peter B’s kick enabled the home side to enter the Sale half for the first time in the match, all be it briefly. His kick induced a knock-on and Wirral had a scrum. But Wirral’s scrum went backwards- something it was to do all match- and Sale got a penalty. Sale’s tactics became pretty obvious from this point and was a throwback to England of the Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson era- kick for touch, advance down the pitch, force errors, win line-outs, control territory- it was all there in the Clive Woodward ‘How to win a World Cup’ manual. This Sale did very effectively. A kick to the corner led to a rolling maul and the visitors drove the ball over the line for their second try. This time the conversion was scored- a good kick that- Leigh Halfpenny-like.
Wirral’s coaching team of Seddon and Chandler were starting to know how Gregor Townsend must have been feeling after the mighty Welsh sent his team packing back across the border (well, two borders, actually) with their jock straps firmly between their legs.
Wirral’s re-start kick soon led to a Sale penalty and they set off again with the tactic of kicking for touch and securing the line-out and attacking from there. Brilliant tackling from first Josh C and then Tom P put a stop to an attack down the left wing and more good work from Cameron McC-M and Christie C, who was creating mayhem at the break-down and tackling anything that moved regardless of which team they played for and whether they had the ball or not, led to Wirral managing to steal the ball. Evan R led the break-out charge and he made valuable yards before being hauled to the ground. Sale managed to grab the ball and advance play back towards the try line. At a penalty they chose the option of a 5metre scrum rather than the line-out. The result was the same, regardless, and, despite a brave Ollie P tackle, Sale were able to score in the right corner. Conversion missed.
On the touchline Mrs S urged the lads on while confessing that it wasn’t necessarily the rugby that attracted her and her daughter to watching the 6 Nations. “Hasn’t Leigh Halfpenny got nice eyes” she cooed. Local council candidate, Mr C, arrived at the ground ready to answer questions about potholes in the roads and bin emptying and proposed hikes in tunnel tolls but was immediately embroiled in sorting the Wirral sausage shortage which was now known as ‘Sausage-gate.’
On the pitch, it was looking more like Wales vs Scotland (or Arsenal vs Everton) than France vs Ireland. Sale continued to play the percentages with their dominant scrum and kicking for territory. Wirral did have moments of possession with Ollie P running down the wing before being taken into touch. The lineout led to a penalty and this gave the visitors another attacking line-out from the touch kick. Then Sale went through a few rucks and ran in a try in the right corner. Conversion missed.
Straight from the restart, Sale claimed the ball and one of their flyers set off down the left wing like an electrocuted gazelle to score a try from his own half without a home player getting near him. Conversion missed.
With points on the board and a dominant scrum and secure line-out, all be it uncontested at this age group, Sale started putting in things like cross-field kicks and loop the loops- exhibition stuff. One such kick was claimed on the right wing and a few passes later, the visitors crossed the whitewash for a try under the posts. Conversion was good.
Despite lots of brave tackling and everybody putting in a good shift at the coal-face, Wirral were just being overrun by a team that came with a plan and who were executing it to perfection. Soon after the restart, a knock-on gave Mr Tom the opportunity to blow his whistle and bring the first half to a close.
Half time score: Wirral - 0 Sale - 34.
Coaches Seddon and Chandler did their best to re-build their team’s morale and self-belief. Sale coaches wanted more of the same. Oh no! Mr Tom went off for a cup of tea and a jammy dodger.
Ten minutes later, the players took to the field for the second half. With the match effectively over, as a contest, it was now about restoring pride. Even the sun had given up and gone behind a cloud. With a blast of Mr Tom’s whistle, Peter B launched his kick into enemy territory, only for Sale to lump it back into Wirral territory. Tom P took a great catch only moments before he was smashed by a couple of chasing Sale players. The home side soon had themselves a scrum and soon found themselves two yards behind where Mr Tom had said ‘bind.’ Isaac S, Ben S and Curtis G were having a torrid time in the front row of the scrum. Sale set off down the left wing and it took a determined tackle from Evan R to get the attacker into touch.
Sale were pinged offside at the lineout and Peter B launched the ball into touch, from the penalty, concentrating more on trying to lose the ball on the road rather than gaining any territory. He did put the ball on the ‘out of bounds’ cricket pitch when Sale were again judged offside at the next line-out. Unfortunately, Peter B’s ‘big plan’ to lose the ball unravelled when some well-meaning soul snuck under the ropes to re-claim the ball.
We had now played ten minutes of the second half and not conceded any points. Everybody was trying really hard and making a determined effort, it has to be said. It was at this point that Sale kicked the ball forward and Miles H found himself alone and as the ball bobbled towards him four big Sale lads charged in his direction. Thoughts of calling an ambulance were quickly abandoned in favour of calling the undertakers. The crowd collectively drew breath and covered their eyes as everybody expected Miles H to be splattered across the county in the impact. But he dived on the ground and the attack went over him. As the dust cleared, Miles H stood up like one of the survivors from the Charge of the Light Brigade. Coach Seddon decided now was a good time to take a shell-shocked Miles H off and send on replacement Luke H for his club debut.
Wirral were really doing well and Mrs S yelled encouragement from the touchline. “Keep it tight, Wirral” she shouted. Sale took this as a cue to vary their play from a line-out and as everybody expected the rolling maul, the visitors fed it to the backs and three passes later they were able to score in the corner as Wirral ran out of defenders. Conversion missed.
Wirral’s restart was good and from deep in their own territory, the visitors set off up the pitch. A quick tap-penalty set them on their way and two passes later, they scored again. Conversion good. Wirral’s supporters were now concentrating their efforts on persuading prospective council candidate, Mr C, to exert pressure on the club to sort out the scandal of Sausage-gate. Mrs S was still talking dreamily of Leigh Halfpenny’s ‘gorgeous’ eyes. While all this was going on, Sale scored another try which they converted.
The only people watching by now were the packed ranks of Sale supporters on the far touchline. It was their cheering that told everybody that their team had attacked down the right wing and scored in the corner. Their collective groans informed us of the missed conversion.
It was at this point that Mr Tom decided that enough was enough and he blew his whistle to draw a veil over the proceedings. Coach Seddon needed a pint.
Final score: Wirral - 0 Sale - 58.
Then it was time for the traditional shaking of hands, hip hip hurrays and making tunnels for people to run through. Thanks to Mr Tom for kindly referee-ing the match in a proficient and even-handed way. Congratulations to Sale on their deserved win. I don’t ever recall seeing a more dominant scrummaging performance. (Apart from the one Wales will put on next weekend!) Well done to all the Wirral players for trying their best and giving their all.
After the match, everybody trudged towards the clubhouse where great news awaited them.
Sausages were back on!
You can’t always get what you want……
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need.