Sale FC Rugby came up against a powerful and mobile forward pack on Saturday to bring our 11 month winning streak to an end. Although we did pick up a four try bonus point with a brace from Arron Reed, it was a disappointing end to a fantastic streak.
In the game itself we got off to a dream start with a beautiful pass from Sale FC new boy Kieran Wilkinson splitting the defence for Gaz Rawlings to wander over the line with bending down to score being the most difficult part of his contribution. Unfortunately, it was also one of his last contributions to the game when he had to leave the pitch three minutes later with a broken arm. For the next fifteen minutes it was one way traffic and Cinderford looked like they were going to put a cricket score on the board with three converted tries. We’d started off looking like we were too much for the home side, but here we were 26 minutes in and we were looking at a score of 21-7.
The route was firmly and abruptly brought to a stop when Arron Reed showing pace on the wing was brought down by what appeared to be a tackle using the neck as a method of stopping the player….. (3:54 on the highlight video). A few moves later however and Captain Andy Hughes crashed over from short range, a missed conversion in blustery winds and we were at 21-12.
Not two minutes later and no such mistake this time as a lovely slip of a tackle up the middle for David Seymour and he found Arron Reed on the wing who had too much pace and it was 21-17. Another missed conversion and despite some useful breaks we were in at half time only four points down rather than fourteen!
After the break, Cinderford were piling on the pressure and in their haste to swing it wide, threw the ball to Arron Reed who again demonstrated his pace to strip the chasing Cinderford players and run the length of the field and score under the posts. Sale FC were in the ascendancy and it looked like the tide had well and truly turned, a converted try and were in the lead for the first time since the 12th Minute.
Another mistake just three minutes later with the ball going to ground, picked up by Kieran Dunne, offloaded to Tom Brady, to Kieran Wilkinson another offload to Kieran Dunne and then into Jonty’s waiting hands to score under the posts. The try was converted, Sale were up 31-21 and Cinderford were struggling. With 30 minutes to go, Cinderford were throwing everything at us and then at 56 minutes we were yellow carded for a high tackle.
The resultant penalty showed Cinderford an opening and with their ability and forward power they took it and were back in the game. 31-28 to Sale FC and with Sale FC about to return to full strength, another yellow card. This resulted in another excellent field position for Cinderford who knocked over the line, but, with a weakened pack down to seven, we couldn’t control the ball, resulting in a scrum for Cinderford who took advantage and scored under the posts in the next passage of play.
Sale FC were now backs against the wall at 31-33 down with less than ten minutes to go. A missed penalty, a knock on and Cinderford were back up on Sale’s line scoring a try in the dying minutes, taking away our losing bonus point and relegating us to our first league loss since Tynedale last year.
A 41-30 loss to an outfit such as Cinderford is by no means embarrassing, however, we found ourselves playing 20 minutes of the game with only 14 men on the park and that is never going to help our cause. At this level, playing 14 on 15 isn’t doing us any favours and penalties need to be reduced significantly if we are to see any success this season.