Sale 2nd team hosted Sedgley Park 2’s on Saturday, looking for a win from one of their remaining two fixtures of their North West Intermediate Premier League campaign.
After their previous encounter with Sedgley Park earlier in the season, Sale were looking to make improvements to their performance, whilst at the same time keeping a full team on the pitch, after the last game saw us use up all our squad and finish the game with only 12 players by the end of it.
With the weather being overcast, and occasional showery bursts adding to blustery conditions it meant that the players were in for an interesting afternoon’s rugby, that as it turned out was not too bad a game, although there was more ‘windy conditions’ as the match went on.
So it was Sedgley who got us under way here at the CorpAcq with their useful No.9 A.J Potgieter kicking the ball in the direction of captain Ben Simpson, who immediately put Sale on the front foot making progress back towards the halfway line, before a loose pass that hit the deck was quickly followed up with Sedgley turning defence into attack leading to them heading to the corner only to be stopped as the referee deemed that there was insufficient advantage and the penalty was awarded.
From here Sedgley, pushed the ball wide through their pacey backs as they looked to get the first score on the board, however a knock on at the crucial moment gave Sale a reprieve and scrum deep inside their own 22m zone. At the resulting scrum Sale were able to clear their lines and run hard at the Sedgley defensive line, as they made their way up the field approaching the halfway line.
Sale’s progress here was halted as Sedgley were adjudged to have held on to the ball, something that led to the referee speaking to both captains allowing them to seek clarification regarding the reasoning behind the penalty.
At the restart with the penalty, Matt Simpson played the ball and Sale were seen to making good progress up the field, with the forwards linking up with the backs creating opportunities with each and every phase, unfortunately a loose pass here gave the ball back to Sedgley as Adam Aigbokhae knocked the ball forward just as he was about to make a clinical break through a hole in the visitors defence.
The game continued in this same manner for the next 10 minutes, as neither side could hold on to the ball sufficiently well enough to gain any advantage in the match. However, in the 14th minute Sedgley Park scored the first points of the game thanks in the main to their backs creating an overlap on the left hand side of the pitch for their centre No.18 to score unattended, with Potgieter kicking the extras it gave Sedgley a 7 point lead.
The lead was to be added to some three minutes later, as Sedgley flanker (No.6) finished off a well worked move from the lineout allowing him to score under the posts, Potgieter once again added the extras and the lead had become 14 points to nil in favour of the Tigers.After this score, Sale seemed to come back into the game with a mixture of well worked moves and a large number of phases that gave them some sort of momentum as the half ticked on. For most of the second quarter of this half Sale seemed to be the likelier of the two sides to score, only for them to either knock the ball on or lose possession at a vital moment, when any number of players could have reduced the arrears.
Credit where its due however must go also to Sedgley who played their part in stopping Sale getting on the score board as their defence made a number of important tackles and line out steals giving them the ball when Sale were in the ascendency.
At the halftime interval, Sale were 14 points down but nevertheless in a good position to win the game. From the restart by Sale’s No.10 Callum Ramsey he seemed to put a great kick up in the air for the forwards to chase, as we looked to put Sedgley under pressure and turn the deficit around.
Unfortunately, the jump from captain Ben Simpson and flanker Andy Raw missed the flight of the ball and it lay firmly in the grasp of the Sedgley tight head prop Jobe Johnson, who managed to bulldoze his way through some strong tackles from the Sale defence, before he was able to offload to his teammates, leading to Sale ending up in their 22m zone.
As the attack continued it only seemed a matter of time before Sedgley would cross the line again for their third score of the afternoon, as their hooker cut a scything line across the Sale defensive line giving their scrum half Potgieter an easy conversion taking Sedgley out to a 21-0 score line.With Sedgley now firmly in the driving seat and looking to add further scores with every passing phase, it was the turn of their No.8 Luke Crampton to receive the kick off from Callum Ramsey, something that he seemingly took with great ease, before releasing it wide to their backs, who were relentless with their constant wave of attacks throughout the game that they charged at the Sale defence with.
These attacking phases would lead them to score once more as their No.9 Potgieter put their second row Scott Murphy over in the corner, therefore giving Sedgley the try bonus point and that man Potgieter his fourth conversion of the afternoon and a 28 point lead to boot.
Sale looked for all intent and purposes that their afternoon was done after just 48 mins and the floodgates would open as they did earlier in the season, this thankfully wasn’t the case as the referee firstly dispatched Sedgley second row No.5 Greg Morgan to the bin for a shoulder charge before adding to their woes just a few moments later with a number of penalties for either repeat infringement or preventing the ball coming out from the base of a ruck.
Here the referee gave the Sedgley captain Crampton his final team warning, as Sale came to life and subsequently threatened to visitors line. This pressure was turned into points on the 55 minute mark, when winger Mike Agyei-King rounded off a wonderfully worked move for Sale to register their first points of the game, fortuitously Callum Ramsey was able to bounce the ball off the crossbar aided by a large amount of top spin as it went through the uprights to make the score 7-28 in the visitors favour.Even with only the slightest reprieve to Sale in terms of registering on the scoreboard, Sedgley crossed for the final time of the afternoon, as they pounced on to a Sale mistake, after they took advantage of a penalty given to them by the referee. At the ensuing lineout Sedgley won the ball with ease before going wide and giving Crampton the chance to cross the try line. Unfortunately, Potgieter wasn’t able to keep his perfect conversion record of the afternoon as he pushed it wide from the right hand side of the pitch. Just a short while later, the referee gave the Sedgley flanker No.6 a yellow card for dissent, as it was a team related offence this time around he was dismissed for, leaving Sedgley with 14 men on the park for the majority of the remaining 15 minutes of the game. With this extra man, Sale took full advantage of this opportunity creating chances for themselves through the hard work and effort from second row partners Witness Mandizha and John Blanchard Senior, who was tackled high forcing the referee to award Sale a penalty try under the posts, from what was a clear scoring chance. With the conversion part of the penalty try package Sale ended the game with 14 points on the board and a final score of 33-14 in favour of our visitors who took their chances well for the most part and rightly deserved the win, even though the referee awarded a considerable number of penalties against them during this fixture.
Post-match Captain Ben Simpson was quite upbeat about the game, taking a large number of positives from the game, adding that the mixture of the youth and experience in the side will leave them in a good place for their Conference B fixtures that follow in the second half of the 2nd team campaign.