Playoff Match Report


I have been struggling to put into words this week the details of the game played against Old Elthamians on Saturday.  The build up to the game was incredible, the day was cloudy and cool but perfect for our brand of rugby.  Both teams came into this game having scored over 2000 points between them this season, but, this game was not a try fest, it was a war of attrition.

There are two key numbers that leap out at me everytime I try to write this report.  The first is 66 and the second is 8.  The 66 refers to the percentage of possession Sale FC had during this match, the second number was the total number of line breaks both teams had in total (four each).  This game was a defensive masterclass from Old Elthamians.  Sale FC only allowed one try in the whole game, but OE’s won this game with just 34% of the ball.   They spent just 1 minute and 44 seconds in our 22 metre area.

The frustration of the team must have been immense, where this season, we have run riot up the middle or around the edges, there was just no way through the defensive line of OE’s.  

The only try scored by OE’s was a penalty try with a subsequent yellow card to our scrum half Sam. However, neither of those decisions swayed the match, OE’s were going to score on that play and Sam did his best to prevent this but went too high.  Down to 14 men, we still looked stronger with ball in hand.  We just came up against the best defence we’ve encountered this season.  

Our powerful 12/13 combination of Paolo and Scott Rawlings (followed on by the equally powerful Tom Davenport) found no way through.  Paolo added a try on the death by literally smashing through two players from OE’s leaving them both needing treatment, this match demonstrated just how much it meant to both teams.

I won’t dwell on the fine details of the match, except to say that although disappointed in the outcome of this game, I don’t think the supporters could ever claim that the players didn’t put their bodies on the line for their club.  Gaz Rawlings has a lovely little “eggshell blue” cast to demonstrate his commitment to the cause and until the whiskey kicked in Adam was using crutches for a pulled ligament.

What I will focus on, is that, this season, we have seen the coming together of a club.  For the past few years, we’ve had a team and we’ve had a club and we’ve had kids training.  This season, we’ve had the Minis and Juniors coming to games and we’ve had players coming to coach and support the Minis and Juniors. This may sound a simple process, but, we have many parents who have no rugby background at all (some of whom needed directions to Heywood Road for our end of season awards), as well as players who aren’t obligated to turn up on a Sunday morning (after a bruising game the day before) or chat to kids on a Thursday night at Carrington when they’re getting ready for training.  We’ve had more engagement through social media, with players becoming more familiar to the supporters.  We’ve had a revamp of the clubhouse, with more developments on the way for the upstairs over the next year.  This is down to the hard work and dedication of players, coaches, staff and volunteers throughout the club.

For me the season is summed up with this one photo from Saturday’s game.  The children on the left are under 6/7/8/9’s and not forgetting the Under 10’s on the left waiting for their assistant coach Tom Ailes. The boys (you can see) on the right of this photo are the under 13’s.    For me, watching teenage boys actually wanting to be in a “guard of honour” to support their team is the foundation of a bright future.  How many 13 year old boys would voluntarily put themselves in this position without being worried about “how cool they look.”

A current Minis and Juniors Coach and ex-player Paul Gibbon posted on the minis and juniors facebook page a very emotive and memorable statement the day of the match.  The key phrases from that post is below.

There has been a wonderful buzz around the club in the build up to today’s playoff game that started at the Mini & Juniors player awards on Monday. The smiles on the faces of all the kids, parents and coaches as the senior players handed out the awards spoke a million words and illustrated the depth of feeling and unity within this great club.

I love this club and am so proud to coach the next generation of exciting Sale players who will be at Heywood Road today cheering the 1st XV on!

The excitement is killing me, roll on 3pm!

The future of Sale FC is bright, we have a long way to go, but we are getting closer to making this the club we all want to be a part of.

Finally a word to OE’s

Congratulations on the promotion to National One, you were a credit to your club on Saturday and I’ve yet to see a better defensive display for a full 80 minutes.  The intent at the breakdown, the support play defensively, the bodies on the line were the epitome of teamwork and what rugby is all about.  Good luck next season and hopefully we can play you in 2018/19 and work a way through that wall!