SALE FC RUGBY 23 CALDY 20
Sale FC Rugby completed the double over their North West rivals Caldy RUFC. Over the last four games against Caldy we have now lost two won two, fortunately for us, the two wins were this season and have helped stabilise our position going into the New Year.
The setting for the match at Caldy was cold, wet and breezy which is pretty much the climate there almost every day as far as I can tell! It is however a huge contrast to the last time we played on the Wirral when it was glorious sunny day. We arrived to a warm welcome from their supporters and executive who were in a very festive Christmas spirit and fortunately for us that continued into the game when Neil Briggs came off the back of a rolling maul from a line out and went in from five metres out and with the additional two points added by Kieran Wilkinson, we were 7 points up after only five minutes of play.
The generosity was equally divided however, when Sale had a put in at the scrum five metres out from their own try line, managed to lose control of the ball which popped out and into Caldy hands for a clean run through to the line. 7 all and we were less than 15 minutes into the game. From there on things settled down and apart from penalties (two to Sale and one for Caldy) giving Sale a slender 3 point lead heading towards the half-time break, Dave Seymour got Sale back on course with another rolling maul from a line out leaving Seymour with sight of the line, stealing the ball off Neil Briggs to score in the corner. The resulting conversion attempt from out wide in a swirling breeze came off the post and Sale went into the break 18-10 up.
The second half saw a few lucky breaks for both teams, with Nick Royle out wide and unmarked, the pass to him was deemed forward letting Sale off a clear five points and given the accuracy of their kicker, you’d have to assume 7 points. The second let off was for Caldy who were lucky to remain with fifteen players on the pitch when punches were thrown at a player on the floor. Both referees and linesman were following play so missed what had happened so no action (quite rightly) could be taken.
The next score came as the result of a set piece play five metres out from the Sale try line with Caldy bundling over to bring Caldy within one point of Sale and the game was definitely on the turn, with Caldy throwing everything they had at Sale who stood firm even with the loss of Matt Postlethwaite to a yellow card on 58 minutes. Fortunately for Sale, this 10 minutes showed the difference a solid defence can make even with a man down. Although giving up a penalty to go behind by two for the first time in the match, the pressure was definitely starting to shift in the away teams favour.
With five minutes to go, camped on their own 22, Caldy tried to box kick and Matt Postlethwaite pounced,
charging it down for it to pop up into the hands of skipper Andy Hughes who went in for a well deserved try to bring us back into the lead. 23-20 is where the game finished, but no one should underestimate the significance of beating Caldy on their own ground. They are a good team, with the most successful finisher in National League rugby on the wing and a very strong pack who have been around the block and know what they’re doing
The final mention has to go to the 120 supporters Sale FC travelled to Caldy with. We had our M&J’s pitted against theirs from under 10’s to Under 13’s with over 90 boys and girls showcasing junior rugby in the north-west. The highlight of that event must be the two under 11 teams giving each other positive feedback at the end of the game demonstrating true rugby spirit!
Pictures courtesy of Gareth Lyons
Interview with Jack and Rhys
This weekend we take on old rivals Caldy. Over the years there have been some titanic battles with Caldy, most of which have been decided in their favour. This season however, we managed to sneak a win at the CorpAcq stadium 26-24. This trip will be a lot tougher, with Sale FC coming off the back of their worst losing streak in years and Caldy showing some good performances to sit 9 points and 5 places above us in the league.
The team selection this week includes ex-Caldy player Adam Aigbokhae who provides options off the bench having astonishingly played at 3, 6 and 14 this season! We also have Arron Reed and Connor Doherty returning from Sale Sharks duty to start in the backline. With Gas Rawlings and Mark Lawrence both out injured, we have 13 of our match day squad from last season’s National 2 Winning side. In fact we have a few players in there from our National 3 North (2014-15) and North West One (2012-13) winning teams as well. There can’t be many clubs playing in level 3 who’ve retained players from level 6.
Another exceptional element this weekend, Sale FC Rugby will be taking a coach to the game! 80 members are travelling down to Caldy after having breakfast with the team in the clubhouse. Travelling support is always welcome and we are delighted to have these guys along.
A game of two Halves
If any game could be described as a game of two halves this was it. Sale came out on fire and within five minutes were 7-0 up due to some hard work, an overlap a driving maul and Tom Ailes going over for the opening score, the trusty boot of Liam McGovern saw the conversion slotted over from out wide in windy conditions. The composure of the captain when kicking cannot be overstated. The weather at Caldy was picture perfect with the scenic backdrop, but the wind was swirling and seemed to change direction constantly. Even given the change of wind direction half way through, this was a kicking masterclass, four penalties and two conversions mean that the last kick Liam has missed any kick, was the 56th Minute of the match against Leicester Lions on the 11th of February.
There was an exchange of penalties as Sale seemed to fall back to our old habits of getting on the wrong side of a referee who seemed to have markedly different interpretations of some of the laws of the game, with high tackles and breakdown areas causing particular issues again. After swapping a couple of penalties each, we then saw a pass go to ground, with Jack Moorhouse turning disadvantage into advantage he kicked the loose ball ahead, which popped into his hands for him to draw the player and send Sam Stelmaszek over for a superb try at pace. Liam McGovern duly put the conversion over and it started to look like Sale FC were on to spoil the party for Caldy. A “disagreement” between Scott Rawlings and Thomas Banks (from Caldy) saw both players needlessly given yellows and it was 14 a side for the last five minutes of the half. Half time score 23-6 to Sale FC. This was probably the best display of rugby we’d seen from Sale this season against what is now a National One side.
After the half, Caldy came out like a team who hadn’t lost since the opening game of the season and took control of the match. Within a minute, the top try scorer in the league Nick Royale demonstrated why Caldy haven’t lost since the opening day and scored for Caldy, a conversion and all of a sudden the momentum was with Caldy and it’s 23-13. Six minutes later and Caldy were over again and the big crowd started to get into full vocal flow, 23-20 to Sale and we were no longer in control but hanging on by a thread. The scrum was creaking and the boys were starting to feel the heat. Somehow Sale managed to pick up the pace and were rewarded with a Penalty to extend the lead to 6 points, with a lead of 26-20 we were headed into the final twenty minutes with a slight steadying of the ship and Sale kept hammering on the door and then the wheels fell off.
Our instrumental partnership in the centre was suddenly without a leader as Chris Johnson was yellow carded for a high tackle and we were down to 14 men. 15 on 15 and we might have held the tide, but Nick Royle again raced over to score, bringing the score to 25-26. If Caldy had any seats, we’d have been on the edge of them at that stage, the crowd was now in full voice as they could sense that they had their hands on the trophy and when the conversion went wide, Sale got out of jail, for a brief period and then, Ciaran Connolly was yellow carded just before Chris Johnson was about to come back on, so for the next couple of minutes it was 13 men against 15. However, Sale started to look stronger at this stage and threw everything at it, with an attempted drop goal from the newly returned Chris Johnson bouncing off the upright into the hands of Andy Hughes our tails were up. Andy was stopped metres short of the line and some massive but not always legal defence from Caldy saw them hold Sale out and a penalty against Sale sent us way back down the pitch.
Yet another penalty with five minutes to go and it went sailing through the uprights for Caldy to lead for the very first time in the match. 26-28 to Caldy. A few more half chances went begging but the boys were running on empty.
Full time 26-28
From a spectators point of view this was pure theatre, the weather, the backdrop and the game all contributed to the spectacle. Caldy have beaten every team in the league this season and had come to Heywood road and demonstrated their class. We arrived at Caldy with a plan and it became apparent it worked brilliantly for 40 minutes, three yellow cards and playing with 14 men for 25 minutes of the second half in that heat, essentially made our task twice as hard.
Caldy had built this occasion into a Sale Sharks “stars” Paolo Odogwu and Andy Hughes versus their plucky ex minis and juniors team, but that really only added to the theatre of the day (sadly for the crowd, Paolo was busy in Hong Kong) and also takes away from the fact that this Sale team is about being a team and not a collection of players. Jonathan Keep has done a sterling job in the last 12 months, moving us from the brink of relegation to National 3 North to the brink of promotion to National One and this is one of the reasons why.
This weekend, we demonstrated how far Sale have come this season by taking Caldy to the very limits. We congratulate Caldy on their victory on Sunday and their promotion to National One, they have thoroughly deserved both.
My abiding image of this game however, is not the score, nor the yellow cards, but, Dan Birchall sat on the pitch with nothing left to give after 80 minutes of top class rugby. Sale FC left it all on the pitch Saturday.
We now have two games left to pick up the points required to bring the Playoff to Heywood Road. The 22nd of April against Preston Grasshoppers is a must win game with five points needed. Get down and support the boys.