Beaten Lichfield RUFC give high-flying Sandbach a scare

Lichfield RUFC gave high-flying Sandbach plenty of food for thought before eventually succumbing to a 35-20 defeat.

On a greasy surface, both teams spent the opening minutes feeling each other out. The Greens pinned the hosts back into their 22 with some excellent kicking from Will Cotterhill, and their breakdown tenacity lead to an early penalty that was pushed wide of the posts.

Sandbach replied as they began to settle down. A missed kick to touch allowed the dangerous back three to counter, and before they knew it Lichfield were penalised in their own 22. The home 15 duly converted and for very little possession they were on the scoreboard.

The home side showed their willingness to run at every opportunity, breaking away from a scrum on their own 22, eventually being halted just short of the line. Lichfield were penalised at the ensuing ruck, and Sandbach opted to scrum. This proved to be a wise decision, as the visiting eight were pushed backwards and the the ball eventually went over the line. The conversion was missed.

Lichfield’s physical approach to defending and rucking were taking its toll on the home players as first their winger, then back row, followed by their prop, were all forced from the field with injuries, before the scrum half lost his temper at the breakdown and was yellow carded for some over enthusiastic use of his feet.

This spurred the Greens into gear as they began to make inroads. A set piece move from a line out saw the ball moved through several hands and recycled well for Maxwell-Keys to score in the corner.

The home crowd seemed somewhat stunned and Lichfield again pressed. Their accuracy was inconsistent though, and it was another breakaway that took Sandbach forward, resulting in another penalty for the 15 to convert.

But the visitors were unrelenting and made their own break through Will Cotterhill. The ball was spread and a deft kick through saw Maxwell-Keys dive on the ball. But it was ruled out though as the referee couldn’t see, and the Greens had to settle for three points on half-time, leaving the scores at 11-8.

Sandbach began the second half brightly as theiroffload and support game allowed them to get in behind on numerous occasions. Although good defence was holding them, Lichfield were unable to keep hold of their own ball. When second row Matt Cowley was yellow carded for a ruck infringement, it was only a matter of time, and Sandbach hit a purple patch scoring four unanswered tries and two penalties in 15 minutes.

Lichfield’s inaccuracy with the ball allowed Sandbach to play their counter attacking game and they duly capitalised on every mistake.

To their credit, the Greens kept coming forward and were rewarded with a try for Charlie Milner as they showed what they can do with tempo and accuracy. With minutes remaining, they pressed again and it was Milner who collected a neat kick from brother Chris to score.

Lichfield were trailing 35-20 and were pressing hard for the bonus point try, but from the kick off they gave the ball back to Sandbach and a massive hit from Chris Milner on the second row saw him yellow carded, and the game finish with a missed penalty.

They now return to Cooke Fields and welcome Scunthorpe this weekend for a 3pm kick off.

Lichfield: Gabbitass, Clarke, Taylor, Thompson, Cowley, Burton (capt), Milner, Southern; Cotterhill, L Massey, Wootton, Maxwell-Keys, Milner, J Massey, G Massey. Subs: Bassett, Squire, Rowlands.