Injury-hit Sandal show glimpses but end well beaten by York

Olly Fisher goes over for his first senior try in Sandal colours against York. Picture: Simon HallOlly Fisher goes over for his first senior try in Sandal colours against York. Picture: Simon Hall
Olly Fisher goes over for his first senior try in Sandal colours against York. Picture: Simon Hall
The Sandal team and supporters were again disappointed by a performance that just did not click against a York side that had been promoted from North One East at the end of the 2019/20 season.

Before the game the two sides looked to be evenly matched from their respective results. However, the final 52-20 score told another story and only highlighted the injury and unavailability problems the Sandal club is suffering at the moment.

York were ahead from the seventh minute when they displayed their scrum dominance and pushed over from five metres out allowing the number eight to gather and score.

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Undeterred by this early score, the hosts pushed forward and six minutes later it was their pack’s turn to exert some dominance. A penalty kick to the corner allowed Sandal to set up a driving maul from a line-out and with forward momentum in their favour Austen Thompson dived over the whitewash to level the score at 5-5.

Action from Sandal's game against York. Picture: Simon HallAction from Sandal's game against York. Picture: Simon Hall
Action from Sandal's game against York. Picture: Simon Hall

As the game progressed York were looking the more settled side and after 22 minutes some loose defending by Sandal allowed the visitors to post a converted try.

The remainder of the half possession switched between home and away as both teams tried to string together phases in order to establish dominance. Unfortunately Sandal were subjected to two interception passes, the second of which gave a York player an easy 60-metre run to score his side’s third try under the posts. With the extras added the lead was out to 19-5.

This could have been a turning point as Sandal had worked their way up the pitch with multiple phases and at the last moment when a try was beckoning the ball was picked out of the air. Instead the opposite happened and this galvanised the team with the hosts finishing the half strongly.

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Multiple phases of attack allowed Sandal to create space out wide and Olly Fisher took the opportunity to squeeze in for his 1st XV maiden try in the corner. The conversion missed its target but Sandal were still in the game with the score at 10-19 at the break.

Sandal came out with a renewed sense of enthusiasm, some minor tweaks to the pack stabilised the scrums and things were looking positive.

They were first to score after 53 minutes when Luke Punton slotted over a penalty kick to reduce the deficit to six points.

However, minutes later the ball flew out of the back of a Sandal scrum, which York gathered. The ball was spun across the back line, ending in an unconverted try in the corner.

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Injuries then hampered Sandal as they lost both hooker Ryan Gibson and prop Wicks, meaning uncontested scrums were now on the cards.

This left the Sandal team a little disjointed and try as they may York were now in the ascendancy.

The visitors posted their bonus point try under the posts after 61 minutes and with the conversion they led 31-13. Three minutes later another try was scored and converted, giving York an unassailable lead.

Sandal’s attitude throughout the season has been positive and at times they have showed glimpses of great rugby, It was this never say die attitude that saw Dom Fawcett make a superb break from which Jack Handley worked hard to touch down in the corner and with the try being converted by Luke Punton the score seemed more respectable at 20-38.

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Unfortunately the visitors had more to give and scored two more converted tries.

Sandal’s season post covid has been a struggle, with some players moving to pastures new, some opting to retire and an injury list nearing double figures. It is a testament to the club’s depth that they are still turning out two/three competitive teams.

The next few weeks with players returning from unavailability and injury, Sandal are looking to kick on and hope by Christmas to be in a very different league position. They host Billingham this Saturday at Milnthorpe Green.

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