Fylde 50 Sandbach 22
Fylde and Sandbach cast off summer cobwebs in a well competed pre-season warm-up at the Woodlands. The final scoreline didn’t reflect the overall balance of this game between clubs that finished last season in 6th place in National Two (North) and 9th in the Midlands Premier divisions. A 24-17 halftime lead for Fylde didn’t flatter Sandbach who had some 60% of possession. It was only in the 2nd half that Fylde’s superior attacking strength dominated the gutsy and well organised Cheshire outfit.
Early pressure by Sandbach set the scene as they retained possession well inside the Fylde half. However, the home team manufactured possession they opened the scoring when hooker Ben Gregory, who went on to have a fine game, dodged his way over the line from 20m out for the opening try. Fly-half David Reed missed the conversion.
Shortly afterwards, Fylde attempted to run the ball as they went right but a sloppy pass was read by the Sandbach winger who raced along the touchline to score in the left corner and equalise the scores at 5-5.
Fylde looked dangerous with ball in hand and when scrum-half Cameron Crampton broke down the centre against his old club, winger Lex Botha created enough space to free centre Connor Wilkinson who scored near the posts. Reed converted for a 12-5 lead.
This end to end play continued and it was the turn of Sandbach to pressurise Fylde deep in their half. They retained possession well and when the home side ran out of defenders the Cheshire side scored in the right corner. Goal kicking was proving rather difficult but the visitors had reduced the deficit to 12-10.
Play then switched to the other end and a Fylde move down the centre created space for centre Ralph Dowds to force his way over the line down the right. 17-10.
Fylde players were guilty of occasionally losing the ball in contact and, with Head Coach Spragg rotating his 29 players frequently to give everyone game time, their collective radar sometimes malfunctioned.
Back came Sandbach and this time their forwards created a platform for one of their backs to step his way through the centre to score under the posts. The conversion equalled the score at 17-all.
At the end of this see-sawing half there was just enough time for Fylde to regain the lead once again. Prop Elliot Horner showed a fine eye for the break and he went clear on halfway. He linked with lock Matt Garrod and from the subsequent ruck the ball was moved right and fullback Tom Carleton raced clear to score a trademark try. The half-time score was 24-17 to Fylde.
The 2nd half was a rather different story as Fylde exercised greater control over proceedings. With the ball bobbling about deep in Fylde’s half, no 8 David Fairbrother, now back to full fitness after an injury disrupted 2018-19 season, picked up the ball and put in a lung busting 50m run into the Sandbach half. Ben Gregory was on his shoulder to take the pass and there was no catching him as he scored near the posts. Tom Forster, who had by now taken over the fly-half role, converted for a 31-17 advantage.
The next 15 minutes became the Connor Wilkinson show. Firstly, a long break out run along the left touchline by winger Sam Fisher saw him pass inside to the fast supporting Wilkinson to score from 35m out.
Then it was the time for the talented centre to set up a try for a team mate as he broke down the centre and put in a well judged kick behind the Sandbach defence for Tom Forster to get the touchdown.
Minutes later it was man of the match Wilkinson who put in a brilliant individual break down the centre, slaloming around hapless defenders from inside his own half to score under the posts and to complete his hat-trick of tries. The conversion took the score to 50-17.
Summing up Sandbach’s contribution to the game, they didn’t give up and created an excellent consolation try in the left corner in the final minute. Sandbach winger Jack Leech was always dangerous and scored a brace of tries, with Keiran Allsop and Sam Winstanley also on the scoresheet.
This was a good workout for both clubs and played in excellent spirit. It was especially good to see the contribution of young Fylde players who weren’t first choice National League selections last season. Local players such as Adam Lanigan, George Brookes, David Reed, Sam Fisher, Jonny Wild, Tom Forster, James Torkington, Luke Woodward, Adam Joiner, Ben Gould and Fraser Stanier all had an opportunity to show their abilities at 1st team level.
Newcomers Hal Chapman and Drew Stephenson also impressed as they become integrated into the squad.
Fylde’s preparation steps up a level as they await the visit of National One’s Hull Ionians to the Woodlands on Saturday, 31st August.
Elliott Horner, Jonny Wild, Adam Joyner, Ben Gregory, Drew Stephenson, Adam Lewis, Matt Ashcroft, Matt Garrod, Olli Parkinson, Nick Ashcroft, Jacob Conner, James Torkington, Ben O’Ryan, Luke Woodward, Hal Chapman, David Fairbrother.
Cameron Crampton, Adam Lanigan, Ben Gould, David Reed, Tom Forster, Tom Grimes, Fraser Stanier, Connor Wilkinson, George Brookes, Ralph Dowds, Lex Botha, Sam Fisher, Tom Carleton.