Slip on Sandal
A personal view by Cammie Hodgkinson
Skipper Dave Barton had picked up a knock at Harrogate and was not on duty for this one, Vice Captain Tom Pickthall standing in but it was good to see Player Coach Scott Armstrong back in the starting fifteen having missed the last six games with broken bones in his hand. Gareth Gore who came off the bench last Saturday at Harrogate also started the game, you can’t keep a good man down.
Sandal are having a strong season winning five out of the eight games played, with notable home wins against Rossendale and Blaydon and they came to Kirkby in third place in the league, possibly with a little trepidation seeing what Kirkby did to Harrogate when they were in third place.
Conditions were good although there was a strong wind blowing almost directly down the pitch towards the clubhouse
into which Sandal kicked off to get the game underway. But it was Kirkby who struck the first blow when winger Harry Ralston cut through the Sandal line and into the visitors half, hooker Tom Burtonwood had run the inside channel and Ralston timed a pass to him and he had the pace to score. No conversion and it was 5 – 0 with one minute played and Sandal down to fourteen men as a result of a high tackle during the move.
Inside ten minutes and Kirkby were over again Armstrong in possession and surging over the half way line down the middle of the pitch. Left winger Harry Huddleston was running in support outside him in a two on two, the defenders couldn’t ignore him and Armstrong utilised this. Dummying a pass a gap opened and he stepped inside and through it with strength and pace to score a classic try under the posts, stand off Mike Fearon obliging with the conversion to make it 12 – 0.
Sandal hit back and Kirkby had to defend on their line, and beyond it when Sandal were held up but the pressure told and the visitors were in the game with a converted try to make it 12 – 7 with twelve minutes on the clock. The half continued in ding dong fashion, Kirkby pressurised the Sandal line but couldn’t score and as the first half went into injury time a missed tackle gave Sandal their second try, unconverted to send the teams in at half time with the scores level at 12 – 12.
Sandal had the early pressure in the second half turning on the flair and the pace but Kirkby turned on the tenacity and the resilience and kept them at bay until the ninth minute when Sandal banged over a penalty to take the lead at 12 – 15. Kirkby’s scrum half Ben Walker was penalised and yellow carded for a technical offence and the Sandal kick was good to extend their lead to 12 – 18 but Kirkby were far from done and returned to full strength they took the game to the visitors.
Hammering the Sandal line in the left corner with a series of scrums with Sandal in disarray and sequentially penalised at the scrum, a yellow card did eventually come but it remained a mystery to many of the faithful that a penalty try didn’t. However, the Kirkby forwards did eventually exert sufficient control to shunt Sandal back over their line for a try in the corner, later claimed by all the forwards but it was number eight Dave Maka’s day so let’s credit it to him.
This took the score to 17 – 18 with the conversion kick to come and not many minutes to play, a fiendishly difficult kick into the wind from the left touchline. Fearon lined it up, it had to be perfect, he struck it well and it looked good in the air but to the ‘highside’ spectators the angle was oblique and accuracy difficult to define. But the ‘lowsider’s’ could see the line, they knew it was good before the ball reached the posts and the cheers that went up said everything that needed to be said. Over it went the flags went up and it was 19 – 18 with five minutes of normal time to play.
Sandal flung everything at Kirkby and a score looked on but they dropped the ball with the line at their mercy and Kirkby cleared with the kick. The forty minutes were up and the game was in time added on when Sandal were penalised, getting the ball off the pitch was the priority but the normally immaculate Armstrong failed to find touch with the kick. Sandal caught the ball just inside the line and spun it infield, their backs had another chance and the Kirkby faithful were leaning on each other for support and wondering if the ref had lost his whistle.
But the home side held their ground and the whistle did come with no additions to the score, Sandal did go home with a losing bonus point and they were well worth that but for Kirkby this victory was three in a row. A hat trick of wins which sees them in a solid mid table position at seventh place, although the next game is a very tough test away on the artificial surface at high flying Billingham on the 17th November.
1 Braden Schiller
2 Tom Burtonwood
3 Ross Hobbs
4 Dan Thompson
5 Gareth Gore
6 Craig Galbraith
7 Stu Storey
8 Dave Maka
9 Ben Walker
10 Mike Fearon
11 Harry Huddleston
12 Tom Pickthall
13 Scott Armstrong
14 Harry Ralston
15 Martyn Knapton
16 Dan Armistead
17 Leandro Kwiczor
18 James Fishwick