Drenched with icy cold driving rain, the dark clouds cast a foreboding shadow on a venue at which I can’t remember Derby ever winning. Injury and other commitments forced changes to the successful team of last week which saw Arturs Kozels and Sam Pittman join the starting line-up. Both Jack Dawson and Sam Tebbs did well to recover in time to start.
Derby made a quick start and Judah Simpson scored an early unconverted try against the gusting gale force wind and rain. However, the strong closely knit Sandbach pack began to gain the upper hand, taking their own lineouts and dominating the scrums. From a forward drive their winger, Jack Leech, squeezed over in the corner to level the scores. Minutes later, Sandbach pressure brought a penalty kicked by No. 10, Mark Bird. Against the wind, the Derby restart kick did not go beyond the ten metre line, gifting Sandbach a scrum back. A yellow Card for skipper, Martin Kent, allowed the home side pack to drive over for a try by prop, Gareth Caen, giving Sandbach the lead by 13 points to 5. Given the windy conditions, this was not considered to be an insurmountable score line.
From the restart Derby got the edge in the scrums and McGrath Van Wyk kicked a penalty. One very unpredictable and brilliant move in the Derby backs saw Jack Dawson break through the strong Sandbach defence but his off load went to ground denying Derby a certain try. With Derby virtually camped in the opposition half, Sandbach introduced an impact sub, Tom Namgauds, at wing forward. He steadied the ship and helped his pack to retain possession with short pick-up and drives. When Josh Bingham had his clearing kick charged down, three forwards chased the ball and big Dan Stubbs touched down. With Mark Bird converting, Derby hearts were broken but a final flourish looked as if Derby could score from a second 5-metre scrum. Sadly the ball was not channelled correctly and exited behind the feet of Callum Jones. The quick reaction of Tom Namgauds saw Sandbach get possession to clear their line, denying Derby even a losing Bonus Point.
Sure it was very disappointing but Derby must persevere and look to the rest of the season with even more determination. Their squad does have the players with the ability to stay up. It has to be “Onwards and Upwards.”
Match Report by Gerry Sherry