Derby travelled to Bradwell Road, looking to build on the pleasing performance, before Christmas, against Peterborough Lions. Sandbach started the day 1 point below Derby, but with 2 games in hand, having not played either of the 2 games immediately before the Christmas break.
The side showed a number of changes, with Adam Parkins, Sam Thompson, Ben Trembling, Josh Tizard and Jack Dawson all returning to the starting XV, while Simon Moon made his debut from the bench.
A wet morning gave way to a dry afternoon, as Sandbach kicked off, playing down the slope.
Derby made a superb start, with a sweeping move only being stopped illegally. The penalty was kicked to the corner. Sam Thompson’s throw found Luke Willmott and the Derby forwards drove over the Sandbach line with Tom Taylor-Dawes touching down, for his 4th try of the season.
Following this, Derby struggled to gain any meaningful possession as Sandbach attacked.
After 25 minutes, the pressure told as Sandbach took the lead, with a try from Leech, converted by Elliot.
6 minutes later, Derby were penalised and Sandbach extended their lead to 5 points, with Elliot kicking the penalty.
Just before the break, Derby lost Luke Willmott to injury, with Charlie Barker replacing him and Tom Taylor-Dawes moving to number 8.
With the slope in their favour after the break and only a 5 point gap, Derby were very much in the game and indeed they started the 2nd half strongly, before the pivotal moment of the game arrived, after 50 minutes.
They were pressing, close to the Sandbach line and looked likely to score, when a pass was intercepted and Elliot ran the length of the field to score. He also converted and what could have been a tied game became a 12 point Sandbach lead.
Sandbach increased their lead with another Elliot penalty 6 minutes later, leaving Derby with a mountain to climb.
Derby did not allow their heads to drop and got their reward after 67 minutes. The Sandbach defence was sucked in by a number of Derby forward drives and when the ball went wide, Ben Marlow showed great strength to force his way over for his 9th try of the season.
That was as good as it got for Derby, with Sandbach scoring a further try, through Barlow, with Elliot converting.
It doesn’t get any easier for Derby, with runaway league leaders Birmingham & Solihull at Haslams next week.
Come on Derby !
Match Report by Richard Bambra
Photographs of the Sandbach v Derby game can be viewed on the e4creative photography website.