HUDDERSFIELD 37-35 SANDAL
National 3 North champions Huddersfield achieved their ambition of achieving 26 straight wins in a thriller at Lockwood Park.
Conditions were perfect for the final match of the season and the two teams served up some nail biting and breath-taking non-stop rugby action for the full 80 minutes leaving spectators not knowing how the game would finish until the final whistle.
Huddersfield, who had not conceded more than 16 points in any of their games thus far, were 23-10 down at half time with a bit of a mountain climb.
Sandal coached by former Huddersfield player coach and captain Mark Sowerby were determined to spoil the party and confound the home side’s ambition to complete the season unbeaten.
The game was given added spice by brothers on opposing teams…Austen Thompson in Huddersfield’s second row and his brother Declan (who played for Huddersfield last season) at no.8 for Sandal….both the big lads had cracking games.
Ultimately it was the superb kicking of fly half Chris Bell that made the difference…with 3 penalties and 4 conversions he took his personal tally for the season over 400.
Sandal went onto the attack from kick off and dominated possession in the early exchanges.Their forwards took the ball into contact and forced Huddersfield onto the back foot. Their backs were lively and ran the ball at their hosts at every opportunity.
Declan Thompson scored the first and third tries following some good pressure from the Sandal forwards with winger James Eller skating in for the second in between them.
A penalty by Chris Bell and a converted try by Francis Entressengle kept Huddersfield in touch.
Sandal’s early superiority was reflected in the penalty count which was cost Huddersfield field position and points.
Huddersfield’s cause was not helped on the half hour when Francis Entressengle and Ben Morrill were sin binned in quick succession for a cynical shirt tug and taking a man out in the air. With Huddersfield down to 13 men as the first half drew to a close Sandal cashed in on their numerical advantage with a penalty and try to extend their lead to 13 points at the break.
To the credit of the champions at no stage did they panic. They came back and produced the match winning performance showing the composure, self belief and determination that had earned them the title before the game commenced, taking the second half 27 points to 12.
A superb try by Brandon Conway following a left wing break brought Huddersfield back into the game and another under the posts by Chris Bell brought them within touching distance. Centre Tom Owen’s score following another good individual break through the middle had them in front by four points in the final minutes. All were converted by Bell.
In the midst of them a break away try by Sandal full back Tom Coad meant that the game stayed tight with Sandal becoming the first team this season to register an attacking try scoring bonus against Huddersfield.
With the clock ticking down and Sandal under pressure on their own line Sandal number 11 Simon Firwin was sin binned for a trip and Bell’s 3 points left Sandal needing a converted try to draw level.
However it was 14 man Sandal who had the last word when scrum half Ollie Fox went in at the right hand corner for the last try of the game on 80 minutes.
Sandal captain Greg Wood narrowly missed the difficult touch line conversion that would have earned his side the draw with the last kick of the match.
After the game Vern Cotter presented the Huddersfield players with their medals and the National 3 North trophy was presented by league secretary Terry Owen-Smith from Alnwick.
Pictures from the game taken by Ray Morris can be found here>>
Pictures from the medal presentation are here>>
Pictures of special guest Vern Cotter>>