All White on the night as OEs hit the heights

The Rugby Paper - - National League 2 Play-off - ■ By GE­OFF LIGHT­FOOT

OLD ELTHAMI­ANS go through to Na­tional One next sea­son after beat­ing Sale FC at Hey­wood Road in the Na­tional Two North v South play-off.

This was a real full­blooded cup tie which could have gone ei­ther way right up to the fi­nal minute when a drop goal from the vis­i­tors’ fly-half and manof-the-match Tom White gave his side some breath­ing space. Up un­til then the crowd of over 1,000 were kept on ten­ter­hooks as the two sides bat­tled al­most to a stand­still.

In the end the vis­i­tors prob­a­bly de­served their vic­tory as they showed the bet­ter com­po­sure aided by a su­perb de­fen­sive ef­fort which Sale, de­spite their best ef­forts, were un­able to break down.

It was a ner­vous start from both sides with Old Elthami­ans No.8 Ge­orge Mes­sum drop­ping the ball from the kick-off. How­ever with Sale pe­nalised at the en­su­ing scrum, White was able to clear into touch.

A run by the vis­i­tors’ wing Huw Thomas was a prom­ise of things to come as Sale coun­tered with a barg­ing run from Scott Rawl­ings.

The game was played at a high tempo, but it was a mas­sive shunt at a Sale scrum that brought a penalty for OE, White on tar­get for the early lead.

A su­perb break by Sale’s Sam Stel­maszek off the top of a li­ne­out de­served bet­ter as he was pulled down short.

Al­though both sides were ea­ger to move the ball, de­fences re­mained tight but a sec­ond penalty from White af­forded the Two South out­fit a 6-0 lead.

A penalty from Liam McGovern after OEs had been pe­nalised for com­ing in at the side nar­rowed the gap and with the vis­i­tors pe­nalised a sec­ond time for not rolling away, McGovern lev­elled mat­ters at 6-6.

With half-time ap­proach­ing a blis­ter­ing run down the right by Do­minic Le­spierre was halted by a high tackle from Stel­maszek leav­ing the ref­eree no op­tion but to award a penalty try. White added the ex­tras as the Sale scrum-half was dis­patched-to the sin bin. How­ever right on the whis­tle Chris John­son landed a drop goal to keep Sale in it, 13-9 down at the in­ter­val.

The sec­ond half proved a war of at­tri­tion as strong de­fence from both sides pre­vented any break­though. A third penalty from White opened up a seven-point gap with the drop goal more or less clinch­ing the win, al­though Sale did get Paolo Odogwu over in the cor­ner from the fi­nal play of the game.

“This is an un­be­liev­able day for Old Elthami­ans,” said di­rec­tor of rugby Gavin Lach. “No one gave us a prayer against Sale but to beat them in their own back­yard was a mag­nif­i­cent per­for­mance from all the play­ers and some­thing this club will re­mem­ber for days to come.”

Sale head coach Jonathan Keep said: “I must first of all con­grat­u­late Old Elthami­ans on their win. They were in­deed the bet­ter side and we can have no com­plaints.

“Of course we are dis­ap­pointed, but we have come a long way in a very short time, we have had a great sea­son and I do be­lieve that our chance will come.”

PIC­TURE: Bev Clough

Scram­bling: Oliver Clax­ton of Old Elthami­ans wrig­gles out of a tackle

Eyes up: Sale’s Liam McGovern with the ball

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