All White on the night as OEs hit the heights
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.”
Scrambling: Oliver Claxton of Old Elthamians wriggles out of a tackle
Eyes up: Sale’s Liam McGovern with the ball