DIDSBURY TOC H 12 - 20 WINNINGTON PARK
DIDSBURY TOC H 12 - 20 WINNINGTON PARK
Toc's inability to adapt to some awful playing conditions cost them dearly against unbeaten Winnington Park.
A fourth defeat in five league game leaves Toc in a troubling and unflattering position at the bottom end of South Lancs and Cheshire 2.
Didsbury are learning all the time in this division, and some tough lessons are being taught. What has become clear is that there are plenty of sides who will take points from each other as the season progresses. And Toc will be one of those teams. They could have easily upset the league high-fliers Winnington Park at Simon Field on Saturday.
In the end the visitors preserved their unbeaten league record - but there was no discernible difference in quality between these two sides. The visitors had periods of pressure and scored a try in each half, one from their powerful driving lineout, but Didsbury were far from outclassed. Not for the first time this season they paid the ultimate price for some sloppy concentration and execution. Closing out games is an issue: this was the third match in a row they have lost after leading on the hour.
The home side were not helped by losing outside centre Lewis David to injury in the warm-up. Influential fly-half Seb Sheratte then left the field early in the first-half with a badly cut lip. By that stage he had already posed numerous threats in attack and released full-back Rory Gibson with a beautiful pass to score a well-worked try in the left corner.
Sheratte and David were ably replaced by Rob Bamberger and Joe Bulbeck, an indication of the club's strength in depth, but their early introduction reduced Toc's options as the playing conditions worsened late into the game. They would have undoubtedly been useful additions as the back line tired in the second half.
Winnington Park adjusted to some terrible conditions much better than Toc, whose unwavering commitment to an expansive, fluid brand of rugby was at times deeply ill-suited to the elements. The endeavour and adventure is commendable - but in practical terms it didn't appear to be a particularly clever approach.
On days like these, a reliable set-piece is crucial and for much of the first half Toc couldn’t rely on theirs. They were under pressure at the scrum and the lineout was misfiring. By mid-way through the second half that balance of power had shifted. The timing in the lineout improved and Toc were welcoming the chance to scrummage against the visitors at every opportunity. How the game didn't end with a third yellow card for Park and a penalty try to Toc remains a mystery.
One thing that was constant throughout was the impact made by Park's athletic and combative back-row. They were excellent and capitalised on some liberal officiating at the breakdown to win plenty of turnovers and consistently slow down Toc's ball. That, and a combination of the testing conditions, made it hard for the home side to play at the tempo they like for sustained periods. When Didsbury were able to move it they looked dangerous and created some decent scoring opportunities.
Winnington Park's tactical kicking game proved effective throughout, and was undoubtedly the more sensible approach. In contract, Toc's running game – however enjoyable to watch - invited pressure. A couple of cheap penalties, the first of which came after Toc tried to run it from under their own posts, would prove significant. Needing two scores going into the final ten minutes, as opposed to one, made a big difference.
Toc went in the break trailing 10-5 after missing a penalty of their own from in front of the posts with the last kick of the half. Some sustained pressure from the Winnington Park pack posed big problems for Toc early in the second period - but after some excellent defence Toc appeared to have weathered the storm. They then started to get more ball and apply some pressure of their own, especially after the tactical substitutions took away Winnington Park’s set-piece advantage.
Winger Dave Hoare crashed in under the posts from close range after some decent attacking play to give Toc the lead, and for a decent period thereafter it looked as if Didsbury would pull away. A cute poke to the corner from Bamberger saw Bulbeck and Hoare both in a position to score from a few yards out, only for one of them to knock on. An excellent try-scoring opportunity from an overloaded short side was then wasted because of some inaccurate passing and a solid driving lineout was held up over the line. From that Toc were then unable to convert from a period of scrum dominance on the Park line. These missed opportunities came back to haunt the home side as Winnington Park eventually dotted down after an almighty pile-up on the Toc line.
In better news the 2nd XV had another good win, away at Winnington Park, where it finished 17-50.
Next Week: October 7th, Port Sunlight (A)