Toc H get through a tough local derby against Heaton Moor to go joint second in the ADM Premier
TOC H 27 - 16 HEATON MOOR
This was 80 minutes of entertaining end-to-end stuff between two evenly-matched teams.
The result could have gone either way as both sides mounted decent periods of pressure - but on the balance of play Toc probably deserved the win given they scored five tries to Moor’s one.
Toc also left more than their fair share of kickable points out there, which would have helped ease the rising tension as a bruising second-half came to an end.
Injuries to key players on either side also played its part - but Toc’s bench proved the difference. They certainly finished the stronger side.
Once again Didsbury did not always help themselves. An inordinate number of penalties - at least 13 more than the visitors before this author lost count - provided a constant disruption to their attacking rhythm. And considering the strength of Moor's kicking game and their set-piece, it was not a particularly clever or welcome approach. The referee also made it clear early on that the breakdown would not be an area of the game open to interpretation, yet Toc continued to interpret their own way. So given all that, to emerge with a bonus point win was an excellent return.
It was obvious from the early stages that this was going to be a close encounter. Moor absolutely dominated territory and possession in the opening exchanges and relentlessly attacked Toc with a wide/wide game built around midfield ‘wedges’.
It clearly caught the hosts by surprise and Toc had to adapt their defence quickly. Eventually they did - but not before falling seven points behind after Moor bundled over from close range, following some heavy pressure in the Toc 22.
It was a clinical first try and the climax of an eye-catching, intimidating start from the visitors who looked a slick, well-drilled outfit.
By this stage, Toc had yet to have an attack. But it soon became clear that they had more than enough to hurt Moor when they did get some ball in hand.
And so it proved, minutes later they replied with a try through the excellent scrum-half Josh Vize, before the forwards quickly added a second from a perfectly-executed driving lineout.
All Toc needed, and wanted, was some ball - but getting it away from Moor’s big, organised pack was easier said than done.
Indeed, for most of the rest of the first half Toc were made to defend. They stood up well to Moor’s mauling game and the front five were made to work very hard around the fringes.
Second-row Will Rayner was again exceptional and with Owen McIntosh soon to return from injury, the club cannot wait to see that second-row partnership in action.
Some exceptional one-on-one defending - notably from winger Ben Platt - kept the visitors from crossing the line again.
Moor did eventually level the scores at the break by taking three points from in front of the posts.
It was no less than they deserved and in truth Toc could feel a shade lucky to go in to half-time on level terms - even though they looked dangerous when given half a chance.
By this stage the penalty count was already getting out of hand. If anything it got worse in the second half. Fortunately, as Toc’s ill-discipline threatened to undermine the blood and sweat of their defensive effort, so too the game opened up as fatigue came into play.
Didsbury were starting to see more ball, which in turn gave them more territory. Some great interchanging between forwards and backs led them once again to the Moor line. The front five then gave the visitors a dose of their own medicine by hammering away until the rearguard broke. Flanker James Howarth was the man to finish off a cracking team try. The conversion was missed.
Still Toc could never relax - the steady stream of penalties saw to that - but they got a slice of good fortune with about 25 minutes to go when man-of-the-match Rayner snaffled the ball at the back of a lineout to run in from just outside the 22. He looked as surprised as anyone as the try line opened up.
It was a hammer blow for Moor because the score came from nothing - but it was a timely boost for Toc. Predictably the conversion was missed - but this time in sublime fashion. The ball barely got airborne and resembled one of the errant, rogue fireworks that spiralled out of control at the Bonfire Night which followed the match. Indeed, the conversion attempt was so bad there would have been no complaints had Toc been deducted two points for the heaping such shame and embarrassment on an otherwise highly-skilled game of rugby.
Moor’s fly-half, meanwhile, was providing a kicking masterclass at the other end. A couple more penalties from him - one from close range; one from long range - narrowed the game to a score with about 20 minutes to go.
One felt that Toc were starting to get on top, most noticeably in the scrum, but the four-point game left the scoreboard too close to comfort heading into the last quarter.
On came back-row James Plested, replacing influential captain Harry Rigby at number 8 who picked up a knock, Mark Harrison slotted into the back row and Luke Richmond came on at inside centre.
Their introduction gave Toc a fresh attacking impetus and all of them made notable contributions with ball in hand against a tiring Moor pack.
Full-back Rory Gibson was also looking more threatening. He was starting to beat the first defender more often and at one stage made a scything, electric break to almost put away impressive debutant Chris Morgan on the wing. That would have given the team the breathing room they needed.
Instead it remained tight and tense. Hooker Harry Jones was his usual energetic and powerful self and, after showing up big time in defence, Toc’s front five were making themselves felt more in attack. Josh Hearn, Jonny Naish and Jonathan Beardmore all with significant carries.
The telling score eventually did come and once again it came from Vize, this time sniping in from close to the line after another period of dominance in the Moor half.
The conversion, by far the most difficult of the day, sailed though the uprights to give Toc a bit more of a comfort blanket.
With four minutes to play Toc were reduced to 14 men after Jones upended one of the Moor backs - but the side were untroubled until the final whistle and held on to win 27-16.
Toc's next two fixtures are cup games - the first against Eccles next week (away). They return to league action - after a well-earned rest - against Trafford MV on November 24.