Devonport take their opportunities against a strong Launceston performance to close out close win
Josh Elias produces front row masterclass whilst Billy Martin and Freddie Ward work their socks off at the breakdown to push Devonport all the way
Devonport visited Polson on a damp morning with recent rain making the ground heavy going. Previous matches with Devonport had been close encounters and the boys always knew it was going to be a tight affair. Every opportunity had to be taken.
The early stages were nip and tuck with both teams competing well at the breakdown. The All Blacks had talked a lot about reaction speed, getting to the breakdown first, decision making and intensity. The forwards did just that with Billy Martin and Freddie Ward (joint coaches man of the match) setting the standard. New recruit Kieran Bainbridge was also in the thick of things and made some thunderous tackles.
Josh Elias (captains man of the match) has developed into one of the real powerhouses of the front row with some big carries and great defensive work rate.
The breakdown was a fairly even but highly competitive contest with both teams trying to get on top. It was good to have Nicky Crighton back running the show at 9. However, he seemed to be getting drawn in to the breakdown as Devonport were just that bit quicker in the tackle. Launceston were camped in the Devonport half for most of the first period with excellent recycling and great coordination from the forwards. Dylan Doherty is turning into a real pick and go merchant and clearly loves the cut and thrust around the breakdown.
However, the one thing that let the All Blacks down was their misuse of penalties. They seemed to turn a potentially strong position into a turnover by making the wrong choice. Something to work on. However, after great approach work by the forwards, Freddie Ward pounced for his first. 7-0
After more sustained pressure from Launceston a turnover deep in the Devonport half enabled the visiting backs to attack on the left and squeeze down the touchline despite the despairing efforts of Tom Lowe. 7-5 Half time
The second half started with all the early pressure from Devonport. The breakdown was ferocious with neither team wanting to give an inch.
Intelligent play from Alex Maciver-Redwood with a deft kick and chase almost produced a scoring opportunity. It was great rugby from both teams.
Devonport created some lovely flowing rugby down the right wing to cut across and score on the left. 7-12
They followed this up with another well worked score to stretch their lead 7-19
However, Launceston responded and a great run by Nicky Crighton pushed them deep into the 22. The pressure resulted in a penalty, from which Freddie Ward scored his second. 14-19
With just one score in it, the last few minutes produced a real grandstand finish. Launceston had all the pressure but just couldn't convert it into a scoring opportunity. A great game with some outstanding efforts by both teams.