League positions went out the window on Saturday when a very determined Kingsbridge held St Austell to a draw in the final league match of 2011. Saints convincingly beat Kings 46-7 at Tregorrick back in September and while the sides might occupy different ends of the table the Devonians are a different proposition altogether at High House. Kings came into the game on the back of four consecutive game wins and their new found confidence showed in a fast start that had the error prone Saints on the back foot from the kick off. Saints spurned two opportunities to put ball into touch after the kick off before Kings’ lock Andy Rossiter gathered a loose ball just outside the 22 to make a surging run towards the try line. Desperate defence hauled him down but the ball was smartly presented and quickly spread wide for full back Ben Newman to provide the overlap and touch down in the corner. Scrum half Matt Barlow was unable to convert the try but the home side were 5-0 up with barely two minutes on the clock. Saints looked shell shocked and struggled to find any rhythm or continuity to their game despite dominating both the scrum and line out. Kings took full advantage of the high error count with Barlow kicking two penalties from three to stretch the hosts’ lead. Saints on the other hand continued to flatter to deceive as they worked hard to make inroads into home territory only to infringe or knock on possession at crucial points allowing Kings to clear their lines. On the half hour mark Saints final got on the scoreboard with their first real opportunity. Catch and drive from a line out 10m out presented flanker Paul Winterbottom
with the chance to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try. Any hopes that this would spark the Cornishmen into life were almost immediately dispelled following a knock on the 22m line from the restart. Kings forced a lineout and although Saints repelled the initial catch and drive the home side crucially retained possession allowing number 8 Shaun Woodland to crash over for an unconverted try to the delight of the home crowd. Stalemate ensured until the half time whistle blew with Kings 16-5 ahead and Saints looking a pale shadow of the side that had played so well the previous week.
With the harsh words of Director of Rugby Steve Murley
still ringing in their ears Saints started the second half at a ferocious pace. The prompting of scrum half Matt Shepherd
had his pack moving forward in a series of powerful drives. Excellent ball retention and support play, both missing in the first 40, saw the Saints forwards move to within touching distance of the Kings try. The platform provided the perfect opportunity for young prop Ryan Knott
to crash over for his first ever senior try. Shepherd just missed the difficult kick but Saints tails were up and minutes later Winterbottom squeezed over following a back row move from a powerful scrummage. A third try quickly followed with a clinical catch and drive just inside the home 20m that saw the Saints march forward nearly 15m before Winterbottom spun off to complete his hat-trick. Shepherd’s conversion put the Saints 22-16 ahead after an astonishing opening 10 minutes of the second half. The Cornish side now had total control of the game and at this stage it really appeared it be a question of by how many the Saints would win the game. Kings were caught offside 30m out and given the dominance of the Saints lineout it was no surprise when skipper Andy Ashwin
elected to kick for touch rather than the posts. The normally inch perfect fly half agonisingly placed the kick just too long for a Kings drop out rather than the desired Saints line out. Kings kicked the ball long from the restart and following some excellent chase down play caused panic in the Saints defence who coughed a penalty for holding on. Barlow coolly slotted over and Kings were back in touching distance despite having been under the cosh for 20 minutes. Saints continued to exert pressure but found the home side organised and determined in defence. With 10 minutes remaining Saints erred again at a ruck allowing Barlow to tie the scores up at 22-22 with another nerveless kick from 30m. Back came Saints who came desperately close to breaking the resolute blue line on a number of occasions only to misplace the final pass or be wrapped up by a determined defender. With one minute left Ashwin’s clever grubber kick presented Saints with a line out opportunity just 10m from the home try line. Lock Sean Haley
soared highest to steal the ball and Saints forwards mustered to drive forward towards glory. Just when a try seemed inevitable Saints were penalised for a “truck and trailer” infringement allowing the home side to clear the ball and hang on for a deserved draw.
The fact that the Saints players felt so disappointed after scoring four tries and securing a draw at a difficult place like High House is a tribute to the progress this young and talented group is making. Man of the match was youngster Ryan Knott
who has stepped in magnificently for the injured Hugh Noott and Saints have consistently been able to blood young players, like Marcus McCoan
on the wing, without impacting the performance level of the team. As 2011 closes Saints have much to be proud of as they sit second in the league just two points behind the league leaders. Unbeaten at home in the league this season they will look to improve the results on their travels and repeat today’s second half performance for the full 80. Next year promises to be an exciting one in the league not to mention a mouth-watering County Cup semi-final at Bude in March. It all starts with a home game against Okehampton on 7 January 2012.
St Austell: Knott, Hughes, Martin, Pearce, Haley, Grigg, Winterbottom, Jeffs, Shepherd, Ashwin (Captain), Chenoweth, Taylor, Venner, McCoan, Evison Unused Replacement Brown; Murley; McNally
St Austell: Tries – Winterbottom (30, 49, 52); Knott (43)
Cons – Shepherd
Kingsbridge: Tries – Newman (15); Woodland (32)
Pens – Barlow (10, 25, 56, 70)
Yellow Cards: St Austell: None Kingsbridge:
Red Cards St Austell: None Kingsbridge: None
Referee: Marc Simon (Devon RS)
Saints Man of the Match: Ryan Knott