Any post match disappointment was short lived as the Saints’ players and supporters reflected on what has been magnificent first season back in the Western Counties after a 10 year absence. Not to mention a thrilling County Cup Final appearance where they pushed higher league opponents Wadebridge Camels close. Saints were made to work hard for the win by a very determined Ivybridge side that defended tenaciously throughout and looked to counter attack through their pacey backs whenever the opportunity arose.
Saints started strongly putting the Devon side under intense pressure using their forwards to great effect in both the set pieces and open play. Three times in the opening quarter the Saints crossed the try line only to be denied by brave Bridgers’ defence. First number 8 Rob Jeffs
was held up after breaking from the back of the scrum. Lock Sean Haley
was next to try and batter his way over with a strong run but was unable to ground the ball. Then prop Hugh Noott burst through on a smart inside pass from centre Ian Venner only to be hauled down by determined defenders. The defensive dam finally burst in the 21st minute when flanker Paul Winterbottom
showed his team mates how it’s done by forcing his way through following an excellent catch and drive. Fly-half Matt Shepherd
converted from out wide in a difficult wind, his kick thumping against the post before dropping over to put the Saints 7-0 up. An injury to a Bridgers’ prop changed the structure of the game, with no replacement front row it meant that the scrums were now uncontested. Any fears that this would derail the Saints' rhythm were dispelled when another bull-like run from Noott resulted in a try under the posts. Shepherd had no problem adding the extras this time. The third try came on the back of Bridgers’ most dangerous looking attack of the half when George de Mendonca sliced through the Saints’ midfield into open space. The wing man looked to chip over the Saints’ last line of defence with 30m to go but Shepherd read his intentions perfectly to intercept the kick. The Saints 10 then turned the tables by stepping his way through beleaguered tacklers before breaking into the Ivybridge half and feeding Ben Chenoweth
. The Saints’ winger scorched through the Bridgers’ 22, just managing to recover from a despairing tap tackle to touch down out wide. Shepherd crowned his good work with another difficult conversion to put the home side 21-0 up at half time.
With the strong north-easterly wind now in their favour, Ivybridge enjoyed their best spell of the game early in the second half. It was now the home side’s turn to defend their line for long periods of pressure but the visitors’ were unable to find a way through. The game drifted into a midfield stalemate with both defences on top, a spark was needed to reignite the afternoon. Replacement Sam Tank
came on for winger Craig Taylor
and he proved to be the catalyst for the next score on 67 minutes. Playing his last game for Saints’ before embarking on a new career in the RAF, Tank flew through a dishevelled Bridgers’ defence before finding Shepherd in support. Quickly recycled ball allowed Venner, voted the Players’ Player of the Year, to crash over under the posts for a converted try. Top try scorer Winterbottom added the fifth of the day, and his 27th of the season, from another well executed lineout catch and drive. Shepherd finally succumb to the difficult wind to just miss the conversion and leave the score 33-0 at the final whistle.
Man of the match was flanker Jack Grigg
who turned in another excellent all action display. The Saints’ can go into a well earned summer break looking back on their season with pride. When they faced Ivybridge on the opening day back in September the aim was to be competitive in all 26 league matches. They have only failed to do that on a couple of occasions, which is a great achievement for such a young side. Indeed there are three away games in particular, the draws at Kingsbridge and Devonport Services and the defeat at Wellington, where only a lack of experience prevented them from winning. The additional 10 points from those games would have put the Saints firmly in the runners up spot with a shot at promotion via the play-offs. Wins at home to Champions North Petherton and all the division front runners shows the potential of the side. Add to this a strong Sinners’ squad, who finished 3rd in Merit Table A, and a highly successful Colts team, who won the Championship Trophy and League Cup, the future is looking bright for St Austell RFC.
St Austell: Noott; Morcom (McNally 72); Williams (Rowe 45); Pearce; Haley; Grigg; Winterbottom; Jeffs; McCoan; Shepherd; Chenoweth; Earp (Captain); Venner; Taylor (Tank 64); Evison.
Tries – Winterbottom (21; 72); Noott (29); Chenoweth (32); Venner (67)
Cons – Shepherd (4)
Drop Goal –
Yellow Cards: St Austell: None Ivybridge: None
Red Cards St Austell: None Ivybridge: None
Referee: Jane Pizii (Cornwall RRS)
Saints Man of the Match: Jack Grigg