MATCH REPORT SATURDAY 9th SEPTEMBER 2017
TORQUAY ATHLETIC 36 v DEVONPORT SERVICES 34
This match held the attention right up to the final play. Both sides had started the season with a win; Services by 46 – 10 at home to Tiverton. The Rectory side had finished the previous campaign third in the Table, which they had led up to mid January 2017, having only lost twice up to that date (one such reverse being at home to Tics' on 22nd October 2016, which Tics had edged by 12 – 20).
Their perennial No. 10 Matt Anstis had taken up the reins as Coach, having relinquished his place at stand off (at least for the present). His place at No. 10 had been taken by Richard Goldsby-West, previously of Tavistock and Plymstock Albion Oaks.
Rugby is an attritional game and although Torquay were able to pick a new combination of Jacob Loewy at scrum half (now returned from a stay in Australia) and newly signed Joel Ashworth at fly half, as well as welcoming back lock Tom Whitford, they started without five players from the previous week at Crediton; all injured, bar Richard Read who was unavailable. No. 8 Lewis Harben (arm), Alex Jeffery (back), hooker Bertie Turner (foot), utility back Alex Stafford (dislocated shoulder) . In addition back rower Dan Woods was to have started this game, but pulled up during the warm up with a back strain and during the afternoon he was restricted to a short spell of play from the bench as cover.
Whether all this disruption was a contributing factor it is hard to say, but Torquay's start to the game was indifferent to say the least. Within 10 minutes Devonport were 0 – 17 to the good and had not been required to conjure anything above the norm to be in that comfortable position, as Tics' defence went AWOL to let in two tries.
First, with barely a minute on the clock outside centre J. Evans cut a path through midfield from the half way line and 30 metres out gave a short inside pass to No. 8 Matt Gregory, who ran in under the posts. Goldsby-West converted for 0 – 7. Tics' forwards were then pinged for being in front of the re-start kick, giving Services a scrum back on half way. Using this advantage the visitors were able to remain in the Torquay half and five minutes later, from their own scrum put-in Goldsby-West ran crossfield and fed full back Rhys Williams, who joined the line and ran wide out to score, virtually unchallenged. 0 – 12.
A confident Devonport ran the kick-off back to Tics' 22' and remained there until Goldsby-West escaped sanction, for what appeared to be a clear case of crossing and consequent obstruction by his fellow backs, thereby allowing the the fly-half to run through without a hand being laid on him. Although his conversion missed Tics' were looking down the barrel, being 0 – 17 adrift.
This time Services erred with the kick-off, spilling a catch, at last allowing Torquay some possession. Playing knock-on advantage the home forwards took the ball on setting up a ruck 10 metres out. Skipper Jon Woodhead ran from deep with perfect timing to take a sympathetic pass from Loewy and he split the defence to dive over, with James Wood converting for 7 – 17.
Services then kicked the re-start straight out, again conceding possession to the home side on half way. Following the scrum back the visitors were penalised at a ruck and Wood took a pot at the posts from fully 45 metres out, with the wind behind and the ball sailed over the bar. It was 10 – 17 after 15 minutes.
Services then kicked a penalty to within 6 metres for a lineout, but by now the Torquay defence had started to get organised and nothing came of this attack.
Then, after a period of end to end play Torquay ran the ball down the right, again playing advantage. Right wing Arron Graham did well to hold off three attempted tackles, stay on his feet and manage a back of the hand offload to Wood. The home full back's rugby brain had enabled him to find space at the right moment down the right touchline and he ran in from just beyond the 22' to score and narrow the deficit to 15 – 17 after half an hour.
Back rower Isaac Fahey was then injured in a ruck and replaced by Dan Woods. From wide out on the left Wood had another shot at goal, but the kick went wide. However from the re-start the same player ran the ball through midfield, creating space. Although the move temporarily lost momentum Tics' retained possession. A decisive burst by prop, Callum Bradley, playing his first home League match, took him over the line and when Wood converted from wide out Tics' had taken the lead at 22 – 17. Just before half time Wood was injured, taking a stray knee to the forehead when tackling and he left the field.
Two minutes into the second period Fahey returned to the fray, replacing Dan Woods, whose back was not one hundred per cent. Then a setback as Woodhead was shown yellow for a high tackle. From the resulting penalty Services kicked to 5 metres out and scored from a routine catch and drive. Goldsby-West's conversion enabled Devonport to regain the lead at 22 – 24 after 45 minutes. James Wood was then able to return and Dan King replaced Josh Castleton at prop.
Ten minutes later Torquay conceded another penalty and again the visitors kicked to touch. After a lineout catch Services switched the ball to the narrow side and Gregory ran in from short range to extend the lead to 22 – 29, at which point Woodhead returned,
It was then Tics' turn to apply pressure. A prolonged spell of occupation deep inside Services 22' started with a penalty kicked to touch 5 metres out, with the catch and drive moving infield before Services knocked the ball forward, giving Tics' the first of five successive scrums in short time deep in the red zone.
At the first Services infringed again as the home pack put the squeeze on. Electing for a second scrum saw the ball moved down the short side, but when Wood was tackled, a Services player came in at the side. Another penalty and election once more for a scrum. Again the won ball was worked back to the threes' but there was insufficient momentum to get over the line. Nevertheless Services again fell foul of Devon Referee Paddy Dummett, so it was scrum number four, which saw Woodhead adjudged held up over the try line.
Scrum number five and this time Tics' showed imaginative variation with a training ground move perfectly executed. Graham came off his wing to take a perfectly timed pop pass from Ashworth to run in and score. Wood converted to level at 29 each with around fifteen minutes to play.
Services then camped on Tics' 22 and spread the ball wide right. Despite player and crowd protestations another plea for “crossing / obstruction” went unanswered and using space out wide Services ran over to score, giving Torquay another challenge to come back from 29 – 34.
When Torquay moved again to Services 22' from the re-start the Referee lost patience for concession of another penalty by Devonport and one of their props was yellow carded. This time Ashworth kicked to within 5 metres and at this point Woodhead came back on to add ballast to a catch and drive, which was joined by a number of home backs. Hooker Chris Robson-Close got the touchdown to move the score to 34 – 34.
All now hinged on the conversion from Wood taken just 4 metres in from the left touchline and with a wind against to negotiate. Another well struck kick bisected the posts and Tics' galvanised Team had taken the lead for the final time.
There was still a minute or two to come. Shane Wakeham took responsibility to take a catch from the re-start kick and his momentum allowed him to make ground and set up a ruck, from where Torquay forwards mauled the ball towards the relative safety of the half way line. After getting to ground a scrum put in then allowed the ball to be dispatched to touch and the final whistle to be blown, signalling celebrations for what had initially seemed an unlikely outcome.
Torquay nominated Shane Wakeham as Man of the Match but credit must go to the whole squad of eighteen for never throwing in the towel.
15 – James Wood, 14 – Arron Graham, 13 – Jonny Brown, 12 – Jack Barnes, 11 – Nathan Pring, 10 Joel Ashworth, 9 – Jacob Loewy,
1 – Josh Castleton, 2 – Chris Robson-Close, 3 – Callum Bradley, 4 – Joel Hempton, 5 – Jonathan Woodhead (Captain), 6 – Isaac Fahey, 7 Shane Wakeham, 8 – Tom Whitford
Replacements: Dan King, Dan Woods, Ben Spear (all played)
Meanwhile player activity is continuing in the background to lend more strength in depth to the squad and during last week two more props arrived to increase competition.
Next week sees a long trip to Falmouth, who were promoted from Cornwall and Devon League as Champions, having only lost two matches, all season. However in new surroundings of WCW they have yet to register anything more than a losing bonus point. Coach meet time at the Rec is 9.30 am and KO @ 3.00 pm in Falmouth. Supporters are most welcome.
The Extras had no game and the Colts were left without a fixture at TVN when Bideford cried off on Friday after team raising problems.
Next week the Extras are at the Rec. v South Molton Seconds in DMT2 (KO 3.00 pm) and the Colts have a hastily arranged friendly at TVN v Ivybridge, also with a 2.30 pm KO.