SATURDAY 30th SEPTEMBER 2017
ST. AUSTELL 19 v TORQUAY ATHLETIC 3
For the second time in September Torquay Athletic came back both try less and point less from Cornwall, following this defeat by a competent St. Austell side.
On their own patch the Cornish Club are no pushovers and since a surprising opening home defeat against Sidmouth they have been unbeaten in three matches, notching up 108 points in the process and winning 29 – 3 at home against highly fancied St. Ives. Last season they finished strongly with four wins on the bounce, including a 62 – 5 trouncing of Torquay at Tregorrick Park.
As too often happens Tics' best laid plans in selection were disrupted by an unforeseen late withdrawal. Debuts had already been planned for Luke Hedges (newly recruited, and brother of former fly-half Sam Hedges, who is now working in and playing for Keynsham). He took the place of James Wood, who had been trying unsuccessfully to shake off a ham string strain.
Having watched his charges from the sidelines over the previous four weeks Coach Ed Barnes decided it was time to witness events at closer quarters and he played at centre in place of nephew Jack Barnes, who could not travel due to work commitments. A lack of realistic options meant that Isaac Fahey and Jacob Loewy were pulled from the pack to appear on either wing, with Jonny Brown once more moved inside to No. 13.
Given this background the final result was perhaps not unexpected, but the Team as a whole put in a very spirited display, with a good and committed defensive shift necessary. In many respects the match and performance was similar to the defeat at Falmouth two weeks earlier, with Torquay seldom having prolonged spells of possession, but due to an obdurate attitude making the home side work hard to secure any scores and continuing with this attitude right up to the final whistle.
This was summed up by a St. Austell Member reporting to the Sunday Independent rugby column and stating.......”Torquay's defence was outstanding under pressure and kept them in the game until the last ten minutes............”
The match was played in cool, overcast and wet conditions, with misty rain being driven down the pitch end to end.
Tics' started promisingly, having kicked off with that wind at their backs. Playing advantage they went through a significant number of uninterrupted phases, with forwards and backs combining, but ultimately they could not breach beyond the home 22.'
When Saints lodged their second meaningful attack a back row surge took the ball infield and close to the posts. However Torquay turned the ball over in contact, as they would do on a number of occasions, with skipper Jon Woodhead especially prominent.
A first stoppage in the eleventh minute was followed by Tics' best chance of the match so far when Barnes tried to put away the quicksilver Brown; centre right. Unfortunately the ball was slightly over run and the opening was gone.
By now, as for a majority of the first half Tics' were having to defend, but Barnes was finding good depth with clearing kicks to keep the home side at bay.
On a fairly rare visit to the St. Austell 22' Tics' were pinged for holding on to the ball and Saints launched the penalty back into the opposite half, although once again their attacking intentions were thwarted by Torquay turning the ball over.
At the end of the first quarter prop Dan King gave way to Harry Snell, but a short time later Brown was felled by a stray boot to his ankle and although he carried on his mobility had been affected.
When St. Austell charged down a Torquay clearing kick a 5 metre attacking scrum followed in favour of the home side, but Alex Jeffery disrupted his opposite number. The result was a 5 metre defensive scrum to Torquay. St. Austell shaded this set piece all game and on this occasion heeled against the head. With Tics' on the back foot fly-half Chris Ashwin was released by his back row to drive over from close range. Cavin Boyer converted for 7 – 0 with four minutes to go to the break.
From the re-start Saints infringed for not releasing the tackled man and Joel Ashworth was accurate with a penalty kick from the 10 metre line for 3 – 7. Another Barnes long clearance from the re-start found touch and the half time whistle sounded shortly thereafter.
On the resumption a Tics' defender spilled a Saints long kick ahead backwards, but the ball landed on its point and shot forward, causing the Referee to give Saints an attacking scrum from which they drove Torquay's eight back with No. 8 Andy Inch getting the touchdown. Another Boyer conversion made it 14 – 3.
In then seemed that Saints had scored out wide left, following an astute grubber kick ahead, but the Referee adjudged that the Saints wing had strayed in front of the kicker. Defending vigorously Tics' then had another close in Saints scrum to deal with, but hooker Chris Robson-Close took a strike against the head.
After 52 minutes St. Austell introduced all three replacements simultaneously, perhaps anticipating that after so much defending Tics' might tire. Starting the final quarter the rain intensified. Harry Snell was forced off with a back strain (Dan King returning) and then with 15 minutes left Brown received further impact to the same ankle and had to limp off.
No. 8 Lewis Harben, who had already got through a mountain of carries moved out to the centre, but had only been there one minute when he was involved in a clash of heads with his opposite number and after treatment was advised to leave the field.
St. Austell then scored their final try wide out left with full back C.J. Boyce on an overlap, as Tics' depleted three's tried to re-organise. His score in the corner, following a diagonal carry from a Saints centre was somewhat controversial, as the move was started with a home attacking lineout. The throw should perhaps have been in favour of Tics' as it appeared to follow Shane Wakeham keeping up a prodigious defensive display by tackling a St. Austell three quarter into touch.
This loss drops Torquay to eleventh in the League Table, but their next two games are against sides below them in that Table. First up are Sidmouth (lying twelth), at the Rec. next Saturday with a 3.00 pm KO. Then a welcome week off before Tics' go to Queens Park to play a derby versus Paignton, who currently lie thirteenth.
It goes without saying that Torquay need to arrest a slide of three successive defeats against Cornish sides and in this respect it may appear that the fixture list has been kind to Tics.' Torquay need to work hard to prepare for both of these important matches.
15 Luke Hedges, 14 - Isaac Fahey, 13 – Jonny Brown, 12 – Ed Barnes, 11 – Jacob Loewy, 10 – Joel Ashworth, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Lloyd Penalagan, 2 – Chris Robson-Close, 3 – Dan King, 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 – Jon Woodhead (Captain), 6 – Shane Wakeham, 7 – Richard Read, 8 – Lewis Harben
Replacements: Harry Snell, James Norrish and Matt McCann
At the Rec. the Extras beat top of the Table Exmouth Thirds by 26 – 12 to maintain second place in DMT2. The second string had needed a good test after two easy wins against Bideford III's and South Molton II's respectively. Former First Team players are continuing to support the Two's, which is very encouraging. Amongst the squad playing against Exmouth were Dave Carpenter, James Hill, Paul Cartwright and No. 8 Chris Smith, who was named as the Extras Man of the Match.
They made the most of two yellow cards for the visitors in quick succession to score some vital points and pull away. Next week they travel to Sidmouth II's, who were relegated from DMT1 at the end of last term.
The Colts left a few points on the pitch but continued their development under Coach Gary Willis with a very useful workout against a Newton Abbot side, who play in the Shield Colts competition – one stage higher than Torquay, who compete in the Plate competition.
Two tries by wing Finn Tudge gave the young Tics' a 15 – 12 lead but during the final five minutes the visitors managed to post two tries to run out winners by 15 – 22.