MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 28th OCTOBER 2017
TORQUAY ATHLETIC 38 v ST IVES 13
Anyone who saw this result coming was in a minority. It would be forgivable if Torquay Athletic started this game on the back foot in their mindset: Having been largely dominated at scrum time by the Paignton eight a week earlier the home side knew that the opponents arrived with a much vaunted pack, who had evidently found little difficulty in pushing the Paignton pack around earlier in the season.
However expectations of a bad day at the office for the Torquay forwards did not materialise and a young front row, especially, can be congratulated for holding their own. The backline was the one that started the match at Paignton, but which had never got going due to a lack of quality ball to work with and the weather conditions. Here however the day was benign: dry with no wind, albeit dull overhead.
St. Ives lay joint second before the game, having lost only once (away to St. Austell) and having scored at a rate of nearly 30 points per game.
The Hakes kicked off towards the cricket square. In defending the visitors first attack Torquay went offside in front of their own posts and centre Rhys Brownfield kicked the routine penalty to open the scoring early: 0 – 3.
Nine minutes in St. Ives extended this lead to 0 – 8. James Wood had cleared the ball from inside his own 22' right up to the opposition 22' line, but the Hakes took their own lineout ball and a forward spotted a gap in the line which he exploited by running down the right flank deep into Tics' half. Space was then exploited as Tics' cover raced to get back and the ball was switched through the hands to left wing Josh Palmer and he dived over in the corner.
A minute later a Wood penalty put Tics' on the Hakes 5 metre line. At a resulting maul Torquay advanced infield and whilst playing advantage, Jon Woodhead, managed to steal over from close range with Wood converting to make it 7 – 8 in the 14th minute.
Skipper Jon Woodhead was then yellow carded for playing the Hakes scrum half at a breakdown. A quick coaching decision saw Lewis Harben go on off the bench to bolster the scrum, with flanker Jacob Loewy being sacrificed. Despite fears Torquay held their own well enough at the next scrum and a clearing kick by Bevan Armitage took Torquay back to the opposition 22.'
However the visitors then extended their lead following another long range break out down the right. A last ditch tackle by Wood deep in Tics' 22' seemed to have averted the danger but a clever offload to wing Jacob Ninnes saw him score. It was 7 – 13 after 25 minutes.
Woodhead returned to the action and Tics' hopes were raised with a 5 metre scrum in the shadow of St. Ives posts. The ball was switched left but a final pass to wide out Jack Barnes in the clear was deemed forward by Plymouth Referee Mike Oliver.
Tics' then made two enforced changes as Wood retired with a hip injury, although he was to return later in the second half. Coach Ed Barnes came on to take the fly half slot and at the same time Liam
Murray replaced Harry Snell in the front row.
Joel Ashworth assumed kicking duties and succeeded with his first effort – a penalty from the 10 metre line to make it 10 – 13. Tics' then ramped up the tempo with a break by Jack Barnes, taken on by his Uncle, Ed. With the Hakes defence breached flanker Isaac Fahey appeared to have stretched over the try line and touched down, having taken the ball on at pace, but after catching up with play the Referee adjudged he had been held up.
However Tics' remained in the opposition 22' and but for a knock on when taking a pop pass from Woodhead inside centre Alex Brown would have been clear to score under the posts.
Just before the break Ashworth had a chance to level the scores with a long range penalty, but it was not to be. Fahey then retired injured with Lewis Harben restored to the action, taking up the No. 8 slot and Shane Wakeham moving over to open side flanker..
Tics' had finished the half strongly and it was a taste of even better things to come in the second period when they would score 28 unanswered points with four tries, all converted by Ashworth.
That second half opened promisingly for Tics' but their continuity was being affected by a spate of handling errors. However just reward came from a scrum on the Hakes 22' after they had themselves knocked on. Although under pressure Alex Jeffery managed to get the ball away to the backs' and a sweet timed sympathetic pass by Bevan Armitage put in Ashworth on the burst and he ran in to score from 25 metres out, then converting his own try, as Tics' took the lead for the first time.
That lead was increased in the 52nd minute following substantial home pressure on the visitors. The backs' had almost been in the clear down the left through Jack Barnes and Ashworth before a ruck was set up and the ball fed to Ed Barnes. He feigned as it to pass , but took the ball on himself from just inside the 22' to touch down. Ashworth added the extras for 24 – 13.
Whilst not entirely rattled St. Ives own skill sets were suffering and they displayed discomfort with three knock-ons in quick succession. Torquay were then penalised for the first time in the second half for a high tackle as the match entered its final quarter.
When St. Ives did attack Ashworth put Tics' back into the red zone with an opportunistic hack ahead and strong ball chase. An attacking lineout on the 5 metre line brought further spoils. Following a catch and drive by Harben, Jeffery reacted quickly to sight of a gap in the defence and scooted through without any hand being laid on him. The successful conversion made it 31 – 13 with a four try bonus point.
Direct from the re-start a St. Ives replacement lock forward saw yellow for a high tackle. Tics' quickly took advantage and attacking down the left scored a truly fine try. Started by Ed Barnes, quick, unselfish hands by Alex Brown, Armitage and Wood created an overlap in a narrow and congested corridor for Jack Barnes to run in close to the posts. 38 – 13 with ten minutes to play.
Ed Barnes had been quietly pulling the strings in fine fashion, but such required a positive and accurate response by the rest of the Team to reap the dividends and this had been present in abundance in a really committed and fruitful second half.
For the final few minutes St. Ives attacked hard and Tics' conceded three penalties in quick succession within their own 22.' With the final outcome now impossible to change it would have been easy for Torquay to take the proverbial foot off the pedal. However it was impressive to see the side defend as if the final outcome depended on keeping their line intact – something they managed to do.
Man of the Match went to Jacob Loewy for another full hearted display. Overall this was Tics' best and most complete performance of the season so far. There is encouraging progress under Coaches Ed Barnes and Chris Dorling and when they are playing together the experience of Barnes, Wood and recently arrived Armitage on the pitch is leading to more assured performances all round.
Next up are Tiverton (away). The mid Devon side suffered a heavy 60 - 8 defeat at the weekend at Kingsbridge (who Tics' face away in two weeks time on 11th November). Kick off at Tiverton is 3.00 pm.
15 : Joel Ashworth, 14 – Jonny Brown, 13 – Bevan Armitage, 12 – Alex Brown, 11 – Jack Barnes, 10 – James Wood, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Lloyd Penhalagan, 2 – Josh Castleton, 3 – Harry Snell, 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 – Jon Woodhead (Captain), 6 – Isaac Fahey, 7 – Jacob Loewy, 8 – Shane Wakeham.
Replacements: Ed Barnes, Liam Murray and Lewis Harben (all played).
Meanwhile the Colts had no game and a Club side travelled to Totnes for a friendly to give some more Senior and fringe players a runout. A win came courtesy of a single try.