MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 11th NOVEMBER 2017
KINGSBRIDGE 15 v TORQUAY ATHLETIC 11
Torquay Athletic returned to the Rec. with a very well deserved losing bonus point. It would have been cruel if such had not been the case, given the underlying circumstances to this South Hams trip and the gutsy performance which the eighteen travelling players summoned.
Supporters may be immune by now to the often used excuse about absences through injury, but the facts show that on this Saturday there were four players who have been chosen on merit to play in the front row this season who were sidelined with injury, plus last week's prop Calvin Bradley who was unable to get time off from work. It was the same with another four from the back row also missing through injury. Captain Jon Woodhead, always one of the side's main ball carriers, had to miss the match due to a medical condition and four backs' were not available; one Alex Brown, again due to injury.
Two weeks previously Kingsbridge had put sixty points on visitors Tiverton and last week Tics' travelled to Tivvy' potentially much stronger in terms of personnel and suffered a 22 – 8 defeat. These were not good portents. Add in also that historically Torquay have lost all of their last eight encounters with Kings' and that one has to go as far back as December 2012 for their last win against the same opposition and beyond that to 2011/ 12 season when Tics' recorded a League “double” win.
It also has to be said that on this day Kingsbridge were also not as settled as they might have wished with a flu bug going through their ranks claiming two regulars and injury, a further two.
The game was played in mild conditions, but on a wet pitch with a strong wind blowing diagonally from the lower to the higher side, accompanied by a steady drizzle, which later abated somewhat. Tics' kicked off with the advantage of the wind but the unsettled nature of the side was reflected by the concession of three penalties within the first five minutes, for different offences.
Such enabled Kings' to advance to the promise of Tics' 22' for an attacking lineout. Their armoury has always consisted of an especially strong catch and drive and so it proved again. Playing advantage flanker Ali Hamilton emerged from a pile of bodies after his pack had driven him over the try line to touch down. 5 – 0 after seven minutes.
From the re-start Kings' cleared well to put themselves back inside the visitors 22' in a central position close to the posts. However Tics' executed a solid scrum and James Wood was able to kick clear. However with debutante hooker Ryan Collins getting used to his new surroundings Tics' continuity was being affected by a regular loss of lineout ball. Nevertheless the hooker refused to be phased. He had been schooled recently in the Two's for such a role to plug a gap at No. 2. He worked hard at the basics throughout and eventually the throwing problems diminished. Meanwhile he had no such problems in the set scrum.
Indeed a strike against the head enabled Wood to put Tics' down to within 15 metres of the home try line until another lineout went awry.
Following an understandable edgy start Tics' were growing into the game as it entered the second quarter. Captain for the day Bevon Armitage was giving a fiery display, leading by example.
Kingsbridge then went offside in front of their posts, giving Tics' the option of a kick at goal, but this was rejected in favour of a scrum five. A solid set piece and pick up by veteran Dave Carpenter at No. 8 transferred quick ball to Alex Jeffery and for once Torquay had found space with a numerical advantage. Wood took Jeffery's pass at pace with two men outside him. However the full back had only one thing on his mind and that was his confidence to make the line, which he duly did with a diagonal run and slide in to the far right for 5 – 5.
Wood was again involved giving Tics' a 5 – 8 lead with a penalty kick from centrefield and a distance of around 44 metres.
Kingsbridge were then able to retain possession courtesy of a good hanging re-start kick. They stayed in Tics' half and as an eighth penalty was conceded by the visitors Kings' once again engineered a good position for an attacking lineout. Tics' held the initial surge as the home side continued their 100% first half, own throw lineout success. However Captain and lock James Palmer then switched powerfully infield and crossed. Tom Leman's conversion, putting his side 12 – 8, up was the last action of the first period.
By the 46th minute a 12 – 8 lead had been reduced to 12 – 11 after Tics' forwards had executed a series of penetrating pick and go's. When the ball was released to the backs' the home threes' went offside and Wood obliged with three points from the penalty.
Next the home eight got a nudge on at a scrum and a wheel of the set piece caused Devon Referee Gary Locke to ping Torquay. Leman took a penalty pop from a similar position as Wood's first half effort but could not match his accuracy.
At their next penalty award Kingsbridge kicked for touch but for the first time Torquay stole lineout ball through Tom Whitford, who was having a fine match. Entering the final quarter back row James Norrish limped off to be replaced by the experienced Chris Smith, who switched to No. 8. Both Smith and Carpenter were making their first appearances for the Club's First Team this term.
After 70 minutes a now fairly rare period of Tics' pressure inside the opposition half was sustained by the forwards taking the ball up slowly towards the red zone until Kings' managed to turn the ball over and cleared downfield. To show that neither side was really on top at this stage Alex Jeffery put pressure on his opposite number at the base of the scrum to spoil the men in blue getting any go forward momentum.
However when Kings' next broke beyond halfway and gained a penalty for a high tackle Wood tackled the ball carrier off a quick tap without retiring the obligatory ten metres and was duly yellow carded meaning he would play no further part.
Liam Murray was then replaced by Dan King and Tom Bovey came onto the wing for Ben Spears as Tics' sought to introduce some fresh legs to aid their cause in playing a man short. It was now Kings' turn to use the pick and go, making significant inroads from beyond the 22' towards the try line. Twice their ball carriers were adjudged held up over that line and twice Tics' pack resisted home attempts at a pushover try.
Again Jeffery spoilt Kingsbridge possession at the base and Armitage was alert, picked up the loose ball and took it to relative safety beyond the 22.'
A final penalty against Tics' for offside and Leman decided to go for goal from in front of the posts, despite the fact that an extra three points and a lead of 15 – 11 might leave the door open for Torquay to snatch it with a try in the short remaining period. He duly secured the three points on offer and although Tics' ended the game in the opposition half with another strong carry by Armitage no further scores ensued.
With time to reflect tweny four hours later all Tics' followers who saw the match will no doubt have been more than pleased with the level of commitment shown and the reward of a losing bonus point. Had the attitude been the same a week earlier Tics' would surely have come away from Tiverton with a win.
However next week there is a chance to put matters right with an early return to the Mid-Devon Club for a Devon Intermediate Cup tie (KO 2.30 pm). What sort of side Tics' will be able to put out depends very much on an injury update.
15 – James Wood, 14 – Jonny Brown, 13 – Jack Barnes, 12 – Bevon Armitage (Captain), 11 – Ben Spear, 10 – Joel Ashworth, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Liam Murray, 2 – Ryan Collins, 3 – Lloyd Penhalagan, 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 – Joel Hempton, 6 – James Norrish, 7 – Jacob Loewy, 8 – Dave Carpenter.
Replacements: Dan King, Tom Bovey and Chris Smith (all played).
Meanwhile at the Rec. in DMT2 the Extras played out an entertaining and high scoring match, losing 30 – 44 to Kingbridge's Second Team. The visitors were more organised overall than the home side, who were disrupted by having to give up eight regulars for First Team duty. However they stuck at the task in a game which was kept flowing by Devon Referee Mr. Jon Murray.
The Colts had no match.