TORQUAY ATHLETIC 12 v TRURO 28
MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 25th NOVEMBER 2017
Torquay Athletic's inconsistent League season continued with this defeat. Based upon their fourth placed finish last season and success in reaching the Final of the National Intermediate Cup; Truro had been expected to be one of the front runners in this current campaign. That they have similarly struggled to establish any consistency themselves is no doubt due to their loss in the summer of half a First Team squad to Redruth and Camborne, comprising an equal number of forwards and backs.
They arrived following two narrow home wins against Paignton and Tiverton, respectively; whilst Tics' went into this match buoyed by the previous week's much improved performance in overcoming Tiverton away in the Devon Cup.
Unfortunately the twin blight of further injuries from that match and unavailability caused further home selection problems and must be a major reason for the present difficulty in putting together a decent winning run. In a squad of eighteen there were six changes from the Cup win at Tiverton, two enforced by injuries to Jon Woodhead and Jack Barnes.
Torquay have rued the recent prolonged absence of No. 8 Lewis Hrben and other back row specialists such as Shane Wakeham and Richard Read. When Woodhead and Andy Knight are also missing from a squad it significantly reduces the number of prominent ball carrying forwards, able to consistently break the gain line.
Jacob Loewy moved from open side flanker to scrum half, thus allowing Alex Jeffery to take the No. 10 shirt. Two of the players named on the bench (Wakeham and Carl Turner) have been absent for much of the season and their appearance came from commitment to the cause, as both were some way from being free of injury handicaps.
Played in dry, cold and bright conditions on a firm pitch, Tics' early play followed a familiar recent pattern through the concession of points. By the tenth minute they were 0 – 10 adrift. The performance then steadied somewhat, such that by half time the deficit had only increased to 0 – 13.
However in order to put points on the board you have to create situations and then execute. The problem for Tics' in this half was that when they got into promising field positions they could not find the necessary accuracy, especially at set piece and so opportunities came to nothing.
From the off Torquay had to battle with adjusting to the several personnel and positional changes. Two penalties were conceded in as many minutes and courtesy of these Truro pushed up to Tics' 5 metre line on the right via kicks to touch. A catch and drive ensued and hooker Ben Teasdale reached via an extended arm to dot down, whilst James Martin hit a good conversion for 0 – 7.
Torquay came back, but at a lineout inside the opposition 22' their throw was taken by Truro and the ball duly cleared downfield. A key part of the match then emerged as Truro pushed back Torquay at the first set scrum and thereafter, for the most part they would dominate this set piece.
Tics' then went offside 32 metres out and Martin increased the lead to 0 – 10. Truro then spilt the re-start kick giving Torquay another set scrum inside the opposition 22', but a strike against the head thwarted progress and within a minute the same thing happened on the opposite side of the picth, although on this occasion it was the Truro eight winning ball by pushing Tics' off it.
To compound home discomfort Tics' next lineout throw was adjudged not straight. Torquay's best chance of exerting pressure on the visitors was testing them through the backline, but the backs were being starved of front foot possession. Torquay then went offside again, this time in front of their own posts and Martin pooped over the routine kick in the 27th minute to record a 0 – 13 lead.
As the half hour approached the statistics showed that Torquay had lost three out of five lineouts, two scrums against the head and six penalties. However the home side kept plugging away and another 5 metre attacking lineout ensued, but when the ball was released to the backs a knock on occurred. Nevertheless for the first time pressure in the Truro 22' was being sustained and the away side succumbed to the effect by conceding three penalties in quick succession.
When a catch and drive did go Tic's way a rumble towards the try line looked the best chance yet and as Truro tried to re-shape the cry went out for the home backs to join the shove to add momentum. Unfortunately this most likely chance of a home score so far came to an end when the Referee penalised Tics' for a player joining the maul from the side.
Half time arrived at 0 – 13.
Credit to Tics' insofar as the second period was far more even and their play more cohesive. They managed to mostly dominate possession and territory for the final quarter. Although overhauling their opponents appeared too much of a realistic expectation, as the game worn on there emerged hope that at least a losing bonus point might be achievable.
Two minutes in Truro conceded a penalty 30 metres out, but Joel Ashworth uncharacteristically put the shot wide. It summed up the game so far for the home side To emphasise the point the backs got their hands on the ball and, playing advantage, created a clear overlap on half way with space down the right flank, but the final pass was not cleanly taken.
A back strain then took lock Joel Hempton out of the contest with Wakeham coming into the back row and Tom Whitford moving up to the second row.
In the 47th minute Truro lost a player to a yellow card, but three minutes later a strong break out and counter attack from deep by the visitors saw the ball moved swiftly wide right. Only a last ditch tackle by a chasing Wakeham saved a certain try. However another penalty was conceded leading to a 5 metre attacking Truro lineout. Tics' slowed the ball down, but at the cost of the Referee's hand going out to signal another penalty. A drop goal attempt was then charged down by Lloyd Penhalagan, but the Mr. Mike Oliver returned to the position of the original offence and also showed No. Dave Carpenter yellow, under the totting up procedure.
This time Truro elected to scrum 5 metres out and duly pushed back the weakened Torquay pack to score a pushover try through No. 8 Jack Heazleton. 0 – 18.
Shortly after Tics' finally got on the scoreboard with a try very pleasing on the eye, created via well timed, accurate passing amongst the backs – similar to the best of five tries scored in the last home win versus St. Ives.
Despite the scrum retreating on half way the ball was moved to the backs. Ashworth came in on an excellent line of running to break the gain line. He then interpassed with Bevon Armitage before they put away wing Tony Brierley, who ran in to touch down. 5 – 18.
Relief was short lived however when Tics' were pinged, perhaps rather harshly, for crossing on their own 10 metre line and Martin stepped up to restore his side's 18 point advantage with a well struck penalty.
By now Jeffery had moved to scrum half, with Armitage to fly half. Both would play significant parts in trying to get Torquay back into the contest. An attacking scrum by Torquay saw Truro's eight go backwards for the first time; although when Jeffery was adjudged held up over the line the more familiar pattern of Truro taking Tics scrum ball occurred and the visitors were able to clear.
Nevertheless the earlier try had given Torquay renewed energy and impetus and when they again came within inches of the try line with a series of pick and go's desperate defending by Truro led to another yellow card. Then when the visitors were penalised for a high tackle on the opposite side of the pitch Jeffery took a short tap penalty and Wakeham came storming through to take a pop pass and dive over. Ashworth added the extras for 12 – 21 and with Tics' now in the ascendancy the previously unlikely prospect of a losing bonus point beckoned.
This second try was poetic justice as, in the build up, Jeffery had twice felt sure he had squeezed over to touch down, but on both occasions the Referee Mr. Mike Oliver was unsighted and called for 5 metre scrums.
Playing long into injury time Torquay were trying to break out of their own 22' after securing the re-start kick when another Truro player was binned for a high tackle, leaving the visitors with 13 players on the pitch.
However Truro then got a penalty of their own and Tics' were marched back another 10 metres for something said. Anxiety then played a part as Torquay twice went offside in the final stages and on the second of these a 5 metre lineout take by Truro down the right saw lock Ricky Brandon burrow through with Martin adding the conversion in the 10th minute of overtime. Final score 12 – 28.
15 – Joel Ashworth, 14 – Ben Spear, 13 – Bevon Armitage (Captain), 12 – Alex Brown, 11 - Tony Brierley, 10 – Alex Jeffery, 9 – Jacob Loewy,
1 – Liam Murray, 2 – Jash Castleton, 3 – Lloyd Penhalagan, 4 – James Norrish 5 – Joel Hempton, 6 – Tom Whitford, 7 – Isaac Fahey, 8 – Dave Carpenter
Replacements: Harry Snell, Carl Turner and Shane Wakeham (all played).
Next up for Tics' is an away trip to Burnham on 2nd December. Burnham went dwon 10 – 6 away to Tiverton on Saturday and occupy bottom spot in the League on 11 points (Tics' have 20 points).
It was at Burnham in April last season that Torquay took a very much scratch side and came on the wrong side of a 75 – 0 beating.
Torquay are well capable of winning at Burnham if some key players can be available. They also need to get a good result as they are currently only 6 points above the drop zone.
A Club XV was helped out by Totnes Seconds after Torrington II's were not able to raise a side for a DMT2 match at TVN. The re-arranged trip to Borough Park was treated as a training match with Tic's scoring 6 tries to Totnes's three.
A friendly at Astley Park for Torquay Colts v Brixham was called off when the home Team was found wanting of players.