MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 16th DECEMBER 2017
DEVONPORT SERVICES 24 v TORQUAY ATHLETIC 8
Torquay Athletic's poor run of results, punctuated by a solid home win over Chard the previous week, continued. It would have taken a supreme optimist to expect a win at the Rectory, given Services third place in the League Table, allied to their one hundred per cent home win record this term.
That said this Tics' side , showing no less than five changes in the starting lineup compared with a week earlier, gave absolutely everything in a wholehearted effort. Indeed with a blend of alertness and fine accuracy Torquay scored what was probably the outstanding try of the afternoon in terms of its execution, within a few minutes of the start, to give some hope of an upset.
However when a pack is perhaps four or five, mainly experienced, players short of its maximum potential and populated largely by very young players it is always going to be difficult and, as in a few recent matches, Torquay suffered at the set piece. Such is difficult to overcome in any class of rugby.
Again however, this should not detract from the excellent attitude and commitment from those players who were able to travel. It has become an uncomfortable fact nowadays that Clubs suffer from a malaise, whereby players are able to commit on home turf, but, for whatever reason, find it difficult to do the same away from home.
On this particular Saturday the fact was illustrated in the fixture between Chard and Burnham. Chard, with only one win away all season, had offered very little a week earlier on the trip to Torquay; whilst bottom Club Burnham had managed to overcome a depleted Tics' squad two weeks earlier on their own patch. However a week on and Chard (at home) were able to put 48 points and eight tries on Burnham in a convincing win.
The Rectory pitch was rather sticky in part following a good deal of recent rain. On a cool, overcast day the match started in dry conditions, with rain showers peppering the second period. In such circumstances ball handling from both Teams was very good.
Early on Services knocked on just inside their own half, but unwise words spoken to Devon Referee Nigel Boyd caused him to award a penalty to Torquay. Straightaway Alex Jeffery took a quick tap and made good ground through a retreating defence. The ball was then taken on by Dan Woods. Full back for the day, Jonny Brown, was found after the next breakdown and his well timed run at pace and excellent choice of line created space wide, which was used as a long pass put left wing Aidan Ovens in the clear. His corner flag try put Tic's up in the second minute.
Services came back with two successive close in attacking lineouts but their catch and drives were well defended by Torquay.
However Services lineout jumpers proved adept at competing on and stealing Torquay ball throughout the afternoon and on half way they did so for the first time and then sought to spread the ball to the wide channels, shifting the point of attack first left and then right.
When Tics' conceded a thrid penalty Services won a resulting 5 metre attacking lineout and a long and accurate miss pass from inside centre Richard Gouldsby-West enabled left wing Toby Knowles to run in and score. Veteran Matt Anstis converted from the touchline for 7 – 5 in the 12th minute.
Torquay came back strongly in the opposition 22', making ground with driving play in a zig-zag pattern until penalised at a breakdown. However the visitors were able to re-group and return to Devonport's 22' and from a close in scrum Jeffery went blind but was tackled just short and the ball dislodged.
From now on Services would largely dominate the set scrum, although such did not stop Torquay returning to Services 22 for a third time and staying inside the home Team's half for the next 10 minutes, eventually getting reward when Services were pinged (again for words spoken). Joel Ashworth, playing his last League game before a planned trip to New Zealand and Australia, slotted a routine close range penalty for a 7 – 8 lead.
Dan King then replaced Harry Snell in the front row. In the next action Services stole another lineout and worked several phases, with Tics' twice conceding penalties. On the second occasion Services elected for a 5 metre scrum and rumbled over the try line with No. 8 Matt Gregory getting the touchdown.
Anstis was too casual with an easy conversion and put it wide, so it was 12 – 8 in the 35th minute. Neither side threatened again seriously before the break.
On the resumption Thomas Winfield came into Tics second row for his First Team debut since re-signing recently from rivals Paignton. At the first scrum Tics' pushed back the Devonport eight for the first time, but thereafter “normal service” resumed with Services' pack generally on top in the tight.
A misplaced pass inside his own half by Gouldsby-West put Tics' on the back foot when the ball took a favourable ricochet off a Torquay player and shot backwards and into a Services player's hands and progress was swiftly made down the left wing.
Enough Tics' defenders managed to get back to halt the run, but when a 5 metre scrum ensued Devonport reprised their earlier pushover try with Gregory again the scorer, with Anstis converting for 19 – 8.
Tics' were now two tries in arrears, but not daunted and camped inside the home red zone following a chip through by Jeffery down the right and a misfield by the home full back. However Services managed to defend successfully. James Norrish then came off with a knock with Joel Hempton resuming at lock. Nathan Pring replaced Tony Brierley on 55 minutes and shortly after Carl Turner was forced to retire.
Services went further ahead in the 65th minute, creating space wide left by moving the ball quickly through the hands. Aaron Wells managed to touch down in the corner, despite a last ditch tackle by Bevon Armitage. 24 – 8.
With 10 minutes left Tics' secured another 5 metre attacking lineout, but once again Services thwarted with another steal, as Tics' now further limited throwing intentions were guessed accurately.
Devonport then enjoyed more possession in Tics' half but although the visiting players must have been close to exhaustion; tested both by Services set piece successes and defending open play so often in the wide channels, no-one in a black and white shirt wilted and the match ended with Torquay on the counter attack.
Without wishing to pick out individuals unnecessarily, both Jacob Loewy and Shane Wakeham had put in a phenomenal tackle count. A word also about Ben Spears: A visit later in the evening to Torbay Hospital revealed a broken bone in his hand, which will require up to six weeks on the sidelines. It was sustained in the first half of the match but he continued for the full 80 minutes and played a full part.
The loss drops Torquay one League place to ninth, just six points above the drop zone.
With the Boxing Day bash for a Club XV to come (KO 12.30. pm), plus an Under 21's Cup first leg match v Brixham on 30th December (KO 2.00 pm) the Firsts now have a break from League fixtures until Falmouth visit on 6th February. The Cornish side lie second from bottom and it is crucial that Tics' reverse a 0 – 18 loss suffered in the away fixture last September.
The Falmouth game is sponsored by the Past Players' Association, who will meet at 1.00 pm, with food served at 1.30. pm onwards.
15 – Jonny Brown, 14 – Tony Brierley, 13 – Ben Spear, 12 – Bevon Armitage (Captain), 11 – Aidan Ovens, 10 – Joel Ashworth, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Liam Murray, 2 – Carl Turner, 3 – Harry Snell, 4 – Joel Hempton, 5 – James Norrish, 6 – Dan Woods, 7 – Jacob Loewy, 8 – Shane Wakeham
Replacements: Dan King, Thomas Winfield and Nathan Pring (all played).
The Extras managed to put out a side for a DMT2 game at TVN, despite First Team calls. Notwithstanding an intention to retire because of re-curring injuries the Club was pleased to see Andy Gormley answer an SOS and play. Topsham Seconds could only muster 13 players, but fortunately did not sustain any injuries during the match, which was played as a 13 – a- side game throughout.
Such might explain the high scoring encounter, duly won by Tics' Second string 65 – 14.
The Colts had no game.