TORQUAY ATHLETIC 29 v FALMOUTH 33
MATCH REPORT - SATURDAY 6th JANUARY 2018
The two sides equally shared ten tries but the final result is not what Torquay Athletic would have wished for, pre-match, against a Club lying second from bottom of the League at the start of play.
Thankfully the day was dry after two weeks or more of heavy rainfall. A strong north wind blew down the pitch towards the sea, intensifying already cool conditions. The initial kick off and two subsequent re-start kicks were fumbled , with both Teams being guilty and illustrating the difficulty of adjusting to cold hands.
Tics' welcomed back long term injury absentees in Skipper Jon Woodhead and Lewis Harben, albeit that the latter started the match on the bench.
In summary, four of Falmouth's tries came from distance and two resulted after home side errors. It would be easy to conclude that Torquay had therefore gifted the win to the Cornishmen, but perhaps it would be fairer to admire the way in which alertness and precision enabled Falmouth to capitalise fully.
Taking advantage of a dropped ball by Torquay at the kick off Falmouth looked to strike early and from a scrum ball inside Tics' 22' their scrum half, Mike Austin, made a dart for the line, followed by three phases of Falmouth possession stretching the defence first right and then left. However Torquay were equal to the danger and tight head Calvin Bradley produced turnover ball, which was cleared to half way and touch.
Then poor, slack defence by Tics' allowed inside centre Tom Edmunds to run through the middle off a won lineout and he scored all too easily under the posts giving kicker Justyn Irons no problem with the extra two points. The visitors had a 0 – 7 lead inside the fourth minute.
Fortunately home supporters would have to wait only two minutes for a positive reply: Following good carries by the forwards, fly half for the day James Wood chipped to the left. The ball landed close to the 22' between two Falmouth defenders and as it sat up left wing Arron Graham anticipated and timed his advance well, gathering securely to run in and score. Wood's conversion against the wind struck the left hand upright and bounced back out, so it was 5 – 7 in the seventh minute.
The scoring continued in short order and Falmouth broke out down the left wing from deep and forced two 5 metre scrums. Torquay seemed to have thwarted the threat until No. 8 Tom Simmons spotted a gap and got over the line from close range, near to the posts. Irons again collected the two points for a 5 – 14 lead in the twelfth minute.
By now Torquay were starting to gain a foothold in the tight, causing Falmouth problems at scrum time and competing well at close quarters. Falmouth conceded two penalties in quick succession allowing Tics' to move up to 5 metres out for an attacking lineout. A strong maul appeared to be brought down very close to the try line and in the aftermath visiting No. 5 James Robson was shown yellow by Devon Referee Mr. Derek Blackburn, evidently for unwise words spoken.
Unsurprisingly Tics' elected to scrum the resultant penalty award and although the shove was initially held the ball was worked back and infield. Following carries by Graham and Bradley, Woodhead proved too strong for the defence and burst over, with Wood converting for 12 – 14 at the end of the first quarter.
Torquay nearly profited again following a good break out, but a knock on halted progress. Next, centre Jack Barnes effected a good chase and aerial catch on a box kick, but was adjudged in front of the kicker. Irons elected for a long pot at goal from the resulting penalty but his effort went wide.
Then changes to Tics' second row as Woodhead retired with a neck injury and Dave Carpenter was given a breather. Harben went into the back row and Tom Whitford and James Norrish formed a new second row partnership.
Torquay then went in front for the first time and once again they worked a try through measured build up play. Another attack down the left saw Falmouth pinged and Wood kicked to touch 5 metres out. The recent return of Carl Turner after a long term injury has been a bonus for Torquay and on this afternoon his lineout throwing was well nigh faultless. A good middle ball catch by Whitford, despite what looked like illegal interference in the air, gave the opportunity for Norrish to crash over from short range. 17 – 14.
Torquay were now forcing the pace and another attack from deep, showing enterprise by the backs with good interplay, saw Falmouth infringe for the sixth time. A lineout 15 metres out , a long throw taken by Shane Wakeham at the back and a dart by Jeffery was the pre-cursor to a series of controlled pick and go's until the Referee decided that Tics' had been held up over the line. Another attacking 5 metre scrum for Torquay was followed by an untimely knock on so the score remained 17 – 14 at half time.
From the re-start Falmouth attacked wide out on the right. A hack ahead saw the chasing scrum half needing to dive on the ball as it crossed the try line, but to Tics' relief he misjudged his timimg and knocked on.
On forty seven minutes Lloyd Penhalagan replaced Bradley, the latter having produced an influential performance, halted prematurely by a back injury.
There followed a somewhat freak and unintentional occurrence leading to a Falmouth try: Tics' forwards stole the ball at a breakdown and Wood reacted by playing scrum half to catch Falmouth out of posittion with a quick box kick, as Jeffery was stuck on the ground in the ruck. As he pulled his striking foot backwards Jeffery, trying to regain his footing, was bumped backwards by a Falmouth counter ruck and inadvertently obstructed the kick. The ball squirted behind both players. Irons was alert and he darted through, picked up the loose ball and had a virtual walk-in to the line from outside Tic's 22.' He converted his own score for a 17 – 21 lead after 52 minutes.
Then a long clearance by Wood found touch on the right to put Tics' once again in the opposing 22.' Falmouth infringed; from the lineout Falmouth kicked clear, but did not find touch. Barnes fielded the ball and counter attacked. Falmouth infringed again: Torquay went for a 5 metre attacking lineout and after a clean catch by Carpenter and a strong drive by the forwards Turner got the touchdown to make it 22 – 21 and secure a four try bonus point.
Next Falmouth took advantage of a home handling error. Torquay had worked another strong attacking position inside the Falmouth 22' but a dropped pass saw Falmouth hack deep ahead and a furious race emerged between two players from each side. The long striding Edmunds proved to be the quickest and he just made the touchdown first. Irons converted for 22 – 28.
Without prominent ball carriers Woodhead and Bradley exerting additional pressure on the opposition Falmouth now looked as threatening as they had all match and only another knock on prevented the visitors making further progress from a 5 metre attacking scrum.
Nevertheless they did score what turned out to be the killer try when running back a Torquay clearing kick from their own 10 metre line down the right and when Irons converted the game looked up for Tics' at 22 – 35.
With five minutes remaining Torquay advanced deep into the red zone when Falmouth conceded another two penalties in quick succession. Another attacking lineout was won. The maul was halted but after a series of patient pick and go's by the forwards the ball was switched back to centre Ben Spears, who crossed and Wood converted from wide out for 29 – 33.
However the home side ran out of time to snatch the match back.
15 – Jonny Brown, 14 – Arron Graham, 12 – Ben Spears, 12 – Andy Gormley, 11 – Jack Barnes, 10 – James Wood, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Liam Murray, 2 – Carl Turner, 3 – Calvin Bradley, 4 – Dave Carpenter, 5 – Jon Woodhead, 6 – Shane Wakeham, 7 – Jacob Loewy, 8 – Tom Whitford,
Replacements: Lloyd Penhalagan, Lewis Harben and James Norrish (all played).
The Extras Merit Table game at Exmouth fell victim to a waterlogged pitch and the Colts had no scheduled game.