Three Tries Makes for a Very Merry Sperry
Withycombe notch up a fifty burger as the put Lanner to the sword
It was a glorious afternoon at Raleigh Park on Saturday as the Sun was out to heat up this opener of the 2018/19 season. Lanner, who are in their third season in the Tribute Cornwall and Devon league, only managed to muster fourteen men to make the arduous three and half hour trip up the A30 after heavy traffic, which is not ideal by any means! Withycombe, whose off season has taken some time to get going, couldn't have asked for a better start.
Before the game, Withycombe Match Secretary Neil Price was quoted as saying that Withycombe would need to "get off to a flyer" to win this game, and that the Sun and wind "could be crucial".
Withycombe won the toss and elected to play against the wind and down the slope. Just five minutes in, Withycombe kicked to the corner from a penalty into the Lanner twenty two. The trusted catch and drive maul was gleefully driven over the whitewash, as Jake O'Neil came up from the pile to claim Withies first try of the season! O'Neil, who has converted from the wing to back row, impressed in the pre season friendly against Exeter University, was a constant menace all game... Glenn Channing kicked the extras.
Ten minutes later and from a Withy line out in their own twenty two, the moonlighting Neil Williams broke out in the centre, with Alex Taylor carrying, and the off load to Danny Sansom saw him take it "all the way to the house" as he galloped forty metres down the slope to grab Withycombes second try of the game, with Channing converting to make it 14-0.
It was a busy five minutes as no sooner had Withycombe wiped the water from their mouths that Lanner were on the attack. A kick through left the home side in all sorts, and with Channing putting boot to ball, the kick was charged down in their own twenty two, and Lanner managed to win the chase over the try line as they scored right in the corner to make it 14-5.
After a much needed water break in the September heat, it was back to business for Withycombe. Another Line out was secured and driven over the try line, this time it was the evergreen Mark Wilkinson who had dotted down for the Withies third. And just five minutes after that, it was the magic of Mr Sansom again, as his break out and off load to winger Adam Sperry led to try number four and the bonus point all wrapped up in the first half! Channing made one and missed another to make it 26-5.
Alex Taylor had a standout game from Number 8. His big runs and clear up play led to many of Withycombes forays and tries throughout the game, which won him the accolade of Man of the Match. John Parkin was his usual omnipresent self, even when the forwards weren't helping him at the breakdowns! New boys Bryn Cresswell and Paddy Haddad had superb games for their respective debuts, so plenty more to see from them this season.
There was still time for points though, as after continued pressure in the Lanner twenty two, another line out was secured, and Neil Williams hit a hard line off the maul to bulldoze his way over for Withycombes fifth. Lanner managed to get back up the slope and convert a penalty to leave the scores at the turnaround 31-8 to Withycombe.
The Green and Blacks said at the half about the importance of the next score, and they got it! Neil Williams was having a bit of a field day from the centre, and he again went on a barn storming run through two tackles, and with a two on one he off loaded to the supporting Lee Tanton, who dashed in from twenty out to bag his first try of the season.
With the game looking like it was won, it seemed Withycombe took their foot off the gas a little. It took until the half hour mark for the next points, and what a try it would be. Lanner, who were attacking down the slope and with real purpose, had the Withies pinned in their own half for some time. With their line out won, the ball went wide only for it to be dropped. In steps the aforementioned Adam Sperry, who picked up the loose ball and showed a delightfully clean pair of heels as he motored up the pitch eighty metres to emphatically score under the posts to put the game to bed. Lee Tanton kicked the extras to make it a 45-8 game.
The next five minutes weren't "up to much" for Withycombe, as Jake O'Neil was given his marching orders for a few handbags, and Lanner scored their second try of the game and a conversion to bring their tally to 15. But it would unknowingly leave the game with a grandstand finish. Withycombe worked their way back up the slope, and having gone four phases, the ball was in the middle of the park in Lanners twenty two. With the pressure mounting, John Parkin went blind where Neil Williams gave it to THAT man Adam Sperry, who like a blood hound, sniffed out the try line in Clubhouse Corner to a raucous cheer as he capped his fine display off with a hat trick and a final score of 50-15 to Withycombe.
Lanner never gave up on the day despite only having fourteen players, and matched Withycombe in all places on the park, so much thanks needs to go to them for coming down and fulfilling the fixture.
Withycombes 2nd XV made a short trip to Tiverton without a full team, but put in a helluva performance to just lose out by two as the game finished 22-20 to Tivvy.
Next week, Withycombes 1st XV travel away to Plymouth Argaum, as Withycombe 2nd XV take on Sidmouth 2nd XV at Raleigh Park!