Frome RFC 1st 23 - 20 Sherborne RFC 1st
By Matt Warnock
Frome RFC finished off the league season in fashion as they build towards promotion playoff...
Frome RFC welcomed Southern Counties South Champions Sherborne RFC to Gypsy Lane for the last match of the league season.
The Champions started strongly & forced Frome back into their own 22. After numerous phases the Sherborne Fly Half spotted a gap which he broke through to opening the scoring, which he duly converted. Frome were able to regain possession in the opposing half & were awarded a Penalty which James Howard took, but the ball hit the post & came back into the field of play. The chasing Frome line was able to stop any would be attack and Sherborne Scrum Half's clearing kick was charged down by joint Man of the Match Ross Toten with Ali Frost following up to touch down for a try, unfortunately the conversion just fell wide. Sherborne continued to look threatening throughout and attacked again, creating space wide for the winger to score another converted try.
The home side reduced the deficit when Howard converted a penalty following a Yellow card to Sherborne, however the visitors responded immediately with a penalty to leave the half time score 8 - 17.
Half Time Score: Frome RFC 1st 8 - 17 Sherborne RFC 1st
It was Sherborne who were on the scoreboard first in the second half following a mistimed tackle that saw a Frome player receive a red card 4 minutes in. The subsequent Penalty was kicked by.
Despite being a player short Frome took the game to the visitors and with a dominant Scrum they put pressure on at the set piece and were carrying hard with the Front Row of Matt King , Aaron Blaney & George Benstead to the fore & the Backline lead by joint Man of the Match Matt Warnock also making valuable yards. With time running out Frome were awarded a penalty for an offence at the Scrum which was kicked to the corner, a fantastic lineout saw No.8 Alex Mallon touched down in the corner, the following conversion just falling short to bring the score to 20-13 to the visitors.
Frome continued to press the Sherborne line and after a number of phases saw the ball knocked on halting any attack, however from the resulting Scrum the Sherborne No.8 picked to gain some ground but was driven back over his own try line by Ross Toten to give Frome a five metre Scrum .
Frome then moved the ball across the field & were awarded a penalty which Centre Ali Frost took quickly but was stopped short of the line, the ball was recycled to Phil Meenan who found his Second Row partner Howard who crashed over to score, he also followed up with the conversion to level the score at 20-20 with 2 minutes to go.
Sherborne with the restart were unable to keep the ball in field a gave Frome another opportunity to attack.from the centre of the pitch. Frome were desperate to find a final score and the chance appeared to have been lost when Sherborne were awarded a scrum in their 22 but a massive effort by the Frome pack pushed them off there ball which was moved across the to the midfield with Sherborne desperate to hold Frome committed a high tackle in front of the posts, James Howard calmly stepped up to slot the kick and win the game and complete a remarkable comeback to win by 23-20.
Full Time Score: Frome RFC 1st 23 - 20 Sherborne RFC 1st
Head Coach Toby Culff commented "In the weeks following our narrow loss to Sherborne on the first weekend of the season, it soon became apparent that we would be the two teams fighting for the top spot and automatic promotion. The hope and expectation in the months building up to Christmas was that both teams would maintain their momentum and therefore set-up a 'winner-takes-all' encounter between the two sides on the last day of the season. Unfortunately for us, a loss at home against North Dorset gave Sherborne breathing space and their phenomenal consistency in 2019 has meant that, realistically, we've been playing for 2nd place for some considerable time. This game was just about pride, therefore, and about building momentum for our playoff game on April 27th. We were also keen to deny Sherborne an unbeaten season."
He continued "Our performance on the day was very patchy, but truth. Though we built some good pressure in the first half, we were inaccurate and wasteful with the ball, and far too passive and weak in defence. Sherborne were the better side for the first 50 minutes and looked much more dangerous. They certainly looked every inch the league champions at that point. After the sending off in the second half, however, we rediscovered the spirit and tenacity that have characterised our season. Some incredibly physical and aggressive play allowed us to inch our way back into contention, one score at a time. As the second half progressed, Sherborne found it harder and harder to repel us, and they looked as though they were desperately hanging on for the final whistle. In contrast, the Frome players just kept going, and an incredibly exciting and tense last few minutes culminated in a penalty in front of the posts. James Howard showed amazing composure to slot the kick and, so, win the game with the last kick of the match. The game had been an extraordinarily close and brutal one, and it was a fitting end to a superb season-long contest between two excellent sides. The win was fully deserved by our players and they should take massive confidence from it in our build up to the crucial Promotion Playoff on April 27th. Our congratulations go to Sherborne for their league victory this year and we wish them well at Level 6 next season. We hope very much to join them there!"
The Man of the Match awards, sponsored by The Old Bath Arms went to Flanker Ross Toten and Centre Matt Warnock.
(Pictures by Mark Sangster)