1st XV 'Saints'
Sat 17 Feb 2024  ·  Regional 1 South West
St Austell RFC
1st XV 'Saints'
Tries: M Bullen (3)Conversions: M ShepherdPenalties: M Shepherd
Bullet Bullen Bags a Bonus

Bullet Bullen Bags a Bonus

Paul Hayes18 Feb - 12:14
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Saints leave comeback too late to steal a win in Matson.

A stirring St Austell fightback in the final quarter fell just short of snatching a win but did enough to ensure a valuable losing bonus point was taken back to Cornwall. It was a typically tough and physical contest in Matson, but the Saints stood up to the challenge and but for a malfunctioning lineout, could well of won the game by some margin. It looked bleak for the Cornishmen on the hour with the home side ruthlessly exploiting Saints mistakes to lead 26-8. The visitors showed tremendous spirit and pride in the shirt to pin the home side in their 22. Max Bullen scored two tries in the final five minutes to bring the Saints in range of a win, but time was up with Matson holding on for victory.

The game kicked off under overcast skies in thankfully dry conditions with a sticky pitch the only sign of the recent heavy rains. Playing up the slope into a stiff breeze the Saints applied the early pressure with the home side struggling to contain the visitors’ high tempo. Efforts were rewarded when a strong scrum on the near side allowed the ball to be spun wide for Max Bullen to finish in the opposite corner. The Saints remained on top and were looking for a second score when the first signs of what would be their Achilles heel appeared. A penalty for a high tackle gave the visitors an attacking lineout but unfortunately the synchronisation between thrower and jumper went eschew and Matson cleared. The home side finally got a foothold in the Saints 22 and an astute grubber kick saw winger Josh Claxton touchdown for a converted try (7-5). The visitors immediately restored their lead on 22 minutes with full back Matt Shepherd slotting a 40m penalty (7-8). From the restart the Saints drove a Matson attack into touch, a defensive lineout should have meant an easy exit, but the home side forced it out. The Gloucester men then showed how it should be done with a clinical catch followed by a thunderous drive to score their second converted try (14-8). The Saints enjoyed some good periods of possession but were unable to carve out a clear opportunity. A series of drives by the Matson pack sucked in the defence before the ball was put wide for winger Shane Burford to finish off a well worked try that put some gloss on the scoreboard at half time (19-8).

With slope and breeze now in their favour the Saints started the half in confident style only to splutter when they hit the red zone. They were to pay a heavy price for failing to convert territorial advantage into points with Matson again showing their ruthless ability to take their opportunities. Two successive penalties took the play into the Saints 22 and Matson’s well marshalled catch and drive rumbled over in a slightly more sedate fashion to the first one. Gwilliam’s conversion took the score 26-8 with 55 minutes gone and the Saints looked like they were staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat. The Saints rang the changes bringing on veteran prop Hugh Noott, who at 2pm on Friday was still down to play for the Spartans at home to Bude seconds. There was also the welcome sight of skipper Mark Vian returning to the fray after recovering from a dislocated shoulder. The Saints were now applying almost constant pressure on Matson who were content to slow the contest down whenever they could as they looked to manage the game towards an important win. The penalties were racking up but playing with advantage the Saints used sublimely quick hands to enable Max Bullen to squeeze in at the corner. Matt Shepherd’s touchline conversion meant the hunt was now on for at least a bonus point with four minutes remaining. Matson continued to impinge with impunity giving away four successive penalties with the Saints in strike distance of the line. Quick thinking by hooker Pete Harris saw him tap and go, and a quick ruck clearance saw the ball swung wide for Max Bullen to complete his hat trick in the corner (26-20). The referee had shown remarkable patience, but his tolerance level had finally been breeched and Matson were at last shown a yellow card for the persistent offending with 90 seconds remaining.

There was not enough time left for the Saints to mount another serious attack and the home side clung on to a bonus point win. The five points probably means Matson have secured their place in Regional One for another season. The visitors can take pride in their performance and given the number of changes in the forwards can be forgiven for not quite getting it right at the line out. Seven of the pack featured in the Sinners starting XV at the end of last season. The raft of injuries through the club has opened the door for others and they have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Prop Scott Pearce and number eight Kaydan Micheal were outstanding and there were strong performances from flankers Rhys Daniel and Cam Taylor.

The Saints will now focus on two crucial home games against the bottom two sides spread over the next four weeks. First up is Okehampton on Saturday 2nd March 2024, 2:30pm at Tregorrick in what will be a pivotal game for both sides’ hopes of staving off the threat of relegation.

Saints Star Man: Max Bullen – Outstanding performance in defence against a very physical Matson side. Max’s finishing was top draw with all three tries scored in the corner under extreme pressure from the home defence.

1 Matt Boothby; 2 Peter Harris; 3 Stuart Pearce; 4 Joe Maunder; 5 Tom Daniel; 6 Rhys Daniel; 7 Cam Taylor; 8 Kayden Michael; 9 CJ Boyce; 10 Chris Ashwin; 11 Dan Tyrrell; 12 Ben Plummer (Captain); 13 Sam Parsons; 14 Max Bullen; 15 Matt Shepherd
Reps (All used):
Hugh Noott; Mark Vian; Jamie Stanlake

St Austell:
Tries – Max Bullen (6; 76; 79)
Cons – Matt Shepherd (76)
Pens – Matt Shepherd (23)
Yellow card –

Tries – Joshua Claxton (19); Thomas Collier (26); Shane Burford (34); Dario Lanciano (54)
Cons – Farrell Gwilliam (19; 27; 54)
Pens –
Yellow card – Dario Lanciano (79)

Match details

Match date

Sat 17 Feb 2024




Regional 1 South West

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