Coming into this fixture, the feeling was Topsham were not really sure what to expect from a Tamar Saracens side that found themselves at the bottom of the table on -4 points.
Which Tamar Saracens side were going to turn up? Was it going to be the team we have heard about in recent weeks, the one that has had players red carded and matches abandoned? Was it going to be the team that was up in Devon and Cornwall with Topsham Last year? Or was it going to be the team that seem to be scoring tries but not quite getting over the finish line?
Thankfully it was the latter. After last week’s trip to Old Techs, it was fantastic to play a Plymouth side that wanted to play rugby in the right way (good and hard but fair).
The overriding impression of Tamar Saracens in the bar post-match was that they are still a top bunch of blokes and definitely did not play like they were bottom of the table.
Anyway to the match itself.......
So, the game kicked off with a good crowd in attendance - who had, no doubt, come to see why we are the only team in the league unbeaten to date.
However, it was a nervy start with Topsham conceding a very early penalty on 3 minutes for offside. This was dispatched by Tamar's 10 and you could tell by the reaction of their team and bench how up for this match they were.
However almost immediately Topsham were up the other end and were awarded a very kickable penalty. Alex Moore very sensibly instructing Jack Saunders to kick the points. Reliable as ever, Jack slotted the 3 points on 4 minutes to cancel out the earlier score.
On the 13 minute mark the effervescent Luke Edwardson was on hand, once again capitalising on a mazy run by Zac MacLellan to trot over the line after his trademark step.
Jack Saunders converted.
Tamar, however, had not read the script. They came with a very large pack compared to Topsham’s lightweight but mobile unit. They managed a spell of sustained pressure from simple yet effective one-out runners, which saw them push up the pitch. This pressure eventually allowed the opposition 12 to slice through our midfield to score Tamar’s first try on 17 minutes.
The conversion was successful.
On 21 minutes Jiggy Tapp scored the first of his 3 tries from a textbook JD & Coke, straight out of the Ricky Pellow play book for booze-focused backlines.
A good line-out saw Bobby Phillips work around the back, off his blind wing, taking a pin point pass from Zac Maclellan. Bobby fed Luke Edwardson who raced down the wing, chipping the last defender for Jiggy to run through and gather and dot down under the sticks.
Jack Saunders added two more straightforward points.
This was more like what the crowd had come to see.....
However, on 31 minutes, silly doubled up errors and penalties meant Tamar were awarded a scrum on the Topsham 5 metre line. They got a solid nudge on, for their 8 to pick and show very soft hands for a big man, popping the ball off to their 9 who went in unopposed.
The conversion was good.
Nearing half time Tamar made their superior weight tell and managed an 8 man shove over try, although the conversion was missed.
Half time 17-22 to Tamar Saracens.
The half time chat was not panicked. It was more about trusting our systems and getting the backline good ball after a couple of phases so they could do the damage we knew they were capable off.
The 2nd half could not have started better.
Topsham had an attacking lineout just inside the opposition half.
A simple but perfectly executed miss pass from Zac Mac to Jack Saunders gave Saunders the time to pick out Jiggy. Jiggy found himself in some space to sprint for the line and score his second of the match.
Now Topsham’s back line was starting to click through the gears.
A disrupted Tamar line out saw the ball fizz along the back line, again Bobby Philips making fantastic yards. Bobby found Luke Edwardson in support with the crowd thinking it was a trot in for the speedy 15. However, he was scragged 10 meters out but again fantastic support play from Zac Maclellan saw him go over on the left.
This time the conversion was missed by Saunders.
The bonus point was in the bag for Topsham, but Tamar kept coming and coming. It was a measure of just how seriously skipper Alex Moore was taking, them that on the 60 minute mark, he asked Jack Saunders to kick for the posts from a penalty only a few meters inside the halfway line.
With a slight breeze behind him, Saunders repaid the faith shown in him by bisecting the posts (despite a suspiciously scuffed kick).
Again though, Tamar kept coming and Topsham did well to keep them out on a few occasions.
With the last meaningful play of the game, the ball came to Jack Saunders midway in the opposition's half. He spotted a gap in behind and threaded a grubber through the defence for Man of the Match Jiggy Tapp to race through, gather, hand off the last defender and score in the right hand side.
Saunders missed the conversion.