TORQUAY ATHLETIC 5 v TRURO 31
NATIONAL INTERMEDIATE CUP ROUND 1
It may seem odd to laud a performance when a Team has just succumbed to a 5 – 31 home defeat. However the context of this match is worthy of further explanation.
First, the opposition: Truro lay fourth in WCW and had beaten Torquay comfortably at St. Clements in the first game of the season by 41 – 16. The Cornish Club's Facebook page, pre-match, described that it would be taking this National Cup seriously and that the travelling squad would be “one of the strongest sides so far this season.” Amongst the seven bench players permitted would be new signing, 18 year old Owen Davey, newly transferred from Camborne, who came “highly recommended” from more than one informed source.
As to Tics' selection: Not for the first time there were serious problems: Members and supporters may be weary of hearing about injury problems, but nevertheless these have been getting worse and were very real. Unfortunately when other players unavailability was factored in the task of putting out an experienced 22 man squad, to include five front row specialists, became nigh impossible. Of the eventual starting line-up only eight players had appeared consistently this season in the First Team colours and by the start of the second half, when another injury had shorn the side of Jon Woodhead, this number was reduced to seven. Several players were making their First Team debuts, including John Widdecombe's youngest son Joe at full back.
The wet weather during the week meant that any training on the pitch by the players had been impossible, due to waterlogging.
Had the game been due to take place 24 hours earlier, Management at Torquay would not have been disappointed; indeed it would have provided some temporary relief as the pitch on Friday had been heavily waterlogged right until the early hours of Saturday. Then a lull in the inclement weather followed by a dry and bright Saturday allowed sufficient drying out for conditions to become playable.
Torquay kicked off in bright and fairly still conditions. Immediately they took the game to the Cornish side making good progress through forwards carries with Lloyd Penhalagan, Steve Smith and Jon Woodhead prominent. Penhalagan was making only his second First Team appearance, having come off the bench last week. He really fronted up and took major responsibility for some of Tics' driving play before having to depart at the break with a suspected broken hand.
In the sixth minute Truro went offside and Widdecombe, who kicked well out of hand all game, put Tics' to within 5 metres for an attacking lineout down the right. A middle throw ball was secured by Tom Whitford and a maul quickly formed with Woodhead crashing over for a 5 – 0 lead. Widdecombe's conversion from wide out just brushed wide of the left hand post.
Right from the kick off Truro took the lead, courtesy of a touchline conversion by No. 10 Ashley Hoskin. It followed a try in the left hand corner by wing Ethan Tyler.
Hoskin then had an opportunity to extend the lead with a straight penalty two metres inside Tics' 10 metre line, as Tics' went offside. However it was pulled wide. This was followed by Tics' back rower Andy Knight pulling up lame with a hamstring strain and having to leave the field. Knight was making his first Chiefs appearance of the season, having answered an SOS to be available. A fairly lengthy absence can be anticipated for such an injury, which comes on top of the same occurrences to Jonny Brown a week earlier and Alex Smith against St. Ives on 14th Janaury.
Tics' returned to the attack in the 16th minute with a Widdecombe penalty providing good field position. More promising forward play from the resulting lineout was halted by the juggled interception of a floated pass, as Tics sought to bring the backline into the attack. Truro broke out of their own 22' strongly and quick support on the shoulder of the ball carrier led to Tyler getting his second touchdown, with Hoskin again converting for 5 – 14.
At this time more woe for Torquay as stand in fly half Tom Bovey was advised to retire following a bang to the head. Under pressure in their own 22' Tics' found temporary relief with a great steal by an industrious Woodhead at a ruck. It was then Truro's turn to test Tic's defence at a short range attacking lineout down the right. A strong run infield by prop Ollie Seagrove broke through and virtually under the posts he off loaded to lock Jack Hazelton to plop over the line. Another conversion and it was 5 – 21 after 25 minutes play.
Truro now started to dominate the scrums for a while, although Tics' skipper Lewis Harben did well to salvage possession by picking up at the base following on from good strikes by hooker Josh Castleton.
Another 5 metre attacking lineout down the left, following which, from broken play, visiting Captain Darren Jacques took charge to break through and score. A Hoskin conversion and it was 5 - 28 with 5 minutes remaining. Dave Carpenter and Chris Sudworth then made appearances from the bench as Castleton and Woodhead departed – the latter after a kick to the shin caused a significant swelling.
The interval was reached with the Tics' having lost three pack players to injury – all prominent ball carriers. As the second half started many watchers anticipated a further hatful of scores by Truro against an inexperienced and depleted Torquay squad.
This is precisely where all Tics' players dug deep to show their metal. The backs started to take more responsibility for ball carrying – with normal wing Jack Barnes, now playing in the centre, leading the way producing strong runs out of defence.
Torquay were obdurate in their resistance and in the 53rd minute Truro decided to ring the changes, making three simultaneous substitutions, with starting nos. 2, 6 and 15 all rested.
Tics' then saved a certain try when two defenders “corner flagged” Truro's replacement right wing as the line beckoned. This set an encouraging pattern for the whole of the second period. Home lock Tom Whitford had taken on the mantle of ball carrier to greater effect, staying on the field despite having a troublesome groin strain and the need for his right foot to be heavily strapped. As usual both Lewis Harben and Steve Smith were pro-active in this regard.
Truro were having the lion's share of possession but were not helping their own cause by getting on the wrong side of refereeing decisions on four occasions, when in strong attacking positions (although it was difficult to determine what their actual offences were). Thus having failed to add to their points tally by the 65th minute Hoskin decided to kick a short range penalty for the posts to make it 5 – 31.
Surprisingly and with just ten minutes to play it was Torquay who started to wrest the attacking initiative and spend more time in the Truro half. There were two attempts to add to the home scoreline through attacking lineouts as Truro indiscipline racked up a total of fourteen penalties. However on both occasions promising drives for the line came to nothing due to knock-ons.
Tics' players had given everything to stem Truro's flow of tries for the entire second half. Final score 5 – 31. Good luck to the visitors who will face another away tie at Chew Valley in three weeks time. The Somerset team had a home walkover on Saturday against Avonmouth Old Boys.
The match was sponsored by Members of the Club's serial Tourers, the Pilgrim Fathers, who held their first re-union since Novemeber 2010. In their heyday the Fathers made visits overseas to Canada, USA and the Caribbean.
Next week Torquay return to WCW action with a home match versus Devonport Services, who were beaten 12 – 20 at the Rectory in October in a match which ranks as one of Tics' best performance of the season so far. The game kicks off @ 2.30 pm, which will allow players and supporters alike time to settle down in the Clubhouse to watch the Wales v England encounter, which kicks off @ 4.50 pm.