MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 18th NOVEMBER 2017
ROUND 1 – DEVON INTERMEDIATE CUP
TIVERTON 17 – TORQUAY ATHLETIC 35
Torquay Athletic took full advantage of an early chance to erase the memory of a rather lacklustre performance at Tiverton two weeks earlier (when losing 22 - 8 in a League match).
This was altogether much better and as for the last home game versus St. Ives on 28th October Tics' dominated the scoreboard in the second half to ease away from a half time 14 – 17 advantage and in doing so prevented the opposition from crossing their try line in that second period.
Overall the game displayed something of a “role reversal” in the sense that in the previous 22 – 8 defeat at Tivvy the Tics' had not helped themselves by falling off too many tackles. Here it was Tiverton's turn to fall into that trap – with three of Tics' tries being scored from distance by a single ball carrier and at other times Torquay being able to attack on the front foot after runners had been allowed too much space to get up a head of steam.
Selection problems had eased from the previous week's encouraging “backs to the wall” narrow defeat at Kingsbridge and although numerous key players were still ruled out, mainly by persisting injuries, Tics' were buoyed by the availability of Andy Knight, playing at No. 8. His positive influence stretched from the final Team talk throughout the match. He also managed a second half solo try described below.
During the match Tics' used various front row combinations, given the opportunity to do so by the fact that this round of the competition required a minimum of five players being capable of performing in that part of the scrum. Some limited game time was given to young prop Liam Maus, who was making his Senior debut. The set scrum went well throughout, but training ground work is still required on the lineout.
The game played in dry, overcast conditions with no wind to trouble kickers. Despite the lack of any significant recent rain the top surface of the pitch was a little sticky.
Torquay were forced back for the first eight minutes as Tivvy Player/Coach Tom Skelding was prompting his side to create an early score. He remained an influence for most of the match, but Tivvy were lacking the services of fellow Player/Coach Wayne Sprangle in the back row.
Then, when Torquay managed to execute a sound exit from their own 22' within a minute of advancing to the opposition half they scored – a solo try by fly half Joel Ashworth, following a good platform provided by the forwards going through a few phases.
Recognising space early and reacting quicker than most to exploit the same is a valuable asset possessed by Ashworth, who had a fine match throughout. He set off from the Tivvy 10 metre line in a mazy diagonal run and holding the ball in both hands made the line in the right hand corner. 0 – 5 in the ninth minute.
After a not straight lineout throw by Torquay in a defensive position Tivvy elected for another lineout and set up a rapid drive to score with hooker Elliott Howells getting the touchdown and fly half Matt Down converting for 7 – 5.
Then Tics' counter attacked and after strong carries by Tom Whitford and Jon Woodhead the ball was worked to left wing Ben Spears. With a strong upper body physique and speed to match Spears is not easy to stop when he gets up a head of steam and he advanced with a straight run to within five metres of the try line, where Tivvy were pinged. In a flash Ashworth had taken a short tap penalty and dived over to make it 7 - 10 after 17 minutes.
Shortly after Matt Down was unfortunate to receive a bang to the head and was forced to retire with Adam Preece coming off the bench to slot into fly half.
A scrum put in by Torquay between their own 22' and 10 metre lines saw quick ball delivered to the backs. Jack Barnes came in from full back to create space for Spears out wide and from deep the winger scorched down the left and behind the posts allowing Ashworth an easy conversion for 7 - 17 after 30 minutes.
However Tiverton came straight back and after an untidy passage of play when Tics' had chances to secure the ball and clear Preece ran through to score under the posts and convert his own try for 14 – 17, at which the score remained at the break.
At the start of the second half Chris Dorling made a few changes in personnel, including the introduction of Joel Hempton at lock and Maus at prop. A short time in and Torquay conceded a penalty only 29 metres in front of their posts and Preece converted the kick to level the tie at 17 – 17 in the 45th minute.
The response was Knight's solo try. Receiving the ball out wide, he ran down the right flank and then infield to dot down under the posts from distance with Ashworth converting for 17 - 24. Knight had led the previous Thursday training session last lap of the home pitch by some distance, showing that although playing only sporadically nowadays he has lost none of his fitness nor desire and the manner of this try merely reinforced that point.
After sustaining a fair amount of home side pressure Tics' then broke out and following a fumble on the ground by a Tivvy defender on the 22' Devon Referee Steve Clark awarded a penalty to Torquay in front of the posts and Ashworth again obliged with the kick to bring the score to 17 – 27.
Tivvy responded with more possession close to the Tics' 22' but a failed drop goal attempt gave the visitors further relief. Instead a kick ahead down the left by Bevon Armitage led to the home full back having to hack the ball swiftly into touch to avert the danger of a strong ball chase by the Torquay backs. Torquay then stayed inside the Tivvy 22' and sewed the match up with another try. Ashworth set it up with a jink and a step when taking the ball from a lineout catch. In space he found Spears had come off his wing and his good angle of running took him through to the line to cap his best performance so far in a First Team shirt.
For once Ashworth's conversion was not on the mark, but he was given another kicking chance in the final few minutes as Tics' returned to the attack and Tivvy conceded two penalties in quick succession, the second being within a very kickable position only 15 metres out in front of the posts. Ashworth's effort made it 17 – 35 and there was no further scoring, nor late alarms for the Tics.' All in all a good win. New signing Aidan Ovens from Teignmouth made a promising debut on the right wing in a brief second half cameo as a replacement.
The draw for the next round (a semi final) will see three other successful Teams from Round 1 in the hat – Sidmouth, Devonport Services and Cullompton (who had a home walkover against Kingsbridge). That draw is to be made by Devon RFU at a meeting on Tuesday 21st November and Torquay will be keeping fingers crossed for a home tie, which has to be played by Sunday 11th February.
15 – Jack Barnes, 14 – Ben Spear, 13 – Bevon Armitage, 12 – Alex Brown, 11 – Tony Brierley, 10 – Joel Ashworth, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Lloyd Penhalagan, 2 – Josh Castleton, 3 – Calvin Bradley, 4 – James Norrish, 5 Jon Woodhead (Capt.), 6 – Tom Whitford, 7 – Jacob Loewy, 8 – Andy Knight,
Replacements: Liam Maus, Dan King, Joel Hempton and Aidan Ovens (all played).
Next week the Team returns to League duty with a home match versus Truro. This is the only home match during the whole of November and support would be more than welcome in what has otherwise been a thin month for gate and associated income.
Over the past five years games between Tics' and Truro have always been competitive. As is often the case the home side mostly prevails as far as results go, with spoils shared equally over that period (five wins and five losses to each Club). KO is 2.30 pm.
Meanwhile the Extras travelled to Withycombe Seconds in a DMT2 match, knowing that the home side were “down to the bare bones” in terms of personnel. However a late SOS to “off duty” Wessex players brought four of them down to the Exmouth Club, allowing a 12 – a side match of thirty minutes each way to take place. In the circumstances Tics' Extras were awarded an away “walkover” although the sporting and much appreciated attitude of the few players from Wessex enabled nearly thirty players in total to enjoy a decent run out.
The Colts lost an away Merit game by 26 – 12 to Exeter Saracens. Coach Gary Willis says that unusually the Team lost accuracy in their play, and were below par at the breakdown, although they did improve in the second half. He is hopeful that once some players return from injury things may start to gel more consistently.