MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 21st OCTOBER 2017
PAIGNTON 8 v TORQUAY ATHLETIC 9
Torquay Athletic were delighted with a win over their nearest rivals with this closest of victories; although at the same time the victory brought sighs of relief to players, Officials and supporters alike at the final whistle.
Conversely Paignton must be wondering how they were unable to forge a win from a match in which they dominated possession and territory for long periods. Such was based largely on their forward domination at scrum time.
Conditions meant that this was unlikely to be a classic of running rugby as the remnants of storm Brian blew a strong, often gusting wind down the pitch from the Railway Station towards the Clubhouse. Thankfully the rain largely held off.
As the game ran into the final quarter the tension amongst a large crowd of committed supporters was almost tangible. Without wishing to diminish the effort of all thirty six players on the park, which was 100 % from first to last, the match possessed few highlights.
In the Herald Express Paignton's Nick Bodnar had expressed satisfaction in being able to pick from a full, healthy squad. By contrast Tics' had problems with injury or unavailability in the front row, limiting options. Also, having recovered from a concussion three weeks ago versus St. Austell No. 8 Lewis Harben had to succumb to a shoulder injury and was unavailable, thus reducing Torquay's ball carrying capacity. A bonus however was the first appearance of new signing Bevan Armitage at outside centre and also recovery from hamstring strains of James Wood.
Tics' had first use of the wind and in the first minute Alex Brown made a break through midfield towards Paignton's 22'. However he chose to grubber kick ahead and the wind carried the ball dead.
Torquay problems then began with penalties against for a series of technical offences, betraying the pressures of securing ball early in this derby match. Experienced Devon Referee Mr. Richard Steggall showed little patience and on the occasion of his whistle against Tics' for the third time in as many minutes he produced a yellow card for prop Lloyd Penhalagan for coming in at the side of a ruck.
This enabled Paignton to pay their first of many visits to Tics' 5 metre line for an attacking lineout. They moved the ball infield but were held up resulting in a scrum so that Tics' had to ditch Wing Jack Barnes, to be replaced by replacement prop Liam Murray. However Cherries were pinged for a scrum offence allowing Torquay to clear their lines to halfway.
At the resulting lineout Mr. Steggall was unsympathetic to home lock Ellis Ward, who pleaded that losing his feet was accidental and he was shown yellow, presumably for attempting to collapse the maul. James Wood took the penalty 45 metres out and converted for a 0 – 3 lead after 10 minutes.
Another 3 minutes later and a second penalty chance, this time from the 10 metre line. The kick seemed to have been expertly judged but at the last the wind veered, taking the ball to strike the left hand upright and bounce out.
However as the first quarter came to an end Wood was successful with another kick from the 10 metre line to make it 0 – 6. Furthermore, following the re-start, he put Torquay back up to the Cherries 22 metre line from within his own half with a clearing kick.
If there is a more accurate and sweeter striker of a rugby ball either from hand or the ground in this League, then that player must be really exceptional.
Isaac Fahey playing at No. 6 was then withdrawn with Murray back on as a prop, Josh Castleton moving across to hooker and the versatile Jacob Loewy reverting to No. 6.
Paignton's dominance at scrum time continued and when they pushed Tics' back from 10 metres out and the visiting pack splintered Skipper Jon Woodhead tried to spoil on the ground. He knew what was coming and was already half way to the touchline as Mr. Steggall brandished a yellow card.
James Norrish came on to bolster the second row as Paignton elected to pack down, despite a relatively easy three points being on offer. Once again Jack Barnes had to be sacrificed to keep numbers down to fourteen.
Pressure on the Torquay line then became intense as two more penalties were conceded and Cherries persisted with their choice of a set scrum. However the home side could not find a way to capitalise going forward and first they were pinged for a scrum offence and then knocked the ball on in a promising position.
The half ended with Tics' having conceded eleven penalties against six by Paignton. Clearly if Torquay replicated this in the second period Paignton would chance their arm at goal with the wind behind. Consequently Torquay Coaches team talk centred on calming things down and not over-anxiously trying to win every loose ball; ie defend with their heads. Credit is due to the lesson learned as Tics' conceded penalties only three more times in the second half, despite being under the cosh for lengthy periods.
In the first contest after the resumption Murray received a bang to the face and retired, following which Mike Sandercock converted a penalty from in front of the posts when Tic's strayed offside. 3 – 6 . He had a more difficult chance from the touchline shortly after when Torquay held on too long in the tackle, but his effort went wide.
With 20 minutes to go Fahey returned for Loewy, the latter player having made a prodigious number of effective tackles. Tics' were finding it difficult to escape their own half until a hack on and an excellent ball chase produced a half chance, but this came to nought. Paignton cleared their lines down to Tics' 5 metre line and then stole a front line out throw before driving infield and sending home supporters into premature raptures in the belief that a try had been scored. However Mr. Steggalll deemed the ball held up over the line.
Chris Hallett, who has played for both Clubs was then withdrawn. Paignton were then playing advantage because of a high tackle after the Torquay pack had again managed to hold back a surge by the home eight. They switched the ball first left and then quickly wide right, creating enough space in the wide wing berth for Barney Allen to dive in at the corner. A good try, well executed. A missed conversion meant that it was 8 – 6 in the 30th minute.
Torquay then worked their way upfield for a rare visit into the “red” zone and despite the gusting wind Wood drove a penalty from wide of the posts between the uprights to re-establish the lead at 8 – 9.
What followed was not pretty, but in its own way very skillful and certainly effective as Tics' worked well over twenty phases of continuous driving play to run down the clock. They seldom crossed the gain line whilst playing in a narrow corridor about five metres inside the Cherries half. Backs, including both centres, took their share at ball carrying, as did Andy Gormley, who had joined the fray late on – not in his traditional inside centre slot, but in the back row to add ballast and substance to the action.
When Paignton were pinged for going offside the penalty was kicked to the sanctity of touch heralding the final whistle.
A pleasing feature of the local derby was a strong presence of Tics' supporters amongst a very good crowd.
The win moves Torquay up to seventh in the League Table ahead of next week's visit of joint second placed St. Ives, who have lost only once so far this term. Their success this season (as Paignton can testify) is based on a strong set of forwards. KO is 3.00 pm, after which matches revert in November to 2.30. start times.
Tics' challenge now is to try and bridge the points gap between themselves on fourteen and Chard, who are sixth with twenty.
15 – Joel Ashworth, 14 – Jonny Brown, 13 – Bevan Armitage, 12 – Alex Brown, 11 – Jack Barnes , 10 – James Wood, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Lloyd Penhalagan, 2 – Jacob Loewy, 3 – Josh Castleton, 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 – Jon Woodhead, 6 – Isaac Fahey, 7 – Richard Read, 8 – Shane Wakeham.
Replacements (all played) – Liam Murray, James Norrish and Andy Gormley.
Unfortunately a friendly with a noon kick off between Tics' and Cherries Seconds at Clennon Valley finished after just twenty minutes following a suspected double fracture of his ankle to Paignton three quarter Josh Boaler.
Meanwhile the Colts, missing several key players on half term, lost a friendly at the Rec. to Plymstock Albion Oaks Under 18's.