MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 9th DECEMBER 2017
TORQUAY ATHLETIC 35 v CHARD RFC 12
A much needed and fully deserved home win for Torquay Athletic, breaking a sequence of four consecutive League defeats. There was a welcome return for five players, which included long term injury victims in Bertie Turner at hooker and Arron Graham on the left wing. The result illustrated that when regular First Team starters are available Tics' are better equipped to compete successfully in this League.
It is hoped that when the League programme resumes in the New Year on 6th January, at home to Falmouth, two other key players in Captain Jon Woodhead and No. 8 specialist Lewis Harben may each have recovered sufficiently from their respective long term injuries to be included in selection.
Chard are something of an enigma, somewhat like a few of the Cornish Clubs, who are not able to match solid home form with success on the road. This season Chard have lost all away fixtures, except at bottom Club Burnham.
By reputation their strength is a strong pack and on the day this was proven with an overall superiority in the set scrums; although not to the extent that they were able to benefit directly from having a number of five metre attacking platforms at this set piece.
Thankfully the recent cold wind had abated and although cool the weather was dry throughout.
Tics' got off to the best possible start with a strong carry from Chard's kick off by prop Calvin Bradley, followed by a willowy “ball in both hands” run by Joel Ashworth, taking play deep into the Chard 22.' The visitors then infringed, resulting in an attacking 5 metre lineout for Torquay. A solid middle ball catch set the platform. Arron Graham came off his left wing to break through and score close to the posts, with Ashworth adding the conversion. A 7 – 0 lead in the fifth minute.
Chard came straight back and twice had their own 5 metre lineouts down the right, but could not break through, even when granted two successive 5 metre scrums under the shadow of the posts, after being held up over the try line.
Tics' then suffered a set back when experienced No. 8 Chris Smith, who had just recovered from illness earlier in the week, was forced to retire with a groin strain. His place was taken by Dave Carpenter, whose noise would enable Torquay to make the best of retreating scrum ball for the rest of the encounter.
A straight shot at goal by wing Emil Sxydelko from Tics' 10 metre line gave Chard a chance to open their account, but it went wide.
Torquay then broke back upfield. James Wood, playing at centre, made a break and kicked intelligently deep and to his right. Wing Ben Spear was able to trap the retrieving Chard defender with the ball, which was dislodged. Following up, Shane Wakeham picked up the pieces to dive over in the corner. Ashworth then hit a fine conversion from the touchline for 14 – 0 after 15 mnutes.
Despite their strength in the set scrum Chard's lineout was misfiring, while Torquay, with Turner settling back into a consistently good throwing groove, were finding profit from this set piece.
Just after the half hour mark Torquay attacked through the backs, left to right. Again Wood sought out Spear with a chip and the right wing caught it at full gallop on the full. Another 5 metre lineout to Torquay and the ball was moved quickly across the full width of the pitch, where Chard were again pinged by Devon Referee Mr. Ian Strawbridge.
Another solid, close in lineout by Tics' and the ball was moved infield with a series of secure drives before Chard defenders had been sucked in sufficiently for lock James Norrish to finish with a short dart around the corner. Again Ashworth obliged with the conversion for 21 – 0 in the 35th minute.
Then Chard opened their account as Tics' were penalised for a back being in front of the kicker and not retiring. This time Chard's 5 metre lineout functioned better and they moved infield with lock Luke Hill bursting over and Szydelko converting for a score of 21 – 7 at the turnaround.
The only blight on proceedings thus far had been Tics' concession of eight penalties, compared with five by Chard.
Four minutes into the second half Bradley retired after a knock. He was replaced by Lloyd Penhalagan and shortly thereafter Dan Woods appeared in place of James Norrish.
Tics' fourth try and a bonus point came after good defensive sets, mainly by the forwards, had prevented the visitors from getting a foothold. On half way the ball was moved left across the field to Graham, who set off down the flank from the half way line. Beating covering defenders for speed he took out the full back by breaking infield and his dot down under the posts made the conversion by Ashworth a formality. A good individual try and a 28 – 7 lead in the 55th minute.
Then indiscipline by Chard as back chat led to a penalty to Tics', but having kicked for field position the resulting lineout was lost for the first time of the afternoon. Having played from the start in his normal No. 2 position for the first time in many, many weeks Turner was then rested, having enjoyed a fine match.
Tics' had dominated the second half in terms of possession and territory. Chard seemed stuck between a rock and a hard place. Astute and accurate kicking from hand by Torquay backs had kept Chard away from the Torquay 22'. By comparison Chard kicks ahead had been threateningly run back by the Tics' backs. Also, good first up tackling by the home forwards in particular (Wakeham and Loewy were especially prominent) meant that the visitors were having to work hard to exit their own 22' without resorting to kicking.
Tics' capped a good performance by the backs when Jacob Loewy won ball inside the Chard 22.' He went to ground to protect the ball, which was worked back to Wood, who scored another fine individual try. From the 22' he chipped off the side of his foot with a well weighted kick, directed away from the full back and duly won the race to the touchdown. Ashworth's conversion meant he could boast a five out of five kicking success and Tics' were out of sight at 35 – 7.
Chard then scored a consolation try with what turned out to be the last play of the match. Again it was Luke Hill, who ran in strongly from the Torquay 22.'
Despite a multitude of changes in personnel Tics' had gelled well and provided a good all round performance as the half way stage of the League season has been reached. The win was needed to put further distance from the two relegation places.
Next week there is a trip to third placed Devonport Services at the Rectory. In the home fixture in early September Torquay came thrillingly from behind to snatch a 36 – 34 win, but will find Services a difficult nut to crack at home, where they have a 100 % win record this season.
15 – Jonny Brown, 14 – Arron Graham, 13 – Bevon Armitage (Captain), 12 – James Wood, 11 – Ben Spear, 10 – Joel Ashworth, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Liam Murray, 2 – Carl Turner, 3 – Calvin Bradley, 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 – James Norrish, 6 – Shane Wakeham, 7 – Jacob Loewy, 8 – Chris Smith.
Replacements: Dan Woods, Dave Carpenter and Lloyd Penhalagan (all played).
At TVN the Colts met Sidmouth in a scheduled Devon Merit Table fixture. Unfortunately Sidmouth mirrored a problem with Colts rugby this term by only being able to raise twelve players. They deserve credit however for travelling in such circumstances. Tics' lent three players on rotation during the match and the final score was 44 – 12 to the home side.
Unfortunately friendly fixtures for the Colts over the next two weeks have already bitten the dust with neither Teignmouth, nor Paignton able to raise sides on the 16th and 23rd December, respectively.