MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 7th APRIL 2018
TORQUAY ATHLETIC 15 – v BURNHAM- ON – SEA 5
Torquay Athletic won this match against Burnham and it was fortunate that they did; otherwise they would have fallen to thirteenth in the Table to occupy the second relegation spot.
The match was not much of a spectacle, mostly due to the state of the pitch, which was again very wet and boggy in places following over six hours of heavy rain overnight. The Club is indebted to local Devon Society Referee Neal Woodhead, who agreed to carry out an early morning inspection at 10.00 am on Saturday morning. He liaised with appointed match Referee Mr. Steve Bubyer, who would be travelling from Ilfracombe.
At the time of that inspection and with good background knowledge of the Rec. pitch and the effect of high tide times Mr. Woodhead advised his colleague that it was very likely the match could go ahead, provided that no further significant rain fell – and it did not.
Already relegated Burnham are a young side, who have registered only three wins all season; none of which had been on the road. One of their home wins had been against a depleted Tics' side in early December.
Tics' game plan had been for a high intensity approach, with every effort to secure a victory and then a four try bonus point. The first aim was achieved, but not the second.
This had much to do with a very spirited performance by the visitors, who enjoyed the lion's share of territory and possession in the second half, having turned around 10 – 0 adrift. Another factor was the conditions; which mitigated against open running rugby, unless a high degree of accuracy was involved. Burnham had excellent line speed in defence; albeit that sometimes they flirted successfully with the offside line.
Otherwise Tics' fell short of the four try aspiration because of what could be considered an untidy performance overall; notably in the second half when the penalty count against shot up from a very respectable three at half time to eleven overall – the home side falling on the wrong side of the Referee's judgement for a wide range of technical offences; which halted any attempted continuity in their play.
Burnham had first opportunity of opening the scoring when home full back and Colt, Julian Martin was isolated in trying to run back a deep kick ahead and was pinged for holding on. However visiting fly half Tim Piper could not convert from a fairly central position 27 metres out.
Tics' came closest to scoring after making a first visit to the opposing 22' in the ninth minute, but after a good break up the left by wing Alex Stafford a final offload went to ground, just short of the try line..
Then, after Torquay probed the Burnham defence with two five metre attacking lineouts, punctuated by a five metre scrum put-in a knock on interrupted progress. Still Tics' kept up the pressure and after pushing the visiting pack back off their own scrum put-in deep in the red zone home no. 7 Chris Robson-Close got a touch down for 5 – 0.
Burnham put the pressure back on themselves with the re-start kick not going the required ten metres. Then Robson-Close scored again after popping up on the right wing and sprinting from the 22' to the corner. His try was due to the quick thinking and accuracy of scrum half Alex Jeffery, who took the visitors by surprise with a quick tap penalty and after causing alarm in the Burnham defence threw a long pass which was collected by the try scorer without breaking stride.
This made it 10 – 0 in the 35th minute. Right wing Tony Brierley then retired with re occurrence of an ankle strain. Tony McCarthy came off the bench to take the no. 15 shirt and Martin moved to the right wing.
Just before the break Jeffery caused the visitors further alarm with a similar break from half way on a quick tap down the left, but Alex Stafford, in support, was tackled into touch.
At the start of the second half inside centre Josh Mackin and Robson-Close swapped positions. Burnham caused the earliest stir with a lineout seven metres from the try line, but after three phases of ball retention Carl Turner turned the ball over and Tics' were able to clear, assisted by a penalty for a late tackle on James Wood.
Then Tics' play became more disjointed and Burnham were next to score, when a quick tap penalty on the home 22' broke the defensive line and scrum half Sam Lewis was up in support to score 10 – 5.
Torquay's supremacy at the set scrum then came to their rescue as Burnham were again pushed off their own ball when Tics' were defending on their own five metre line. Fortunately for home supporters it seemed that Tics' best efforts and most effective concentration were applied in defence during this somewhat fraught period.
That is until just over 10 minutes from full time when Burnham came round the side when defending a maul. Wood put the penalty to within five metres down the left. A secure middle ball catch allowed a good drive to be set up, but Burnham defended well until a lack of patience by the home side resulted in a free kick to the visitors for accidental offside.
Then, with five minutes remaining another lineout down the left on Burnham's 22'. This time the maul was precise and with good body positions Tics' made it all the way to the try line at some speed, with Jeffery capping a fine display by burrowing in to get the touchdown. 15 – 5 and some daylight.
Then another period of successful defending by Tics' after concession of a tenth penalty had given Burnham excellent field position. Deep in to injury time McCarthy went on a run out of defence and kicked deep and straight ahead. The Burnham full back was the only player covering but he was caught by a speedy ball chase by both McCarthy and Martin. It appeared that the No. 15 had erred by holding on to the ball on the ground, with defensive support not arriving quickly enough, but instead Torquay were perhaps harshly penalised for hand in the ruck (albeit there was some doubt that a ruck had actually been formed) and the last chance of snatching a bonus point try had gone.
Tics' now travel to Chard on Saturday 14th April, where there is a 3.00 pm KO. A coach will leave the Rec. at 11.45 am and supporters are most welcome. Whilst Tics' were comfortable winners by 35 – 12 at home against the Somerset outfit in early December, Chard are reckoned to be a different proposition on home turf, where they are said to rely heavily on a strong set of forwards. Four home losses at their Essex Close address have come against sides in the top five of the Table, but there have been convincing home wins for Chard against fellow strugglers Burnham, Paignton and Tiverton.
The competitive nature of this League this season is illustrated by a look at past statistics: Over the seven successive seasons in which Tics; have been in WCW the highest number of points garnered by a Team ending up in the second relegation spot was Bude, last year with a total of 39 points.
The average points tally over that period for a Club ending up thirteenth is 33. Currently second from bottom Crediton have 43 points and both Torquay and Chard share 46 points , along with Paignton (who visit Falmouth, on 44 points) this coming Saturday).
15 – Julian Martin, 14 – Alex Stafford, 13 – Ben Spear, 12 – Josh Mackin, 11 – Tony Brierley, 10 – James Wood, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Josh Castleton, 2 – Carl Turner, 3 – Jon Woodhead (Captain), 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 -Andy Knight, 6 – Isaac Fahey, 7 – Chris Robson-Close 8 – Lewis Harben.
Replacements: Dan King, Richard Read and Tony McCarthy (all played).
The Extras lost three players from a bare squad of fifteen overnight on Friday and pulled out of a DMT2 away match versus Exmouth Thirds.
The Colts were affected by absences over the Easter holiday and likewise conceded their Colts Plate.