MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 14th APRIL 2018
CHARD 25 v TORQUAY ATHLETIC 12
The League Table makes glum reading for Torquay Athletic following this defeat away to Chard, which moved Tics' into the second relegation place for the first time this season.
WCW survival however lies in the Club's own hands with the final game of the season against Crediton (third from bottom) to come next Saturday at the Rec. - KO 3.00 pm.
There was no lack of commitment by the visitors, who were playing at the Somerset Club's town centre ground for the first ever time. Such commitment brought the side back from a 13 – 0 deficit at the end of the first quarter to turn round on parity at 13 – 13 at the break.
Both sides looked dangerous, when in the red zone, resulting in four tries being shared equally during that half. However, after the break Chard had more of the play and scored another 12 unanswered points. As for the previous week's home win versus Burnham, Tics' Achilles heel was the penalty count against, which reached thirteen in total; although in some instances they can feel justifiably hard done by in the sense that for the second week running they competed against a team which was allowed to successfully flirt with the offside line.
There was also a tendency to kick ball away, when in possession; especially in the second half, when moving it wide might have provided a more demanding test for Chard's defence.
Changes to the away side from the Burnham home win meant the absence of Josh Mackin with shin splints and Andy Knight, who had played in a mid-week game for Torbay Sharks against the Navy, in what was reported as a physically demanding match.
However, on the plus side props Calvin Bradley and Lloyd Penhalagan returned and James Norrish was restored at lock as Tics' coaches looked to bulk up the pack in expectation of a real test against a Chard eight, who have often dominated the opposition on home soil.
In practice Torquay were far from outdone at all at the set piece and probably enjoyed slight supremacy at scrum time.
Both sides made a series of basic errors, which affected the game's continuity. In particular Chard's pack could not cope with high spiralling re-start kicks by James Wood, which were spilled on four occasions, much to the frustration of home supporters.
The sun came out to greet the Teams on a pitch with just enough give; but with some boggy patches around each 22' line – not dissimilar to the Rec. surface.
Concession of a first penalty proved costly for the visitors after Chard had made 50 metres down the right flank on a counter attack. A kick to touch yielded Chard a 5 metre attacking lineout and off third phase prop Nick Hyslop powered over; although Charlie Roberts missed a routine conversion, so it was 5 – 0 after five minutes.
Then Roberts made no mistake with his second kick at goal, awarded for a penalty on Tics' 22', following an offside decision. 8 – 0. Chard increased that lead five minutes later as Torquay were pinged twice in quick succession; the second of which for side entry to a driving maul. Chard again trusted to their driving maul from 5 metres out on the right, with their pack moving infield before putting in centre Bill Biss from close range for 13 – 0.
Chard's spilling of the re-start kick on their own 22' proved costly as a solid Tics' scrum allowed No. 8 Lewis Harben to penetrate down the narrow side and when he was halted Alex Jeffery re-cycled the ball to Jon Woodhead, who took the aerial route to dive over two defenders on the try line to get the touchdown.
Shortly after Tics' scored down the left after winning a lineout on the Chard 10 metre line and setting up a strong drive deep into the 22.' Again the blind side proved profitable with an offload to flanker Isaac Fahey who charged over for 13 – 10 after 33 minutes.
Chard responded when Tics' were pinged for a second time for dragging down a maul, but Torquay stole the Chard lineout throw an an accurate touch finding kick by Wood took Torquay back up to halfway.
As Tics' returned to the attack Chard were penalised for just the third time and Wood kicked towards the corner, where the Torquay catch and drive was again put into operation. Such led to two penalties in quick succession conceded by Chard and the second of these in front of the posts was slotted by Wood to tie the scores.
Within 5 minutes of the second half start Torquay conceded two more penalties and on the second such occasion Chard's element of surprise with a quick tap penalty gave flanker Luke Hill the space to get in over the line on the narrow side. A change in kicker for Chard failed to bring the two extra conversion points.
Lloyd Penhalagan and Richard Read then came on into the front and back row respectively to replace Josh Castleton and Norrish; with Tom Whitford moving up to the second row. Another spilt re-start by Chard and Tics' attacked from the resulting scrum down the right, with Alex Stafford strong in the carry, before the ball was lost on the ground close to the try line and once again Tics' were penalised for an infringement.
However, Tics' were given the opportunity to return to the opposition half when Jeffery was clearly obstructed on a chase of his own clearing kick ahead. A Wood touch kick and another lineout catch and drive ensued, but Chard now seemed to have the measure of how to defend this and when the maul was held up the chance for Tics' had seemingly gone.
However at the scrum Carl Turner took one against the head and Tics' were again able to exert pressure on the home try line. Chard then broke out down the right and Torquay found themselves on the wrong end of a referring decision as the Official may have been unsighted to see a clear Chard knock-on, but instead awarded a penalty to Chard leading to an attacking lineout 10 metres out on the right, entering the final quarter.
Chard stayed deep into the Torquay half and although their attacks were initially resisted it was at the
cost of three more Torquay indiscretions. Eventually Chard were able to contrive another score with a clean catch and drive, before hooker Joe Mainwaring peeled off the back to score and Roberts converted for 25 – 13.
Torquay responded by attacking strongly down the right and a quick tap penalty by Turner saw him make good ground until the Referee found fault with Tics' at a breakdown, allowing Chard to kick clear.
Undaunted Tics' came straight back and pressure was put on at a Chard 5 metre defending scrum, such that the hurried clearing kick was skewed to give Torquay another attacking lineout from 10 metres. By now Turner had just retired, with Castleton returning to take the No. 2 shirt.
Chard's penalty count was now rising and when they took out a Tics' jumper at the next lineout Wood was able to clear to just inside the Chard 22.' A catch and drive got close before Chard added to their penalty tally and gave Tics' one final chance at a 5 metre attacking lineout. However a decision to throw to a back jumper was perhaps too risky and so it proved as a knock-on ensued and although Tics' had exerted eight minutes of pressure on Chard there was to be no reward in the form of a score to deliver a potentially valuable losing bonus point.
Torquay enjoyed a strong supporter following to Chard and it is earnestly hoped that this will be duplicated for the home match versus Crediton. For both sides the task is straightforward (although not simple). Despite the fact that bonus points gained from the last game of the season may play a part if other results involving those at the wrong end of the Table go the way of Crediton and Tics' the most realistic assessment is that both Clubs need to win.
On the basis of their home win by 17 – 13 on the same Saturday versus Tiverton, the mid Devon side will arrive with some confidence; allied to which any players in their colours can always be relied on to provide maximum commitment.
The game is rather more than a Cup Final; it is vital to the immediate aspirations of both clubs to stay in this ultra-competitive league. Torquay will be hoping that home supporters come out in force.
TORQUAY TEAM:15 – Tony McCarthy, 14 – Alex Stafford, 13 – Ben Spear, 12 – Chris Robson-Close, 11 – Mike Cavanna, 10 – James Wood, 9 – Alex Jeffery,1 – Josh Castleton, 2 – Bertie Turner, 3 – Calvin Bradley, 4 – James Norrish, 5 – Jon Woodhead (Captain), 6 - Tom Whitford, 7 – Isaac Fahey, 8 – Lewis Harben.
Replacements: Lloyd Penhalagan, Richard Read and Liam Maus.