MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 21st APRIL 2018
TORQUAY ATHLETIC 19 v CREDITON 22
Both Clubs went into this crucial last match of the season knowing that despite various permutations involving match results elsewhere it was realistic to suppose that whoever could carve out a victory would secure WCW status for another season, possibly at the expense of the opposition.
As such it was to be a fraught and uncomfortable afternoon, which for Torquay Athletic players and supporters ended in abject disappointment. In the cruellest manner possible the Team's lead of 19 – 15 going into time added on , was overhauled by a Crediton try and conversion in the final minute of play.
One can never discount Crediton, especially in a close game. In the first match of the season a depleted Kirton side had come back from a 26 – 3 deficit against Torquay to register two well worked late tries.
More recently, in the previous week they had come from behind at home against fellow strugglers Tiverton by scoring a converted try five minutes from time, to win 17 – 13. That try had been scored by Barrie Karea, a young eighteen year old of South Sea Island descent, who has just been offered an Academy contract by Exeter Chiefs.
Karea had also scored a try in the first Crediton / Tics' encounter and he always presented a potential threat, although on this occasion he was marshalled pretty well by Torquay defenders, with the entire back row putting in sound performances.
The biggest crowd of the season turned out in bright sunshine and warm conditions, swelled by a large Kirton contingent, plus visiting Junior Teams and their parents from Truro and South Wales.
During the preceding week Tics' were hit with two pieces of bad news affecting selection. First, No. 8 Lewis Harben needed an immediate operation to repair a snapped tendon in a finger, sustained the week before at Chard. He would have been a sure starter, as would Calvin Bradley at tight head prop. Unfortunately he learned during the week that a previously postponed work course, away from the Town, had been re-scheduled and attendance through Friday and into Saturday was necessary.
Partly to compensate Torquay selectors decided that for such a pressurised fixture they should go for experience. So it was that Coach Ed Barnes played at stand-off and Bevon Armitage was persuaded to come out of retirement one more time. Both played well and gave the Torquay backline more potency with some inventive play, especially in the early stages. Their presence provided the opportunity to play recent regular No. 10 James Wood further out at outside centre, which enabled him to find more space to positive effect.
Both Teams gave everything they had got in testing temperatures and the match contained many aspects of tangible excitement. Despite the importance it was played in a good spirit.
Unfortunately for Tics' one of the normally strong parts of their game, the lineout, went missing for reasons that it is hard to put a finger on, although Crediton deserve some credit for competing so well at this set piece. On perhaps five occasions that pressure in the air led to knock-ons of throws by Torquay jumpers.
Conversely the Crediton lineout worked well throughout, with just a couple of “not straight” throws proving the exception to that rule.
In the previous two weeks Tics' had fallen foul of refereeing decisions, which were a contributory factor to a rather laboured home win against relegated Burnham, when the count was eleven against (Burnham only five). Then at Chard this increased to an unwanted ratio of thirteen to ten.
On this day Torquay were pulled up no less than eighteen times; with five of those occasions being for adjudged high tackles. Management at Crediton stated that their discipline has been a strong feature of their recent play. Their overall total of three offences (two being for offside) during the whole match does seem remarkable for any Team playing at Level 7.
Crediton kicked off towards the cricket square, on a pitch ideal for running rugby. Keeping things simple Torquay immediately responded with a clearing kick to half way.
However as Crediton came back from the resultant lineout Tics' were adjudged offside in a fairly central location on their 22.' To the relief of home support Karea put his kick wide.
Then when Crediton returned the re-start kick beyond the dead ball line a Tics' scrum just outside the Kirton 22' gave Barnes the platform for some interplay with Armitage, with the latter breaking the opposition defensive line. However play was called back for a forward pass.
Crediton then kicked straight out from outside their 22', giving Tics' a lineout at which the visitors offended. Wood put the ball eight metres out from the try line on the right, but the Torquay throw was deemed not straight. This enabled Crediton to clear up to their own 10 metre line but such respite was short as Tics' opened their account with a cracking try.
From off the top won lineout ball Barnes showed soft hands with a short pop pass to Alex Stafford, who had come off his right wing. His well timed run broke the gain line and on the Kirton 22' he passed to Wood, who sped in to dot down under the posts and then convert. 7 – 0 in the 13th minute.
Crediton counter attacked from the re-start down the right but a well judged kick ahead was reached first by Tics' full back Tom Drake, who dotted down for a 22' dropout. Then another piece of entertaining play by Tics' backs after the forwards had broken the gain line in the opposition half. Barnes involved both centres until a long pass to exploit space wide left was spilled.
More invention followed from Torquay backs, prompted by Barnes inside the Crediton 22; this time with the ball going left. However Karea anticipated cleverly and intercepted a short pass before setting off for the opposite end. Last man Drake managed to slow the ball carrier's progress just enough for other defenders to chase back. These included lock and Skipper Jon Woodhead, who ran diagonally fully 70 metres to bring off an important tackle.
As Crediton came back into the Tics' 22 the home side were pinged twice in succession. Crediton eschewed going for the posts and settled for a 5 metre attacking lineout down their left. An obvious training ground move worked perfectly with a planned overthrow collected by lock Josh Pearce to make the short distance virtually unopposed. Mark Lee missed the conversion, so it was 7 – 5 after 22 minutes.
Then a blow for Torquay as Wood retired in the 25th minute after taking a blow above one eye. Open side Chris Robson-Close was brought back to no. 13 with Jacob Loewy, playing his first game after four weeks out with broken hand, coming off the bench in his favoured position of open side flanker.
Another Crediton lineout 15 metres out came on the half hour as Tics' were found offending again, but this time a forward pass halted the visitors progress.
Two minutes later home hooker Carl Turner received physio attention for a second time, but continued. Then a further problem for Torquay as Woodhead was shown yellow for slowing down release at a ruck. Crediton decided to scrum the penalty award, so Coach Chris Dorling immediately sent on James Norrish to shore up the second row; with Robson-Close withdrawn.
Torquay then went offside inside their own 22' and this time no. 13 Mark Lee stepped up to give his side a 7 – 8 lead in the 37th minute, with a simple penalty.
From the re-start and given impetus through a strong carry by no. 6 Isaac Fahey Tics' attacked strongly down the left and hard work paid dividends after a series of pick and go's with a score for scrum half Alex Jeffery, wide on the left. With Wood not rejoining the match until five minutes into the second half Jeffery deputised as place kicker, but his conversion hit the left hand post and bounced out; so it was 12 – 8.
A minute later brought another Kirton penalty for a high tackle on Karea and a lineout for the visitors just inside the Tics' 22.' There had been a few injury stoppages and five minutes additional time was being played.
Crediton then stretched the home side by working the ball first left to right and then back again. Eventually Torquay found themselves defending in the wide channel with a surfeit of forwards and Josh Lee managed to get over in the corner. Mark Lee's good conversion gave his side a 12 – 15 half time advantage.
Torquay's first attack in the second half showed promise with a backs move left to right through the hands, until a final pass was knocked on. Woodhead then returned together with Wood and Robson-Close five minutes in.
A sweeping backs move right to left led to Drake double tackled just a metre short of the try line. Harry Snell now replaced Josh Castleton in the front row.
More home pressure with Woodhead tackled under the posts, but stretching out to touch down marginally short. No matter: Possession was retained and re-cycled to the left where Jeffery squeezed over. Wood converted for 19 – 15 after 55 minutes.
Jeffery then tried an interception of a pass just inside Kirton's 22', but knocked on and was penalised. Another Torquay high tackle took Tics' up to a round dozen penalties against.
Entering the final quarter Norrish and Loewy returned for Tom Whitford and Robson-Close respectively. However, as time for Crediton was running out Woodhead was forced to retire with recurring cramp. There were two minutes left, plus any injury time added on.
It was now Tics' turn to defend as Crediton started to gain the upper hand in the set scrum for the first time in the match. Again Tics' faltered by knocking on a lineout on their own 22', but after going through some attacking phases Kirton also suffered a rare lineout failure, enabling Wood to kick clear to half way.
Into time added on and Tics' now on the attack in the opponents 22' after a strong carry through the middle by Fahey: With no support immediate for an offload he was tackled and then pinged for not releasing the ball. Crediton kicked the penalty to Tics' 10 metre line. Then a second penalty for a Torquay offence at a ruck, followed by a third for a high tackle. In short order a fourth penalty for Crediton was granted and they elected for a 5 metre scrum close to the posts.
From this Kirton won ball and Tics' defended a few phases before replacement hooker Mark Nott managed to get over on the narrow side. 19 – 20. Mark Lee stroked over the conversion to make it 19 - 22 as the eighth minute of added time was starting. There was no time left and the final whistle sounded, sending those of a Torquay persuasion into shock and despair; whilst the Crediton players and supporters were understandably euphoric.
So, when it all starts off again early next September, Torquay Athletic will compete in the hitherto unknown of Devon & Cornwall League.
15 – Tom Drake, 14 – Tony McCarthy, 13 – James Wood, 12 – Bevon Armitage, 11 – Alex Stafford, 10 – Ed Barnes, 9 – Alex Jeffery
1 – Josh Castleton, 2 – Carl Turner, 3 – Lloyd Penhalagan, 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 – Jon Woodhead (Cptain), 6 – Isaac Fahey, 7 – Chris Robson-Close, 8 – Josh Mackin.
Replacements: - Harry Snell, James Norrish, Jacob Loewy (all played)
Earlier the Extras had taken on Crediton Thirds in a DMT2 on the Rec. The Seconds rushed into a 19 – 0 lead, but then some personnel changes by Kirton enabled them to claw back to 19 – all. However, in the second half Torquay managed two more tries (one converted) to run out 31 – 19 winners.
Such cemented second place in this League of twelve Teams, with only five losses all season for the Extras. The Club is grateful for the commitment of the always cheerful Rob Harben in managing the Second string, with the help of Jason Crocker. Only once did the Team have to cry off from a fixture due to a shortage of numbers.