TORQUAY ATHLETIC 21 v ST AUSTELL 15 (match abandoned after 74th minute).
MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 20th JANUARY 2018
Following an early morning pitch inspection by Match Referee Mr. Nigel Boyd the Rec. pitch was declared fit for play. Several games did not proceed following yet another week of wet weather. In Western Counties West these included scheduled matches at Chard, Tiverton and Kingsbridge.
Paignton Seconds called off their game at Queens Park, Brixham did not play their home Devon derby against Exmouth and further afield the Plymouth Albion home fixture was lost to the weather.
The main talking point of this match was the early abandonment, with the agreement of both Clubs after 74 minutes completed, due to a serious injury to Tics' replacement lock Joel Hempton, who had not long been on the pitch. The initial, on pitch diagnosis was a dislocated and/or broken elbow, which Joel sustained on the ground after a break down in play. No foul play was believed to be involved.
This game young player really does have the most wretched of fortunes on a rugby field. This season his appearances have been dogged by a back problem. However it was in November 2016, at home against the same opposition that Joel sustained a badly broken collar bone, requiring restorative surgery and a very long period out of the game. Even when he returned Joel was injured in the same area, having been given the all clear to start playing again.
All at the Club wish Joel a speedy and comfortable recovery.
The match was played in overcast conditions with a light south west breeze. As has been the case recently Tics' were affected by a number of unavailability; largely in the backs. Such required the First Team debut introductions of three Colts, including Joel's younger brother Jake on one wing and seventeen year old Jacob Brady on the other. Inside centre Ed Bate was also playing his first Senior match and following his transfer back from Newton Abbot Josh Mackin appeared at full back. Although versatile, Josh would be unlikely to wear the 15 shirt as his first choice. Jacob Loewy continued at scrum half, with Alex Jeffery away for another week.
A late work related problem also deprived Tics' of a replacement back; the Seconds having already left to travel to Topsham for a Merit Table match.
The top surface was very wet, although surprisingly firm in most areas, having only been played or trained on twice in the past fortnight.
St Austell arrived on the back of a surprise home defeat to lowly Tiverton, but they still lay third in the Table, with a good chance of making the play off spot.
Early on Saints dominated territory, without really threatening. Then Torquay advanced into the opposition half for the first time when fly half Nathan Pring kicked accurately for touch. Then, playing advantage Mackin broke free from half way and used Isaac Fahey in support to offload. The forwards then took over, advancing with phase play up to the try line but where Tics' were adjudged held up.
From the scrum those same forwards continued in the pick and go vein resulting in tight head Calvin Bradley getting over the line in the 11th minute and Pring converting for a 7 – 0 lead.
On the re-start Tics' backline moved down the left, leading to a penalty, which Pring put within 10 metres of the try line for an attacking lineout. The forwards then drove again strongly infield towards the posts, before a forward pass briefly halted that progress. However when Saints knocked on within their own 22' Isaac Fahey took advantage and got over from short range to give a reasonable pot at goal by Pring, which was successful, making it 14 – 0.
Pring was playing sensible rugby in the conditions and returned Saints re-start kick to the sanctity of touch on half way. The home forwards were being used to keep the ball away from the visitors and doing it well. Loewy was wisely selective about when to release the ball to an inexperienced back line, but when he did Jack Barnes in the centre was running straight lines enabling the forwards to get more easily to the break down.
St Austell then opened their account with a very good, long cross kick from No. 10 Chris Ashwin. The ball fell to ground plugged conveniently in what has been the muddiest part of the pitch for right wing Cavan Boyer to collect and run in from the 22.' Liam Freeman's conversion hit the upright and bounced out so it was 14 – 5 after 27 minutes.
Then a break out down the left by Saints led to a try by Ashwin, following interplay in the backs. However Tics' would have been disappointed that the tackling had not been stronger. This time Freeman converted from wide out for 14 – 12 after 33 minutes.
Soon after a penalty to Torquay was put within 7 metres of the try line on the right. A middle ball catch and a quick maul set up led to Bradley getting over for a second time. An excellent conversion by Pring from the touchline on the “right side” for a let footed kicker made the posts for 21 – 12 with five minutes to half time, at which point the scores remained the same.
The Torquay pack had played well during the first period, but really stepped up the ante following the break. Almost immediately a maul was set up down the right side on Saints 22' and made it all the way to the try line, where a knock on halted progress.
Tics' returned to the attack in the 50th minute zig zagging one way and then other with forwards in the vanguard and profiting to the extent of a 5 metre scrum put in. This time St. Austell managed to steal, but Torquay would not be denied and another penalty to the home side was this time kicked to within 5 metres of the try line. A good solid catch ensued again off middle ball, as Bertie Turner once again showed his worth to the Team with accurate line out throwing.
A by now familiar rumble started, but when Jon Woodhead appeared to have a gap in front of him at the head of the drive he suddenly went to ground over the prone body of a Saints defender. Tics' had hoped for another penalty or better, but it did not come.
In total Tics stayed straining away in the Saints 22' for an estimated 15 minutes, but try as they might the four try bonus point would not come. Woodhead got over the try line, but only by pirouetting backwards and as he landed on his back his hand was holding the ball turned upwards and it eluded his grasp as he tried to twist and exert sufficient downward pressure to convince the Referee of a legitimate score.
Next, Mackin was adjudged held up over the line. Despite all this pressure Tics' could not find a way to score and one has to have some regard for Saints defensive efforts.
With the game entering its final quarter the excellent Bradley retired with a knock and Josh Castleton came into the front row.
Tics' then conceded a penalty in front of their own posts at a breakdown 30 metres out and Freeman tried for goal. His shot appeared to be going to the right but took a late curve inwards, hit the upright and this time rebounded over the crossbar. 21 – 15 with an estimated 10 minutes to play.
Ashwin then sent two long, low clearance kicks deep into Tics' territory to prevent Torquay getting another forwards foothold, as before. This led to Torquay having to defend two line outs in quick succession close in to their own line, but they managed to do so. Anticipating that the set scrum may have lost some bulk with Bradley's exit the Coaches sent on Joel Hempton to add bulk. He went into the second row with Tom Whitford replacing Isaac Fahey at No. 6.
Then came the stoppage for Joel Hempton's injury and the eventual abandonment of the match.
It would be a very fitting reward for a very gutsy performance by the players if the match result were to stand, but the Club now has an anxious wait to find out the decision of the League Secretary, following his studying of separate reports by both Clubs and the match Referee.
Nathan Pring had arguably had his most influential match in a First Team shirt, but he ended up with a visit to A & E at Torbay where it was confirmed that he had a broken bone in his hand.
Next up are Sidmouth in the League on 27th January, KO 2.30 pm. The East Devon side are the in form outfit in WCW having turned around a poor start to the season, when they lost seven matches, by winning seven out of their past eight League fixtures.
After that the home League match v Paignton on 4th February assumes major importance to both sides, given their respective lowly Table positions.
15 – Josh Mackin, 14 Jacob Brady, 13 – Jack Barnes, 12 – Ed Bate, 11 – Jake Hempton, 10 – Nathan Pring, 9 – Jacob Loewy,
1 – Liam Murray, 2 – Carl Turner, 3 – Calvin Bradley, 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 – Jon Woodhead (Captain), 6 – Isaac Fahey, 7 – Shane Wakeham, 8 – Lewis Harben
Replacements: Joel Hempton, Josh Castleton (both played), Arron Graham
The Seconds played a vital DMT2 match at Topsham, which has become the home for Exeter Engineers, a useful team of University students, who are going well in the league.
The match was ahard slog for everyone in very testing conditions on a wet pitch. The Extras managed to bag two tries through Podge Norrish and Dan Woods, which gave them a 5 – 10 victory.
The Colts had no match, due to First and Second Team calls, plus the need for their Coach, Matt McCann to be on duty for the First Team fixture.