MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 17th MARCH 2018
TORQUAY ATHLETIC 27 v TIVERTON 20
Torquay Athletic made full use of the opportunity presented by a second successive home League match by winning with a four try bonus point against a doughty Tiverton side, who are likewise in a battle to avoid relegation.
These were very difficult conditions for players and Devon Referee Gary Locke alike; the game taking place on a pitch that was very soft in a number of places and mostly during an afternoon of snow showers driven in by a bitter east wind.
Understandably the conditions were a deterrent to many supporters and the attendance will also have been affected by the last series of Six Nations matches being shown on terrestrial TV.
Selection for the home side was once more a challenge and so thanks to the patience of Coaching staff and those who stepped up from the Extras. Tics' had played Tivvy away twice in November; first in the League and then in the Devon Intermediate Cup. Since those dates three of Torquay's centres have retired, winger Jonny Brown has transferred to Newton Abbot and after Christmas another back, Joel Ashworth left for New Zealand. Therefore against Tiverton on this occasion only Ed Barnes appeared in the back line from the first of those November games and winger Ben Spears (who played in the subsequent Cup game) was the only back present from that particular encounter.
17th March was originally a free League date and it was not only Tics' who were affected by unavailability issues: None of the Tiverton six different try scorers from those previous two games were in the squad for this visit, with injured fly half Matt Down making a seventh player not to appear.
Tiverton kicked off towards the cricket square, with Torquay having first use of the wind at their backs. In their first attack the Mid Devon side put left wing Ben Newman away with a strong run down the flank until he was excellently tackled by Jacob Loewy, who was playing at No. 9 instead of his usual no. 7.
Tics' starting pack had a trusty settled look, but within the first 20 minutes lost tight head prop Calvin Bradley and then hooker Carl Turner to injury. Josh Castleton deputised ably for the former and then moved across to hooker, when Turner departed later. Fortunately the forwards lost none of their overall domination in the set scrum and both Bradley and Turner were able to return for parts of the second half.
As Torquay mounted their first venture into the opposition half progress was made via carries by Jon Woodhead and Bradley before the ball was moved left amongst the backs. At the next breakdown Barnes' subtle hands with a pop pass, aided by Spears well timed run saw the inside centre sprint purposefully through to score under the posts. Barnes converted for 7 – 0 in the sixth minute.
Tivvy responded two minutes later working phases down the left and then releasing wing James Newman to run down the touchline for 7 – 5.
Calvin Bradley then departed with a back strain, but Torquay increased the lead when Tivvy went offside 25 metres in front of their own posts and Barnes stroked over a penalty for 10 – 5.
Tiverton then kicked the re-start kick straight out and Tics' immediately took advantage, with Lewis Harben breaking off the back of a set scrum in the centre of the field. He made ground quickly and purposefully before drawing the last defender and finding Jacob Loewy on his shoulder, with the latter running in to touch down. 15 – 5 after 15 minutes.
Then another promising Tics' attack with short passing by the forwards down the right side channel followed by a Woodhead charge further infield, before an offence for holding on on the ground halted matters. Carl Turner then retired.
However a short time later a skewed clearing kick from Tivvy gave Tics a lineout in the attacking half. The experienced Andy Knight was first to respond, demanding a quick throw from Castleton before Tivvy's forwards could react and form up. Castleton duly sent an underarm throw the required five metres and although hesitating momentarily, Knight then realised no-one was at home for the visitors and ran unchallenged down the right touchline to score, much to the consternation of Tiverton's players – but the Referee allowed the try to stand and it was now 20 – 5 in the 24th minute.
At the next scrum close to half way Tics' pushed the visiting eight back off their own ball and a penalty to Torquay resulted. Barnes kicked to within 5 metres down the right and Tics' won a middle throw and then worked the phases to move infield, where Tivvy infringed for a fifth time, just 5 metres out from the try line. Tics' elected to kick to touch again, which was slightly surprising, given Tivvy's obvious discomfort at scrum time. Although Tics' won their own lineout throw a knock on ensued and gave Tivvy relief from the seige.
The tide then started to turn with the hitherto disciplined Tic's conceding a free kick and then three penalties in quick succession. Such passed the initiative to the visitors, who kicked to within 5 metres down their right. Although Torquay held the initial catch and drive scrum half Ed Lewsey (brother of former England full back Josh Lewsey) took charge by going down the blindside and putting in right wing Tomos Emmanuel.
Tivvy were thus given the encouragement of reaching half time still in touch at 20 – 10.
As the second half started Turner came back on and Jacob Fahey (playing out of position on the right wing) took the place of Chris Smith in the back row. Tom Drake appeared on the right wing.
Torquay strayed offside. Tivvy kicked to within 18 metres and using the experienced line-out specialist and Skipper Tom Skelding as a fulcrum drove all the way to the line before switching left for full back Jack Sampson to dive over and then convert his own try for 20 – 17.
Ten minutes after the resumption Tics' were further challenged when Woodhead was shown yellow for what the Referee deemed ungentlemanly conduct.
Another penalty concession by Tics' and another attacking lineout by Tiverton. However on this occasion they were not able to execute and Tics' turned the ball over. Barnes was able to restore some calm with another long and accurate clearance kick and Woodhead returned from the bin at the same time as Bradley decided he was fit enough to resume.
Tics' now came back on the attack and after one attacking lineout had gone awry Tivvy going offside gave the home side the chance to reprise the same set piece as Barnes kicked to touch 12 metres out. This time a back ball was securely taken and a concerted swift driving maul resulted in Woodhead getting the touchdown. Barnes converted against the wind for 27 – 17 with 12 minutes to play.
Then Tivvy nearly scored a try with a breakout down a seemingly unguarded right side. It looked odds on for a score before ex-Colt Julian Martin managed to get across to make a tackle. Nevertheless a clever offload saw a supporting back steam to the corner before the alert Tom Drake, who had travelled right across from his opposite wing, tackled man and ball into touch, taking the corner flag out in the process.
With five minutes left as Tics' went offside in front of the posts Sampson reduced the arrears with a successful kick to make it 27 – 20 and a potentially nervous fag end of the game for the home side.
However thereafter Torquay managed to dominate territory and it was then Tivvy's turn to offend and concede a penalty within striking distance of the posts; a successful penalty kick would deny Tivvy of a losing bonus point.
After some debate Tics' backed their attacking confidence at the driving maul by kicking for touch. Although this did not prove successful and possession after the lineout was ceded to Tiverton the opposition decided on conservatism by kicking the ball dead from within their 22' to end the contest.
Without this win Torquay would have slipped into the second relegation spot. As it now stands they are eighth in the League (of fourteen), but still only three points off the second relegation spot.
Over the next four League Saturdays there are match-ups of eleven games between those Teams in the bottom eight of the Table, with those Clubs (bar Burnham, who are already relegated) separated by only six points. So the battle goes on; with no capacity for letting up.
Next up are Truro (away) on 24/03. The Cornishmen share the same number of League points as Tics' on 42, although only managing seven wins compared to Torquay's nine. One of those wins by Truro was on their visit to the Rec. before Christmas.
Truro has seldom been a happy hunting ground for Torquay, but what better time to choose to reverse that trend? A coach will leave the Rec. @ 10.45 am for the 2.30 pm KO in Truro and how good and encouraging it would be for the Team to see a good representation of Club support on that coach, as the need to keep up winning momentum remains vital.
15 – Julian Martin, 14 – Isaac Fahey, 13 – Chris Robson-Close, 12 – Ben Spears, 11 – Mike Cavanna, 10 – Ed Barnes, 9 – Jacob Loewy,
1 – Lloyd Penhalagan, 2 – Carl Turner, 3 – Calvin Bradley, 4 – Tom Whitford, 5 – Jon Woodhead (Captain), 6 – Chris Smith, 7 – Andy Knight, 8 – Lewis Harben.
Replacements: Tom Drake, Josh Castleton and James Norrish.
The Extras game in DMT2 v Topsham Seconds was called off when the hosts could not raise a side and for reasons associated with the weather and state of pitches the Colts home Cup game v Devonport Services was put back to 7th April.