MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 8th SEPTEMBER 2018
HONITON 34 v TORQUAY ATHLETIC 12
Torquay Athletic's promotion aspirations were give a jolt by this defeat to Honiton, whose five try burst in the first half yielded a lead of 31-0. It was too much to overhaul, despite Tics' playing the second half with the benefit of the end to end slope, which characterises the Allhallows Playing Field pitch.
The result showed that last week's 3 – 59 win (away) for Honiton against newly promoted Topsham was no flash in the pan. The Lacemen ended last season with an impressive run of victories taking them up to fourth in the Table. On this showing they have a well balanced side. Lock and forwards Coach Nathan Hanny has plied his trade at a much higher level with Leeds Carnegie, Jersey, Chinnor and Launceston believed to be amongst his previous Clubs. He proved to be the glue in their Team, moulding all together and providing their best go-to option at lineout time.
Although now obviously approaching the twilight of his ruby union playing days he still showed enough speed and dexterity to score an impressive fourth bonus point try for Honiton on the half hour, using his experience to be in the right place to effect a charge down an a Torquay clearing kick, reacting quickest to pick up the loose ball and identifying the best space to run into from just outside Tics' 22' to touch down.
At stand-off Honiton now have backs Coach Alex Brooks, newly arrived from Cullompton; whilst their recent team strengthening has been completed with Ben Logan at prop and Angus Meadows on the wing, both returning from stints away at University to be available on a regular basis.
The home side played with an intensity and accuracy, which took Tics' rather off guard. Their play was also high tempo, never allowing the visitors time to settle in the first telling period. When Tics' did have possession they were suffocated by a robust defence. As such Torquay had to defend for long periods against the slope and never really threatened the “Ton” try line during the first forty minutes.
Based upon this performance it would be a major surprise if Honiton did not occupy one of the two automatic promotion places come late April 2019.
The game was played in dry, overcast conditions with a light breeze blowing across the pitch.
When Tics' first lineout went awry on their own 22' the pressure intensified for the next two minutes until open side flanker Ben Small (nominated Man of the Match a week earlier) latched on to a pass to dive over close to the posts, with full back Ben Webber converting for 7 – 0 after only three minutes play.
On six minutes Tics' conceded a penalty defending inside their own 22' by going offside and although Honiton elected for a 5 metre attacking lineout their throw was inaccurate for the first an only time in the match . However, although Torquay's clearing kicks were finding distance the way “Ton” quickly worked their way back downfield was remorseless. Then Jon Woodhead turned over ruck ball and James Wood judged his touch kick well to put Tics' inside the opposition 22' for the first time in the eleventh minute of play.
With Honiton showing that they could play at pace strong runs by Hannay and Small created an overlap on the left for inside centre Wesley Keywood to score wide out, so it was 12 – 0 after 19 minutes.
This quickly became 19 – 0 as the home side ran back the re-start kick through centre field with tackles being broken before again switching to the wide left wing channel where Hannay was again on hand to barge over, with his try being converted by Webber.
Next came Hannay's bonus point try, although Webber surprisingly pulled his conversion wide, so it was 24 – 0. There were 27 minutes gone before the well drilled home side found to have erred for the first time in the opinion of the Referee, who blew for a Torquay penalty.
Then four tries became five when a clever reverse pop pass, which would have fooled any defence, created space for a score by the posts from a flowing move. Webber converted for 31 – 0. Tics' then built their best passage of play so far before knocking the ball on in a promising position. Half time arrived.
As the second period started Joel Hempton replaced Woodhead. Hontion showed they intended to continue their pressing game as first Jake Berry and then Alex Jeffery were knocked back by heavy tackles. “Ton” then increased their lead by electing to allow Webber to pop over a penalty in front of the posts for 34 – 0. Torquay then found some better form as a collective, but rang some changes to give the whole bench valuable game time. Ryan Dunn replaced Josh Mackin, who, along with the rest of the back row had enjoyed a prominent number of ball carries.
There followed Tic's most penetrative move started with a break by Jack Barnes and continued at pace by wingers Arron Graham and Jonny Brown. Honiton managed to strip the ball close to their try line. However Torquay had momentum and Lewis Harben, playing at hooker in place of the absent Bertie Turner, bulldozed over from short range, with Mawgan Penrice converting for 34 – 7.
The game now entered its final quarter and with fifteen minutes remaining Woodhead returned in place of Isaac Fahey. Under some pressure it was Honiton's turn to concede penalties and one was kicked for a close in attacking lineout, after which a solid scrum was followed by several phases of driving possession culminating in Dunn getting over under a pile of bodies for 34 – 12.
Honiton found further resilience and attacked again but Tics' defensive resistance was sound on tis occasion and when the home side fell foul of the Referee again Wood was able to clear to half way, where Tics' set about building a late attack.. However, although pressing close to the try line they ran out of time and the game finished at 34 – 12.
One area in which Torquay may tackle heart for the return fixture in the last League game before Christmas is the set scrum. Despite the Lacemen possessing a sizeable pack Tics' eight pushed them back on at least three or four occasions; the last of which being a full 10 metres. Unfortunately the Referee did not convert this occasional dominance into penalty awards; instead ordering re-sets of the resultant wheeling scrum – possibly, in his mind, because Honiton had been able to resist the pressure by not standing up in the scrum.
This fixture doubled as a leg of the newly incepted Level 8 Devon Cup.
15 – Mawgan Penrice, 14 – Jonny Brown, 13 – Jack Barnes, 12 – Alex Brown, 11 – Arron Graham, 10 – James Wood, 9 – Alex Jeffery,
1 – Lloyd Penhalagan, 2 – Lewis Harben, 3 – Josh Castleton, 4 – Isaac Fahey, 5 – Jon Woodhead, 6 – Shane Wakeham, 7 Jake Bury (Captain), 8 – Josh Mackin,
Replacements: Ryan Dunn, Joel Hempton and Tony Brierley (all played).
Attention now turns to next Saturday (15/08) when Tics' host Bude, who have won both of their opening fixtures, scoring a total of 50 points in the process. Kick off @ 3.00 pm.
The Extras had no game, but next week face Brixham Seconds (away) in a friendly – KO 2.. 30 pm.
The Colts started their Merit Table games with a home 18 – 37 loss at the Rec. to Exeter Athletic (formerly Exeter (Chiefs) Youth). Unavailabilities restricted home selection and the visitors ran much of the match through their excellent fly half, who watching spectators thought would not look out of place playing at a higher level in a senior side.