MATCH REPORT SATURDAY 17th NOVEMBER 2018
TAVISTOCK 12 V TORQUAY ATHLETIC 17
Torquay Athletic won this game by sticking at it for 80 minutes in which the home side had held the upper hand in many phases and had looked the more likely winners; especially in the first period.
Tavvy's League position prior to the game was third from bottom after nine rounds and they had only produced two wins, one being at home against bottom side Withycombe and the other versus Plymouth Argaum.
However such belied a very fired up performance by the Moorlanders, which initially brought about a rather patchy and error prone response from the Tics'. Local word had it that the home side were buoyed by several players (perhaps as many as five) being able to strengthen a number of positions by returning from injury.
Conversely Tics' injury woes continued, notably in the front row, where Carl Turner, Liam Murray and Lloyd Penhalagan are still recovering with long spells on the sidelines. They were however able to include scrum half Dan McKenna, a former Torquay youth player, on the bench. He played from the end of the first quarter; replacing the injured left wing Ryan Hanauer and soon showed a full hearted and committed approach to the game – which was certainly needed, to help stem the tide of Tavistock's early dominance. That dominance had seen them rack up a deserved two try lead of 12 – 0 by the seventeenth minute.
Another bonus for Tics' was the return of Lewis Harben in the back row and Isaac Fahey on the bench, after prolonged injury spells away from the game. Harben came straight in for the injured Shane Wakeham, who is likely to be out until Christmas
The match was played in dry conditions on a good size pitch with lush grass. Such promoted an open game and both sides obliged in the early stages, running the ball and using the width at every opportunity. It was the home side who were more potent in this regard and in the fourth minute a back carried through the middle, creating space. The move was carried on by flanker Sam Northmore, who refused to be put down by Jon Woodhead's tackle (not an easy thing to do) and he was able to put full back Josh Birch in to score, dotting down under the posts with Ed Nettleship adding the extras for 7 – 0.
More attempted open play by both sides followed until No. 9 Jack Glover took a short tap penalty on Tics' 22' and used support from lock Leion Cole who ran over for 12 – 0.
Torquay came straight back from the re-start, turning the ball over on the right and shifting it left, but with the try line in sight a knock on pulled them back; whilst Hanauer, who had been prominent in the build up, sustained a neck injury and retired.
A strong wind blowing down the length and in Tavvy's favour was certainly a factor by now, although come half time it appeared to have swung round by 90 degrees and was blowing directly across the pitch towards the Clubhouse.
Prop Dan King was temporarily rested, with Woodhead moving up to take his place, but unfortunately this change saw Tavvy take strong charge at scrum time, until King returned later in the second period. Issac Fahey came on in the second row.
After Tics' knock-on near the try line Tavvy produced good scrum ball and set off downfield, looking dangerous once more and going on to disrupt Tics' own put in at the next two scrums.
James Wood at full back and right wing Jonny Brown then combined, exchanging passes, whilst working their way upfield and left. Such move led to an attacking 5 metre lineout for Torquay with a maul formed and moving at very high speed to the try line.
The visitors were convinced that Tom Whitford had shifted the ball to Captain Jake Bury for the latter to crash over, but with bodies on the ground the Referee was only able to see a Tavvy defender rip the ball away and he decided not to award the try.
The visitors' disappointment did not last for long though when a strong carry through the middle by Whitford released Wood, whose inside pass found Woodhead steaming up the left wing channel. He repaid the compliment with an inside pass to Wood, which took out the last defender. Wood was able to run round close to the posts allowing Mawgan Penrice an easier conversion against the wind. 12 – 7 ; which score remained at the break.
In the early stages of the second half Torquay were still being “bested” in the set scrums and some of their play remained untidy. However a Penrice penalty in the 53rd minute from the 10 metre line gave an opportunity to reduce the deficit, but his shot was wide .
Josh Hunt had now switched to the left wing allowing McKenna a spell at scrum half. An injury to Penrice in the tackle then saw further changes in the back line, with Wood moving to first receiver. King returned, allowing Woodhead to move back to lock and Tics' went ahead with a try following a much steadier set scrum.
Brown, who is now consistently playing his best rugby since before a long term injury necessitating surgery, came off his right wing again to link with Wood and he cut through the defending Tavvy threes'; again running round the back of the posts in the in-goal area. A foolish misdemeanour by a Tavistock player with a late tackle meant that following Wood's routine conversion for 12 – 14 Tics' would have a penalty from the centre spot. This allowed Torquay to press Tavvy back and a skilful passage of play saw Tics' believing that they had extended the lead.
A long and accurate cross kick by Wood had found Brown wide right taking the ball on the full. A switch to Nathan Pring brought a touch down in the corner. The Referee blew for a try, only to call play back after realising that a lineman's flag had signalled a foot in touch.
Nevertheless Torquay then put further points on the board after wining a scrum penalty on the opposition 10 metre line, which Wood slotted for 12 – 17.
There were a few late alarms as Tavvy went in search of the necessary try to draw level and Tics' took some questionable options in trying to clear their lines. Nevertheless Torquay maintained good discipline which saw a total low penalty count of only five against, all match. However Tavvy's penalty count rose to twelve, detrimentally affecting their continuity. The sanctity of touch brought the final whistle.
Again Tics' had weathered some difficult passages through doggedness and ultimately had been pulled through by the natural ability of their try scorers.
The occasion saw the two hundredth First Team appearance of forward Tom Whitford. Still just short of his twenty seventh birthday this is a remarkable statistic, given that the League season now consists of only twenty six matches and that Cup dates have become a rarer commodity year on year. He now lives and works in Exeter, but probably has the best training appearance record of anyone at the Club. With his physique and athleticism he has always been one of Tic's go to options at line out time.
The win leaves Torquay in fifth spot in the League, with the four sides above them all winning with four try bonus points to boot. However next up are two home games in successive weeks v Topsham (24/11) and bottom side Withycombe (01/12) – both matches with 2.30 kick offs.
15 – James Wood, 14 - Jonny Brown, 13 – Tom Drake, 12 – Nathan Pring, 11 – Ryan Hanauer, 10 – Mawgan Penrice, 9 – Josh Hunt,
1 – Dan King, 2 – George Helmore, 3 – Josh Castleton, 4 – Jon Woodhead, 5 – Tom Whitford, 6 – Lewis Harben, 7 – Jacob Bury (Captain), 8 – Josh Mackin.
Replacements: Isaac Fahey, James Davies and Dan McKenna (all played).
The Extras also travelled to Tavistock and won a DMT2SW match convincingly with a 10 – 41 scoreline, with back Ben Spears getting a hatrick of tries.
The Colts had a Merit Table game at South Molton put back one week by mutual consent.