MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 22nd DECEMBER 2018
TORQUAY ATHLETIC 12 v HONITON 16
Torquay Athletic lost at home for the second time this season, but as for their other loss by 21 – 22 to Penryn this was a very tight affair and a world away from the match at Honiton in September, when the home side had blitzed their way to a 31 – 0, five try half time lead, from which Tics' could not recover.
This return should have been played the previous week, but fell victim to waterlogged pitches. Playing over the weekend before Christmas is never going to be a popular choice, but on this occasion Torquay were able to include full back Tom Drake, who was at his own graduation ceremony seven days earlier. The importance of the game was illustrated by at least two Tics' players changing Christmas arrangements to make themselves available.
Meanwhile Honiton made four changes to the squad announced the previous week, three in the forward pack and a significant one at stand off, where player / coach Alex Brooks was not available. However, like Torquay this season Honiton appear to have a stronger all-round enlarged First Team squad.
With the rain for once relenting there were no pitch problems pre-match and the game took place in dry conditions with only a light breeze.
Overall defences were on top throughout in the first half, when neither Team spent concerted periods in the opposition 22.'
Once again Tics' lineout functioned very well and no-one side created long lasting dominance at scrum time, although the home eight did create problems for the visitors on two or three occasions, as well as managing a strike against the head.
Two of the three tries scored in aggregate came in the wide channels, which seemed to be the only reasonable solution to relieving the midfield stalemate. Both sides did try to effect use of their backlines, but were let down by deficiencies in the basics of catch and pass – Tics' especially so; as their number of unforced errors climbed.
Although Torquay outscored their opponents try-wise by two to one it was the concession of penalties in kickable positions which ultimately proved to be their undoing – Oli Cave at stand off slotting three efforts to take his side into a 7 – 9 lead entering the final quarter of the match.
It was Honiton who opened the scoring in the seventh minute with one of those penalties from 30 metres out after Tics' had gone offside. Honiton's attack leading to this penalty had been started with a successful ball stripping by the vastly experienced pack leader and forwards Coach Nathan Hannay.
Lewis Harben then replaced Josh Mackin, who had been injured following a strong carry through centrefield. However the back rower would shortly return in place of Isaac Fahey, who felt unwell.
Tics' then scored a breakout try from their own 10 metre line. The instigator was centre Alex Brown, who effected an interception and made ground before slipping a well timed pass to left wing Arron Graham on half way. The latter had sufficient gas to outrun chasing defenders and his score was followed by a James Wood conversion for 7 – 3 in the 29th minute.
Almost immediately a good opportunity to extend that lead came and went, when the wide channel again provided dividends exploited by Graham. His run and inside pass would have set Wood free on a possible run in, but the ball was not held.
Half time came as another Tics' move broke down with the ball spilled. Such continued at the start of the second half as Torquay attacked strongly down the left, but a final pass, which may have created an overlap, went to ground.
Honiton then worked their way into the game with two penalty kicks from Cave in the 53rd and 60th minute allowing them to take a 7 – 9 lead.
The second penalty was a tad fortuitous, as it followed Honiton gaining some 50 metres with a degree of good luck. A long and deep cross kick to the right allowed two Honiton chasers to pressurise replacement left wing Mawgan Penrice and bundle him into touch inside the Torquay 22.' However both ball chasers had been miles in front of the kicker, but such offside was not picked up by the Referee.
Another cross kick again from left to right by Honiton saw a legitimate ball chase putting the visitors deep into the red zone and a couple of phases later right wing Jonny House scored in the corner with Cave converting from the touchline for 7 – 16 with twelve minutes plus time added on to play.
Tics' response was a jinking run by Jonny Brown into the opposing 22' and another attempt to work the ball left. Honiton conceded and a penalty was kicked for a five metre attacking lineout. There followed an attempted catch and drive, but with the totemic Hannay organising his defence Tics' were unable to profit through the maul (as has been their successful weapon of choice on several previous occasions this season).
However patience is a virtue and when halted Tics' pack re-set and proceeded with a series of pick and go's. Honiton were not able to resist a final push by Jon Woodhead, who dived over for 12 – 16. When the Honiton re-start kick went straight out the initiative was handed back to Torquay.
Torquay's intent fuelled by adrenaline was exemplified when the pack pushed 'Ton back at the resulting scrum on half way. Two close in lineouts to Tics' followed, but Honiton successfully defended these, but an untimely penalty against Torquay for holding on to the ball on the ground gave Honiton relief. However still fired up Torquay managed to steal Honiton's resulting lineout ball and it was moved swiftly to the backs. However another spilt ball summed up Tics' afternoon and from the resulting Honiton scrum the ball was secured and kicked dead to end the contest.
Despite having a game in hand on the four Clubs above them the losing bonus point is insufficient to allow Torquay to threaten catching those four sides in the short term; whilst Honiton's win allowed them to overhaul Plymstock Albion Oaks and move into third place.
January will be a further testing period, with long away trips to Bude (who top the Table) and second placed Penryn. These are followed by a re-visit to Lanner on 2nd February.
The squad will need to continue working hard at training in the hope of causing some upsets – something they are still eminently capable of. Bude will be wary of Torquay, who have been the only Team to lower their colours, all season, when they conceded seven tries in a 43 – 13 home win for Torquay in late September.
TORQUAY TEAM :
15 – Tom Drake, 14 – Jonny Brown, 13 – Alex Brown, 12 – Nathen Pring, 11 – Arron Graham, 10 – James Wood, 9 – Josh Hunt,
1 – Liam Murry, 2 – Carl Turner, 3 – Josh Catleton, 4 – Jon Woodhead, 5 – Tom Whitford, 6 – Isaac Fahey, 7 – Jake Bury, 8 – Josk Mackin.
Mawgan Penrice, Lloyd Penhalagan and Lewis Harben (all played).
The Colts started the next stage of their Devon Merit competition by christeneing a new set of
kit (kindly funded by ChefShare, which Company is a very prominent and valued Sponsor this season) with a hard fought 22 – 12 win over Tavistock. The foundation was a 12 – 0 lead at half time and although the Moorlanders did fight back to 17 – 12 the young Tics' were able to see out the game with a fourth bonus point try. Their scorers were Callum Fraser, Tom Roberts, Jacob Brady and Spike Taylor with a Todd Powell conversion.