MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 16th FEBRUARY 2019
By Website Admin
TORQUAY ATHLETIC 18 v PLYMSTOCK ALBION OAKS 15
A last minute penalty in the seventh minute of added time proved to be Torquay Athletic's get out of jail card.
That they were able to win had much to do with a strong defensive mind-set in a match in which the visitors enjoyed long periods of territorial dominancy and possession – most notably in the second half. It was a match high on endeavour (by both Teams), but relatively low on periods of quality. Oaks, especially, will be disappointed by their handling and kicking skills which, had they been more refined, would surely have led to an away win to keep up their challenge for promotion. As it was they knocked on at crucial points and were also unable to secure points from three second half penalty shots at goal.
The match saw the return of Liam Murray at loose head and Josh Mackin at No. 8 for Tics; both earlier than expected: Murray following a serious eye injury and Mackin with nineteen stitches to a head wound, removed the day before – a legacy of a freak accident in the Clubhouse only three weeks earlier, when he lost over two pints of blood. Both players deserve great credit in putting the Club's interest foremost; although it needs to be said that neither was put under any peer nor Club pressure to play.
Carl Turner returned after a long injury absence in a back row shorn of Captain Jake Bury and Coach Lewis Harben – both out with long term medial knee ligament tears.
The match was played in dull, still conditions following a week of dry weather.
Tics' kicked off towards the cricket square. The first ten minutes were confined largely to the space between the two ten metre lines as each side weighed up the other. Fly half Al Murray put first points on the board with a penalty from 35 metres after Torquay had gone off feet at a maul: 0 – 3.
Torquay paid their first visit to Oaks 22' in the 13th minute via a touch finding kick by Alex Brown. However Plymstock won their own lineout, broke upfield and then kicked a won penalty to 18 metres out from the try line, but then knocked on at the ensuing lineout.
Returning to the attack Tics' succeeded with their own lineout catch and drive, until Lloyd Penhalagan had the ball dislodged from his grasp with the try line in sight. From the resulting five metre scrum the Torquay eight pushed the visitors off their own ball, securing a scrum penalty and then electing to pack down again.
They were able to round off this period of forward domination with a pushover try dotted down at the back by Mackin for 5 – 3 in the 25th minute.
There followed a spell of forceful play by Torquay with prominent carries down the centre by Penhalagan, followed by Mackin. Continued pressure saw Oaks penalised and on the half hour Mawgan Penrice slotted a penalty for 8 – 3.
Plymstock's response was immediate with a counter attack, working their way upfield and keeping pace on the ball with a short tap penalty, quickly followed by another Tics' infringement in a kickable position. However Oaks tried the short tap again, but the taker knocked on. Then in trying to carry out from within their 22' Torquay conceded a fifth penalty and when that rose to six in front of the posts Liam Murray was shown yellow under the totting up procedure.
However to try and benefit from an immediate Tics' front row enforced change Oaks eschewed an easy penalty kick and elected to scrum, but desperate tackling by Torquay kept the score at 8 – 3 with the welcome arrival of half time.
Shortly after the re-start Oaks did score, following an overthrow at a Torquay lineout, which coughed up possession to the visitors. Again in the build up they knocked on but “advantage over” was the Referee's cry as Torquay kicked downfield to clear. Oaks inside centre Tom Richards ran the ball back down the left wing channel before a well timed inside pass found flanker George Hamblin who crashed over to level the scores at 8 all.
A chance to regain the lead was spurned as Murray missed with the first of three unsuccessful penalty pots at goal.
Mackin then retired with James Davies coming off the bench and a re-shuffling in the home pack. For once Tics' defensive discipline went AWOL as a chip and chase through the middle by Richards went virtually unchallenged and as the inside centre collected his own kick and made further ground he found fellow centre David Byng on his shoulder, who ran in under the posts to give Murray an easy conversion for an 8 – 15 lead.
On the resumption a high tackle by Torquay enabled Oaks to set up an attacking lineout just inside the 22', but again a knock-on halted their momentum.
Penhalagan then retired somewhat battered and bruised and at the same time Jon Woodhead took to the sidelines with a badly bruised back. Despite understandable tiredness Mackin returned to the fray, with Josh Lydon coming on at hooker and Josh Castleton vacating the No. 2 berth to go to prop.
However there was an immediate change in the dynamic with Oaks eight splintering Tics' new scrum formation at the first opportunity of a set scrum. Nevertheless a high tackle penalty against Oaks gave Tics' a rare chance at good field position and James Wood's kick from hand found touch just five metres out on the right.
Although lineout ball was not entirely clean Tics' se-set and went for a series of pick and go's, working up to only a metre short. Then as the away defenders were sucked in narrow Torquay spread the ball wide left, where Jonny Brown had created an overlap by coming off his right
wing berth. He jinked inside, linked up with Wood and the latter had enough momentum to get over the line. A wide out conversion from Penrice levelled the scores entering the final quarter – all to play for at 15 – 15.
Tics' were then mystified when Alex Brown made progress after twice not being held in the tackle. The Referee decided to ping him, nevertheless and Murray had another shot at goal, which again went wide.
Torquay then reacted too slowly to a rather wild Oaks attempt at a long drop goal, which fell to ground way short in the 22.' The kicker actually reached the ball first, having had to make up a lot of ground, but somehow Tics' managed to survive this scare.
As Oaks then continued to dominate play Woodhead returned to shore up the scrum. Another decision seemed to go against Torquay when scrum half Gavin Blacoe reacted before anyone else to dive on a loose ball that had shot out of a ruck. However the Referee saw otherwise and penalised him for hand in that same ruck.
With Torquay just about surviving a final chance emerged with a scrum 35 metres out from the Oaks posts, just off centre. The home eight found their earlier scrum time mojo and were awarded a penalty. Only one option was on the table and that was a shot at goal and despite the pressure Penrice showed nerve with an aim and strike that were both true to snatch a late victory with the games's last action. 18 – 15.
Next week Torquay return to Lanner, who recorded their sixth home win of the season on Saturday with a resounding 64 – 17 win over stragglers Plymouth Argaum. Lanner's three home losses have all come against sides currently occupying the top four places in the Table.
The Extras suffered from two late cry-offs and one late arrival to start the Merit Table game away at Plymstock Albion Oaks with fourteen players, until Oaks kindly lent a winger to bring the complement up to fifteen. This is the first time that the Seconds have “travelled light” to any away game – which is a testament to the hard work of Manager Rob Harman. So often this term the reverse has happened, with our II's having to lend to other Clubs to get a match going in accordance with the Merit Table rules that dictate that each side should start with a minimum of twelve players and sides of equal numbers.
Oaks scored within the first five minutes and added a second try with two minutes of the match remaining. In between Harman said that his side could not find a way to breach the home defence, despite a number of chances to do so. Hence a 12 – 0 defeat, which very likely consigns the Extras to a second place finish in this League behind current leaders Salcombe Firsts.
The Colts recorded a win at TVN in another close encounter in the Colts Plate competition; this time against South Molton. The match seemed secure at 26 – 17, but the young Tics' let in a what Coach Adam Last described as a soft converted try to leave some jangled nerves at the end. However no further scoring took place so a 26 – 24 win was recorded.