MATCH REPORT – SATURDAY 30th MARCH 2019
By Website Admin
WITHYCOMBE 26 v TORQUAY ATHLETIC 40
A curate's egg performance by Torquay Athletic in a game of the proverbial two halves.
After the shock of conceding an opportunist converted try in the third minute Tics' responded by posting a four try bonus point inside the first 20 minutes to lead by 7 – 24.
Admittedly Torquay were playing with the benefit of the end to end slope, but the attitude and application in the first half was superb; albeit against a Team already relegated in bottom place and with only two wins, all season. In truth however the East Devon Club's situation would not be quite as dire had it not been deducted fifteen League points for failing to raise a bona fide front row in three matches, in which the opposition was awarded a walkover. Here, it is believed that they took the opportunity to blood some Colts.
Tics' were guided through the first half six try haul by shrewd out of hand kicking by Player/ Coach James Wood, keeping Withy' pinned back, either by touch finding punts or spiralling Gary Owens, putting the home back three under severe pressure.
Captain Isaac Fahey led from the front with dynamic ball chasing and some athletic catching. He netted two tries himself and was a constant thorn in Withycombe's side, until a recurrent ankle problem caused him to retire with fifteen minutes remaining.. He was ably assisted by some bullocking runs from left wing Ben Spears, who despite playing the vast majority of the season with the Extras is now flourishing at the higher level and giving the side needed go-forward through his hunger for work.
Withy' took heart from another opportunist try on the cusp of half time to turn round 14 – 40 in arrears.
With the lead looking unassailable Wood and Jon Woodhead were then rested at half time. However, although the side did not lack focus and effort, any clear direction of play seemed to be lacking and the clear patterns of the first half went missing.
Credit must also go to Withycombe, who largely dominated possession and territory in the seond half. When pinned back themselves they used the speed of two useful wingers to exit and in right wing Joe Staley possessed the quickest player on show.
They had to work hard for their two further tries due to determined defending by the visitors; but Withy' still managed to find a way over the try line, whilst resisting all Tics' efforts to add to their own try tally.
The weather was still and warm with bright sunshine and given the time of year the pitch had a very good grass cover.
The London exchange Referee was inadvertently complicit in the first score, when he awarded a penalty on Tics' 10 metre line, but held his hand out in favour of the men in black and white in the third minute. Realising an error he reversed his hand action to give Withy' the kick. Former Tics' back and long time Player / Coach at Withycombe Glenn Channing already had the ball in his hand and reacted quicker than all those around him with a quick tap and 40 metre burst to the posts, then converting his own score for 0 – 7.
Torquay came back with an attacking lineout 15 metres on the left and after a series of four pick and go's gained a penalty 5 metres out, which they elected to scrum. Fahey picked up from his No. 8 berth but was stopped short. Ball retention saw the move go left and Fahey popped up again, wide left, to stretch over for 5 – 7 in the tenth minute.
There followed a spell of rapid scoring, as Torquay took total control. Spears ran the re-start kick back and then from a training ground lineout move, perfectly executed, Woodhead scored from 20 metres out, with a Mawgan Penrice conversion to make it 7 – 12.
From the re-start Withy' discomfort became greater as their open side flanker saw yellow for taking out a Torquay player off the ball.
Fahey then stole Withy' lineout ball on the home 22' and when he was stopped Woodhead was on hand to finish off the surge, followed by a touchline conversion by Penrice to make it 7 – 19 in the 18th minute.
Wood then caught and planted the re-start kick deep in the Withy' half and Tom Whitford stole home lineout ball, which was then moved quickly left. Wood put in a high up and under and Fahey bullied the defender into dropping the ball, which he then gathered and ran in unopposed to the posts, giving Penrice another conversion success for 7 – 26.
Within two minutes Spears added a fifth try, running strongly from his own half to eventually dot down under the posts, after Fahey had performed an athletic catch of another high kick ahead, so with the conversion it was 7 – 33.
Withycombe looked shell shocked and responded by failing to send the re-start kick the required ten.' Despite this they manged to re-group and stem the tide somewhat and briefly created some enterprising attacking play of their own until another Wood clearing kick took a kind bounce backwards into the arms of the chasing George Helmore. In tandem with Bertie Turner he made ground with Wood finishing off the move by placing the ball against the post protector. With the added conversion it was 7 – 40 in the 37th minute, but home Prop Liam Cullen took a close in tap penalty and burst over from short range, with Channing converting for an interval score of 14 – 40.
James Norrish and Tony Brierley then replaced Woodhead and Wood respectively, but before Tics' had time to settle another opportunist Withy' try as Staley picked up a loose ball just inside the Torquay 22' and was too quick for any cover defence. 19 – 40.
Tics' came back with another strong Spears run into the red zone where a Withy' high tackle was punished with a Torquay penalty kicked to touch, but a promising position came to nothing when a free kick was conceded for a numbers in the line offence.
The next penalised high tackle saw Tom Drake yellowed, as Withy broke out with speed. This put the home side in prime position 5 metres out with a lineout, but Dan King managed to turn the ball over on the ground to relieve the pressure.
As Tics' then started to leak penalties, thus fragmenting their efforts to put something fruitful together , whilst Withy' were enabled to keep up the territorial pressure and their willowy left wing scored close to the posts when his well timed run inside Tics' 22' bisected the defensive line. Channing converted for 26 – 40.
With fifteen minutes remaining Tics' penalties against continued to rise and Wood and Woodhead re-took the field simultaneously. There was no further scoring.
Next week (6th April) is Tics' last home League game against Lanner. Torquay will need to be on their metal against a side who are whole hearted in their play; an approach which brought them a 25 – 19 win against Torquay in the replayed match on 23rd February.
This match is kindly sponsored by the Pilgrim Fathers, who are organising a 40 year reunion at the Club. Those touring “Fathers” who are interested in attending should contact Barney Bettesworth on Torquay 606807 for further details.
The Extras, having already booked an away semi-final in the newly constituted David Butt Cup next Sunday (7th April) at Sidmouth – KO 2.30 pm. Our Second string were keen to “prove a point” against Merit Table 2SW leaders Salcombe and duly did so by a 27 – 7 margin at the Rec. They had lost the first encounter in the South Hams by a similar 26 – 5 margin.
For those wishing to travel and know how difficult it is to park in Sidmouth there is a coach booked and supporters are welcome to travel on it. Set off time is 11.30 am on the Sunday, with a return leaving Sidmouth at 5.30 pm.
Meanwhile the Colts lost a close Plate semi-final at Astley Park, with Brixham prevailing 10 – 3. It had been 7 – 3 until a penalty boosted the Fishermens' score with the last action of the match.
The young Tics' are understood to have created chances to cross the try line, but ultimately could not find the needed composure nor accuracy to do so. Over several encounters with the Fishermens' Colts this season it was the closest that our Colts had come to winning.