Monday 12 December, 2016, by Oli Masters
Salcombe went into Saturdays Devon 2 league match off of the back of two wins but this confidence was tempered slightly by the knowledge that they had been thoroughly outplayed by the visiting side on two occasions already this season. Despite this fact and because of this prior experience with OPMs the Salcombe coaches were confident that they had a game plan to match their big pack and the increasingly unpleasant playing conditions. This game plan received a blow when prop Richard Culley re-injured his knee during the warm up, fortunately the Crabs are blessed with a number of front row options nowadays and was ably replaced in the starting line up by J Troupe.
Playing into a strong wind and steady rain Salcombe were able to use their set piece and big forwards to keep the ball away from the visitors, deliberately keeping channels of running narrow and eschewing any thoughts of expansive gameplay. This paid off when a penalty was awarded to the home side which Lee Clarke who was making a rare start on the wing, was able to slot to send the crabs 3-nill up with ten minutes played. Salcombe then seemed to revert to type a little, whether this was down to being in the unusual position of having taken an early lead is unclear but concentration seemed to slip and for the one and only time on Saturday, Salcombe failed to adequately deal with an overlap which OPMs duly exploited sending their centre over in the corner despite a last ditch cover tackle by Skipper Parnowski, conversion scored.
The rest of the half played out as somewhat of an arm wrestle with both teams struggling to assert any authority on the game. Salcombe arguably came the closest to add to the score, firstly from a barnstorming run up the touchline from Number 8 Lowry, an interception plucked from his boot laces from centre Wills (now thankfully cold free) and an elusive break from Fly Half Davey. These all sadly came to nothing with the home side probably guilty of forcing the play once too often, conspiring to turn fast ball into slow and the attack fizzling out.
The second half started with the rare occurrence of Salcombe having a penalty from the kick off due to dissent and a yellow card curtesy an OPM player prior to the half time whistle but the next 25 minutes that followed were just as the first half had finished, neither side were able to assert any noticeable dominance, aside from two OPMs penalties to stretch their lead to 3-13. With 15 minutes to go Salcombe rallied, a team talk from player coach Down spurred the Crabs into action with hooker Elliott embarking on a break from his own half, putting the Salcombe backs away for a certain score. Unfortunately the referee decided to halt play for what he thought was a serious head injury to second row Cooper, who was just resting. This only inspired the Salcombe pack and after a particularly dominant scrum in which two more OPM’s players were sin binned a penalty was awarded, Davey found a long range touch and Salcombe sent a 12 man driving maul towards the try line from the line out, the Plymouth side had no answer and the try awarded, Elliott being the last one up with the ball and Clarke adding the extras from a difficult angle. With the score 10-13 and three minutes to go, the crabs just couldn’t get their hands on the ball and that is how the game frustratingly ended.
In spite of the result what is encouraging is the way Salcombe were able to step up to the challenge of playing a team that started the day at the top of the league and taking them on. Unmistakably this is a game that Salcombe could and would have lost handsomely in the past thus showing the value of the losing bonus point gained. That this game could so easily have been won should give the squad valuable experience of how to play when in similar positions in the future with notable performances from replacement Chris Roberts whom Salcombe hope to have available more often, Flanker Gregson and Man of the Match Elliott for his all round game play, control of the breakdown and tireless running. The discipline, doggedness and determination to see out tactics that were shown here will certainly need to be repeated and improved upon next week away against the combative Old Tech's but the Crabs should go in with the knowledge that they are capable. Progress?