Sunday 2 October, 2016, by John Sprague
There is no way to disguise that this was a right stuffing for the Crabs yet for long periods of the match that is not how it felt to the Salcombe faithful on the touchline. Salcombe had several long periods of pressure, particularly in the first half when they were playing with both the wind and the slope, yet the home side always managed to clear their lines and on several occasions they scored breakaway tries in the process. In the first half Totnes scored 4 tries, one converted, and 5 in the second half, 4 converted.
But this needs to be set in context. Totnes are likely to be promotion contenders in a division higher than the Crabs who are rebuilding after the loss of a dozen or so players in the summer. Furthermore for this fixture Salcombe were without 5 key forwards through injury and non availability and ended up with a retired hooker and a wing playing in the second row against a pretty massive Totnes unit. However huge thanks to Neil Elliot and Kieran Clarke respectively for stepping into the breach and to the injured Scott Lowry for limping on at half time when injury had caused further problems for the Crabs. Dan Sinnott playing at tight head battled effectively against his heavyweight opponent but an unfortunate bang on the shoulder ruled him out for the second half and Elliot moved to prop with Lowry at second row.
The Crabs’ front row were solid throughout with John Troupe easily coping with his opposite number and Jay Hannaford at hooker striking the ball like lightening. But if the ball was held up going back, the Totnes shove made for scrappy rather than clean delivery to scrum half. In the lineout with no regular jumpers available Andrew Groves did a sterling job and got well battered for his efforts but at least it provided some quality possession for the backs. Nick Bidwell had some good forays with the ball in hand and Liam Turvey at blind side put in some good hits.
The backs are a strong unit with Liam Wills and Steve Moran in the centre and captain Mark Parnowski behind them at full back. The wing options are exciting with Jake Winterbottom and Matt Farleigh both playing well in defence but only rarely seeing the ball in attack. With Kieran Clarke at wing to add to the mix, assuming he hasn’t taken to second row after Saturday, there are a number of possible options available. Craig Julian was his usual feisty self at scrum half and battled nobly behind a makeshift pack and Lee Clarke at no10 was steady but really blossomed when he moved to scrum half which many see as his natural best position. Maybe an experiment with Lee Clarke at 9 and Parnowski at 10 might be worth trying moving Julian to full back.
This Saturday Salcombe are at home to OPM in the last round of the Dave Butt Memorial Cup, ko 3.0pm.