Monday 30 January, 2017, by Oli Masters
Salcombe welcomed Devonport High School Old Boys and Plymouth Fijians to Two Meads on Saturday having first entertained many previous players on the second annual past players dinner. As such a larger than average crowd assembled to hopefully see the home team emerge victorious against a team they had narrowly beaten in the away fixture earlier in the season. The away team had a typically Pacific feel to it as has become the norm when playing the Old Boys and Salcombe’s game plan would surely have been to try and keep the ball away from their big boys, tackle low and take them on in the set piece rather than enter into a broken field game that would play straight into their hands. Unfortunately a passage of poor discipline leading to a string of penalties saw Salcombe going 7 nil down when the Devonport’s large outside centre powered over brushing aside several naïve would be tacklers from 15 meters out.
The 20 minutes that followed saw both teams fail to take any initiative and was large based in the middle of the park trading penalties, fielding kicks and conceding line outs, not exactly the champagne rugby the home crowd may have wanted but at least Salcombe were not out of the game. Following a torrential downpour they seized their opportunity to get on the score board. A rare period of sustained Salcombe possession forced Devonport to concede a number of penalties close to their own try line and after a several barrages the Crab pack were able to properly utilise their driving maul eventually going over close to the corner with prop/hooker/icon/leader Neil Elliott being the final body up from the floor clutching the ball as if it were his last Easter egg. Unfortunately the conversion was missed but the Crabs were back in the game.
The second half was more or less a mirror image to the first with Devonport scoring the early points when Salcombe ran out of defenders on the far touchline (conversion missed), then a long period of shared territory in the middle third and not much in the way of open and running rugby.
As the weather conditions gradually improved however so did Salcombe’s fortunes, a yellow card for the Devonport number 8 following a high tackle gave the home side’s forwards the impetus they needed to start exerting some authority on the game. Once again set piece dominance began to show and the rolling maul utilised to good effect and after some continued pressure on the Devonport line Salcombe were rewarded with try number 2 curtesy of Elliott’s young protégé Jay Hannaford in a case the student becoming the master.
Salcombe (who were still behind on the score board) spent the rest of the half going in search of the win and doing a good job of shutting out the tiring Devonport ball carriers, their cause however was not helped when winger Jake Winterbottom started to get a bit chilly so decided to get himself a yellow card and ten minutes in a track suit for a high then dangerous tackle. Luckily for the home side it was the turn of the old boys to cough up the penalties and with ten minutes to go Fly half Lee Clarke was able to slot one of these pressure kicks putting the Crabs 13-12 up which was how it finished.
The man of the match was Hannaford for his well taken try, accurate line outs and technically playing out of position, although all can he agree he didn’t look out of place.
To have lost this game would have been unthinkable for Salcombe, it would have been near impossible to take any positives from it and is certainly not what the squad and coaches efforts this season would have deserved. As it was the Crabs gained a dogged victory, in spite of a number of injuries and in sometimes appalling conditions, they did not let their heads drop despite not leading until the final minutes and battelled hard against a team that had obviously targeted the fixture as a possible win and for that there must be credit. A win is a win as they say and the Crabs now have a weekend off to heal some injuries before travelling to 2nd place OPM’s on the 11th Feb.