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Devon Junior Cup, Plate Semi Final

Monday 10 April, 2017, by Oli Masters

Perfect weather conditions and a stunning playing surface saw Salcombe RFC welcome Torrington RFC to Two Meads in the hope of getting to the final of the Devon Junior Cup Plate competition. For the second match in succession the Crabs were forced to field a team full of broken bodies and recently unretired players and were under no illusion of what challenge lay ahead against a team who finished second in the league above and who look well placed for their promotion play off in a couple of weeks.

The match started in much the same way so many of Salcombe’s games have this season with the Crabs being bullied and generally looking nervous in the face of presumed superior opposition and in a first half with not much to write about the away team were able to open up a 20 points to 6 lead going into half time with 2 Salcombe penalties kicked by Lee Clarke.

With very few positives to take away from the first half aside from some industrious runs from the back row and some whole hearted and brave defence, the assembled spectators would have been forgiven for thinking that the second half would bring more of the same. For 20 minutes they may have been correct, Torrington added to their score with a further converted try to effectively put the game to bed but with the result done and dusted and the pressure now off, Salcombe began to fight back. After some great running from number 8 Matt Hurst and centre Liam Wills the crabs battled their way into the Torrington Half. A penalty was conceded by the defence and with the resultant line out in the corner the Crabs recycled the ball and began hammering away at the try line until eventually a crack appeared for Flanker Martyn Troupe to smash his way over the line, converted by Clarke. As if from nowhere a second try to Salcombe followed from the re-start, direct running again by the Crab pack who suddenly had the taste of blood, found their way into the Torrington 22, the set piece was set up and again showing great discipline, phase after phase of Salcombe runners were able to make headway as they patiently awaited the opportunity to spin the ball wide. Eventually the opportunity came, great hands by the back line saw James Cooper receive the ball, draw the last defender and pop to prop Dan Sinnott who (in a departure from tradition) caught the ball and dived over the line for his first senior try, conversion by Clarke.

Salcombe now had their tales up and Torrington were reeling. With 5 minutes left on the clock the Crabs were down by 9 points but had the pressure, momentum and belief that the game wasn’t quite over and more points were there to be taken. From the next restart the ball was given to the returning Anthony Squire who made good ground before the ball was recycled and played out wide through the back row and the ever willing Nick Trant. Next followed a clever move that saw right wing Winterbottom ark off his touchline taking a cute ball from Clarke before being high tackled by the Torrington centres, one of which received a yellow card for his trouble. The resultant penalty was tapped to the tireless Jay Hannaford who set up the contact before scrum half Julian whipped the ball to the backs at close range. The ball ended up with replacement full back Mark Lidstone who was making his triumphant return from a double hip replacement (because he’s old) for a try in the corner and seconds left on the referees watch. The conversion was missed but it mattered little as there was no time for any more play, the crabs eventually losing by 4 points in the face of some very relieved opposition.

Much could be written about why Salcombe waited until the game was effectively over before getting the bit between their collective teeth but this has been an issue all season and has been covered in previous reports. Suffice to say Salcombe have proved that they have the players, the ability, the playing surface and the coaching to win but until the mental element is resolved these sort of games are going to agonisingly slip through their fingers. The playing squad was completed by Darren Clarke Snr, Steven Moran, Marcus Bromwich, Mark Parnowski, Oli Masters, debutant George Davies and Andy Juknys with the Man of the Match being named as Martyn Troup for some truly abrasive running and impressive work in the tight.