Monday 2 October, 2017
Weston Mill Oak Villa Social Club
Salcombe made the frequent trip to Plymouth on Saturday for what was due to be their hosts Old Boys reunion and Sponsors day and had sought assurances during the week from the Crabs that they would honour the fixture. With that in mind Salcombe were under no illusions about what was to face them on arrival at Weston Mill, Old Tech’s who were promoted to the league above Salcombe last year would be big, physical, motivated and have the luxury of a large squad. On the other hand Salcombe have been struggling for numbers of late and once again it was thanks to coaches and senior players for making calls, calling in favours and arranging a competitive and extremely able squad to make the journey.
The game started in assured fashion for Salcombe who were able to control the possession and the game for the first ten minutes or so, recycling the ball well and using their ball carriers to good effect. Unfortunately the Crabs could not make this early advantage show on the score board and after the initial showing it was Old Tech’s turn to show what they could do with the ball, using the wind which was easily a two score advantage to good effect. It was only through outstanding red zone defence that Salcombe managed to keep the hosts away from the try line, the back row of Olly Pound, Silas Winterbottom and Marco Alfano-Rodgers being particularly effecting in the contact. With the wind however it was always going to be a struggle to relieve the pressure for any length of time and despite several attempt at clearing their lines Salcombe found it difficult gain any meaningful territory. Inevitably the pressure told and Old Tech’s managed to retain possession long enough for their forwards to burrow over the line despite a valiant effort by the Salcombe pack and a claim of the ball not being grounded. Unfortunately this score was compounded by an errant restart falling into the hands of the home side’s backs who took the initiative catching the away team still reeling from the previous try to make the score 14 - nil.
Half time quickly followed and a re-group and re-assessment of the match was required, a new territory focussed game plan based on the conditions was formalised and put into effect, not least by second row Pete Lloyd who more or less from the kick applied boot to ball and put it back where it came from, finding touch and gaining 50 yards. Now it was Salcombe’s turn to apply the pressure using the wind to creep towards the Old Tech’s try line and refusing to relinquish possession they were able to get off mark, first from Fly half Lee Clarke who kicked a penalty on the 22 meter line to the left of the posts. Shortly thereafter the breakthrough came, a penalty was kicked to corner, the line out won and a driving maul set up, agonisingly close to the line the maul collapsed, however quick thinking by Captain and stand in back row Liam Wills allowed him to channel his inner lemming, pluck the ball from the base and dive over the mass of bodies on the deck for 5 points. The conversion was missed but it brought Salcombe to within a converted score and who were certainly in the ascendency by this point, beginning to dominate the contact areas and scrums even getting a man advantage for the final five minutes when the Old Tech’s hooker saw a yellow card for repeated infringements. Unfortunately the score line remained the same and the Devon one team held out for the victory.
Notable performances from John Troup at prop who tackled powerfully and enjoyed making a nuisance of himself in the tight, Jack Howitt first on the wing and then at centre who easily made the most meters with the ball and was a handful to contain whenever given the chance and try scorer Liam Wills who tackled everything that moved and led by example throughout. Man of the Match however goes to Jay Hannaford at hooker who never missed a tackle and was responsible for multiple sore bodies on Sunday morning.
Salcombe have held their own in the two matches they have had so far this season and both against strong well drilled teams who traditionally occupy the league’s top spots or even the next league up. With training they will hope to iron out the mistakes that will lead these sorts of matches into becoming victories.