Monday 18 December, 2017, by Oli Masters
Ilfracombe v Salcombe 36–15
Salcombe made the long and uncomfortable journey to Ilfracombe on Saturday for their first league game of the season. Preparation in terms of pre season/warm up matches had been mixed with a number of fixtures being cancelled and playing time reduced as a result. This has clearly had a negative effect for Salcombe who, with a bit more cohesion, understanding and the luxury of some replacement forwards might have hoped to come away from the trip to North Devon with at least a bonus point or maybe even more. As it was and as it has been for so many matches in the recent past Salcombe battled valiantly, put their bodies on line but ultimately came up short although the score line flattered the hosts a little. It was undeniable however that the hosts managed the conditions better than the travelling Crabs and took advantage of some questionable positioning from the Salcombe defence scoring two tries from cross field kicks in the first half. Salcombe managed to get on the score board themselves courtesy of a Lee Clarke penalty, but the away team would have hoped for more given the amount of penalties they enjoyed from the referee and a numerical advantage when two Ilfracombe players saw yellow cards a few minutes apart, one for a daft shove, right in front of the ref that was lucky not to have been more.
The second half saw Ilfracombe start the stronger of the two sides scoring two quick tries thanks to some uncharacteristically weak defending from Salcombe. They didn’t have it all their own way however when a period of sustained pressure deep in the Home teams half saw Nick Trant being fed the ball five meters from the line and crashing over for his first ever league try taking 3 would be defenders with him. Annoyingly the Crabs could not maintain this momentum and once again Ilfracombe registered another try with 10 minutes left to play.
With the game effectively lost Salcombe then began to play their best rugby of the match, perhaps with improved fitness being an advantage or maybe the realisation that the need to play for a bit of pride was all that was left to them but the visitors began to attack the line at pace in a way they hadn’t previously. Suddenly the predetermined game plan which had been seen in brief glimpses previously in the match was sustained for multiple phases, the key point in which saw second row Kieron Clarke embark on a mazey run more becoming of a winger than a lock, from the half way line to the opposition red zone. The ball was recycled several times using the willing Salcombe strike runners before being spun out to centre Mark Parnowski who despite being half tackled managed to get ball to full back Schalk Herselman hitting the line at full pace before delivering an inch perfect pass to winger Oli Masters to round the last defender out wide to eventually score near the posts ending the game on a high for the travelling support.
Notable performances were from Chris Drew featuring in his 20th season of league rugby (I know what you’re thinking - he looks far too young), Matt Hurst who was a nuisance all afternoon with his powerful runs, Mario Turvey for doing a good impression of a flanker, James Cooper for not getting punched and the two men of the match Nick Trant and Keiron Clarke the former for his powerful all round showing taking multiple defenders with him at every breakdown and the latter for shear amount of meters covered with the ball in hand.
Salcombe will want to build on the last 10 minutes of the game and take this particular section forward into training as the positives were clear to see, perhaps just with a little more belief and training they can achieve what has been promised for some time.