Monday 12 February, 2018, by Oli Masters
Saturday 13th January
Salcombe v North Tawton
With the previous weeks away fixture vs Devonport cancelled due to a swimming pool replacing their pitch Salcombe have been without a league fixture in 4 weeks with only the annual festive friendly to keep the eye in. To be honest in the first half it showed, Salcombe had a very simple game plan to execute in the first half but were unable to adhere to this effectively due to overcommitting at the break down and failing to retain their own ball on the subsequent phases. Speculative and hopeful passes were made that shouldn’t have been and solo runners, despite making good ground were invariably turned over due to being isolated.
Inevitably during the first 30 minutes North Tawton crossed twice and were unlucky to have another couple of tried ruled out for being held up in goal when a video referee might have decided otherwise. Their first try was via their forwards who controlled their recycled ball well to shove over wide out, their second curtesy of a sharp show and go from the Tawton fly half who slipped through under the posts. It was at this point that the Crabs seemed to shed the leftover turkey from their legs and mulled wine mist from their heads, helped in no small part to a rollicking from head coach James Mundy who quietly reminded the frustrated home team of the simple principles that they were implement. The next ten minutes belonged to Salcombe, powerful running by the forwards in particular back row Alfano-Rogers and Hurst and aggressive rucking from Cooper and Clarke in the second row engineered a territorial advantage and ensured retained possession well into the Tawton half. When the away side infringed Fly half Lee Clarke kicked to the corner and the resulting line out saw Hurst power over the line from a short distance in typically abrasive fashion with Clarke kicking the extras making a half time score of 7 -12.
With their tails up Salcombe managed to give up their score almost immediately due a defensive mix up at the back gifting the chasing North Tawton back his easiest try of the season. Salcombe responded by emptying their strong bench of forwards with an attempt to dominate the tiring Tawton pack, this paid immediate dividends with a new front row of Trant, Roberts and 4th choice captain Neil Elliott dominating the scrums and pilling the pressure onto a pack who were noticeably creaking. This improvement in the tight phases coupled with Salcombe producing their best line out display of the season meant that the away side saw very little of the ball in the second half at all, this was capitalised on by centre Jack Howitt who ghosted through two would be tacklers after being put into space by the returning Liam Wills after the ascendant pack had worked the ball into there North Tawton 22. Unfortunately and despite a couple of very close failed attempts at repeating this trick the Crabs were unable to add to their score form this point with the unbeaten league leaders scoring a further try and kicking a penalty to make the final score 12-29 and the referee calling the match over early due to a double knock out which piqued tempers on both sides.
What will be frustrating will be a couple of failed attempts to score with the try line beckoning, a seemingly clear cut penalty try and yellow card incident of a deliberate knock on under the posts but most of all a mindset that Salcombe can only begin play proper rugby once they go behind on the score board which is in equal parts unnecessary, wasteful and frustrating for all involved, not least the players.
Notable performances from Lee Clarke who had one of his most assured matches in the ten shirt, Howitt at 13 who gave the Tawton defenders a torrid time every time he got hold of the ball and hooker/flanker Jay Hannaford who’s disregard for his own body is extremely admirable. Man of the match went to the younger Clarke in the second row who’s lines of running consistently caught the defenders off guard and made ground on nearly every carry, he does however lose points for getting the game ended early by using his face to fend off a tackle.
The Crabs travel to bogey team OPMs next week and should be buoyed by certain passages from this game but making sure to note that the Plymouth team embarrassed them at home earlier in the season.