Wednesday 18 April, 2018, by Oli Masters
14th April 2018
With the Barry Cup match coming up and a number recent fixtures falling through Salcombe managed to secure a bonus fixture in what would have been an otherwise fallow week. The surprise opponents announced late the preceding week were a very young and able Kingsbridge Club side featuring a combination of regular 2nd Team players and a large selection on their talented Colts.
The important thing for the Crabs was to go into the next week’s fixture battle hardened and match fit and Saturday’s match would have ticked both boxes in what was fast paced and action packed 80 minutes of local rugby. This was not Boxing day 2.0 but the short term bragging rights were definitely up for grabs with both teams very much aware of the rivalry at stake, predictably this was borne out in the animated on field team talks that preceded the game.
The home team despite a couple of absentees managed to come out of the blocks the quicker and after a few minutes of possession secured excellent territory close to the Kingsbridge line, after a handful of phases the ball was swung wide eventually ending up in the grateful arms of Full back Shaulk Herselman to dive into the corner and bring up the first points of the match. The conversion was scored by fly half Lee Clarke from a very wide position.
Kingsbridge then gained the upper hand with good tactical kicking earning field position close to the Salcombe line, the defence however was up to the task, managing to repel the attack through some brilliant first up tackles and aggressive counter - rucking, particularly by destructive triumvirate of Veale, Hannaford and Alfano-Rogers. Eventually and with a few minutes left on the clock in the first half, good hands by the Kingsbridge backs sent their left winger into the corner for their first points (conversion missed). The Crabs response was immediate, the re-start was gathered and field position established on the half way line, slow ball made its way to centre Liam Wills who was half tackled but managed an audacious one handed round the back reverse offload to his partner Jack Howitt who evaded all tacklers and his own support runners to dot down under the posts from 40 meters out. Clarke added the extras to make the score 14 – 5 going into half time, or so we thought. With just enough time for a re-start Salcombe coughed up the ball to the Kingsbridge defenders who tried to recycle the ball wide, only for winger George Parnowski to pounce, intercepting the ball and beating all chasers to the line for Salcombe’s third try, conversion successful.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first, both packs were aggressive in the contact and both sets of backs able and willing to try and run the ball wide. On an early incursion into the Salcombe 22, Kingsbridge span the ball out through the centres in a flowing move which was eventually knocked forward by the Salcombe left wing and match report writer. Salcombe’s nameless winger maintains it came off his shoulder but the ref had other ideas and sent him to the sin bin for a deliberate slap down, this was much to the annoyance of captain James Cooper who was planning a 10 minute rest himself. Despite the numerical advantage the visitors were unable to capitalise and the score remained unchanged with control of the ball fairly even between the two sides. As the half developed the Kingsbridge backs got more joy out of the wide channels but the defence held firm, conversely Salcombe’s strike runners came to the fore where they had little change in the first half, most notably Keiron Clarke at lock, Alfano-Rogers at 8 and debutant hooker Ben Woods looking very much at home in the Crab front row.
Kingsbridge managed a well deserved 2nd try with 15 minutes to go this time after their lively scrum half exploited a small gap next to a ruck to scurry under the posts, conversion successful. Not to be outdone it was the home team who finished on a high, outstanding ball retention in the ruck and superb discipline meant the Crabs slowly made their way up the pitch, ultimately the pressure told and an infringement by a Kingsbridge player saw a penalty kicked to the corner. The resulting line out gave the home team time to secure the ball and pile in around the ball to drive the maul over from 5 meters out, the last body up from the mass was Keiron Clarke who claimed the try (conversion missed) making the Crabs 26 – 12 winners.
Notable performances included Howitt, Alfano-Rogers who both carried strongly all game, Hannaford, Sinnott and Bromwich (who didn’t get injured) between them racking up a massive tackle count but man of the Match went to Woods who put in a performance beyond his years, tackling hard and carrying harder, all the while not missing a lineout.
The few members of the crowd that were in attendance were treated to an entertaining and full blooded match with an impressive skill level, and what should be noted and applauded is the fact that so much local talent were able to play a high tempo and technically proficient game, especially at the business end of a long season. Hopefully all of the players on show will continue to embrace South Hams rugby next season as this was a great advert for all involved.
Salcombe travel to Buckfastleigh next week for the annual Barry Cup match and will look to build on a strong tail end of the season, any travelling support would be gratefully received as the Crabs are under no illusion that they need to be at 100% to overturn the table topping Ramblers.