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St Columba vs Salcombe (14-31)

Tuesday 22 January, 2019, by John Sprague

This was likely to be a difficult match for the table toppers but such is the commitment of the Salcombe squad these days that they travelled across the Tamar with a full side plus 5 subs. In a league where many away sides cry off for lack of numbers this was an achievement in itself but in the end this proved to be one of Salcombe’s more determined performances against a tough opposition.  

Playing on a steeply sloping pitch with ankle length grass Salcombe chose to play up the hill and against the wind in the first half which they knew would be very much an exercise in containing St Columba whose heavy pack looked formidable. And so it proved. After a period of pressure from the home side throughout which the Crabs tackling was superb, St Columbe slotted a penalty. But almost immediately from the kick off Salcombe got possession and the ball found its way to Marco Alfano-Rogers who managed to run 50 yards up the hill evading tacklers and ultimately using power to haul himself over the line for a splendid try. Lee Clarke converted and the score was 7-3 to the Crabs.

St Columba then applied more pressure and eventually got a well worked try to put them back in the lead at 8-7. They followed this up with a penalty to move to 11-7 ahead before Salcombe broke out of defence thanks to an inspired jinking run from Luke Williamson playing at flanker which took play up to the half way line. Several further plays brought Salcombe inside the St Columba  22 where the ref indicated for a penalty to the Crabs close to the touch but with the ball in his hand Lee Clarke chose instead to go for the dropped goal as he was more or less in front of the posts, 11-10 to the hosts. With the last kick of the half St Columba increased their lead with another penalty to 14-10.

Making a couple of substitutions at half time Salcombe looked fit and strong whereas some of the home players were already showing signs of tiredness. Right from the start of the half Salcombe pinned St Columba back in their 22 and only twice did they let them out to threaten a score. Several barnstorming runs from Matt Hurst and good work amongst the backs eventually led to a try wide out for Josh Dornon on the wing which Clarke did well to convert to put Salcombe ahead 17-14. Further hard work from the forwards ended up in Toby Woods clearly grounding the ball but the ref, possibly unsighted, ruled it held up. From the resultant scrum the ball moved quickly to the left wing before coming back the other way for centre Liam Wills to get the try which again Clarke converted, 24-14 to Salcombe.

With 3 tries in the bag  Salcombe were looking for the bonus point but St Columba weren’t done and pushed the Crabs back to their own 22. However the ball was won and Clarke whose field kicking was accurate all afternoon put in a monster which the defending winger knocked on about 10 metres from his own line. From the scrum Man of the Match Matt Hurst attoned for previously failing to notice a 4 man overlap outside him by driving over for yet another converted try to bring up the final score and the bonus point.

This was a gutsy performance by Salcombe against a side who are 4th in the table. The defence was very sound with Hurst, Alfano-Rogers,Jay Hannaford, Wills and  Chris Drew at the heart of it. Despite the yellow card for piece of idiocy in front of the ref, Prawny had a good game and Clarke marshalled things well all afternoon.