Monday 18 March, 2019, by John Sprague
The Crabs arrived in the Final of this spin-off of the Devon Junior Cup never having kicked a ball in it. They went to Old Techs in the first round of the Junior Cup and lost narrowly but thereafter a succession of clubs pulled out of the Plate, Vase etc to leave Salcombe as the last one standing! Devon clearly need to review their whole Cup programme. And indeed they need to review their timing because putting on a final on 6 Nations Super Saturday is not the way to get full strength sides out, least of all when the opponents are 100 miles apart.
Salcombe travelled with no less than 8 players unavailable or injured including their entire front row and replacements. Given how often this season this report has featured Sinnott, Woods, Hannaford and Trant it is easy to see how their loss would impact the side and this, coupled with a number of others being away meant that the Crabs went in hope rather than expectation. But nevertheless they went with a full side and 5 replacements. Setting off in a brisk wind and drizzle they arrived to monsoon rain and a full gale blowing diagonally across the pitch. Typical Ilfracombe weather then!
The Crabs had the advantage of the slope in the first half but the disadvantage of the gale and facing a big home side with some clever runners, Salcombe were soon on the back foot tackling like crazy but keeping Ilfracombe from scoring. The scrum was under pressure but the improvised front row of Finn Nicholas, Joss Lally and Dan Tucker kindly on loan from Kingsbridge, held their own well. Eventually weight tolled and the home sides second row went over in the 30th minute for a converted try.
The second half was largely a repeat of the first but Salcombe racked up injuries and by the end barely had 15 bodies in various stages of dilapidation standing. Salcombe scored a penalty through Lee Clarke but Ilfracombe got 2 more tries and a penalty. This was a gutsy performance by Salcombe of which all who took the field can be proud but Ilfracombe were clearly the better side and deserved their win.