Tuesday 21 January, 2020, by John Sprague
With the notable exception of the Boxing Day match at Kingsbridge, the Crabs hadn’t had a game since 14 December as 3 sides failed to turn up at Twomeads over the Christmas New Year period thus disappointing the team, spectators and of course the Treasurer! As two of them were Merit Table matches it adds strength to voices suggesting that Salcombe apply to join Devon 1 next season thereby ensuring that sides turn up at Twomeads. However in return there would be the prospect of 3 trips to north Devon and several to Exeter. At least the Merit Table is cosily local.
Salcombe therefore looked a little rusty at first as the home side probed strongly and not all Salcombe tackles were completed well. OPM were good at retaining possession and going through the phases denying the Crabs much chance to get their hands on the ball. Poor kicking out of defence compounded the problems for Salcombe and it was something of a relief when OPM infringed and at last a fine touch finder took the visitors deep inside the OPM 22. Salcombe prepared for their tried and trusted catch and drive from the lineout and after several phases James Cooper saw a gap and hurtled through for the first try of the game. The conversion failed as did all but one of the other 5 tries.
Gradually Salcombe worked their way into the match and once they achieved parity of possession they started to look much more threatening as their superior organisation showed through. But the home side were nothing if not gritty in defence and it was only late on that a set scrum went the Crabs’ way and a series of powerful takes led by Anselm Lally ended up with Marco Alfano-Rogers scoring the try for a 10-0 half time lead.
The second half went much more to plan from a Crabs’ point of view. The backs ably generalled by Chris Drew functioned fluidly and much of the game was played in the OPM half. But the home side never gave up and Salcombe had to work hard for their scores. Man of the Match Oli Masters showed how much he welcomed his return to the centre from his usual wing spot by tackling ferociously and orchestrating a great try by a searing mazy run from deep before handing onto new signing Toby Fellowes who still had to gallop 40 metres evading the opposition for the try and 15-0. This was followed by a typical Alfano-Rogers try where from well outside the 22 a combination of speed and guile took him over the line for the fourth bonus point try.
But that was Marco’s last contribution to the game as the ref did not appreciate his administering instant retribution for a dangerous dump tackle on a Salcombe player and yellow carded him. But playing with 14 men for the last 10 minutes of the match didn’t stop Salcombe from scoring 2 more tries. The first came from a turnover as swift ball from Drew came to Will John on the wing who showed great speed to outpace the OPM defence and score under the posts to bring up 27-0. The last try of the game started with a typical charging run from Toby Woods to within 10 metres of the line. A series of rucks followed and fittingly Woods then went over for 32-0.
This was a thoroughly workmanlike performance by Salcombe. Once the cobwebs had been blown away they were well organised throughout and played intelligently sticking to their gameplan. OPM rarely looked like scoring but were in turn tough in defence.