Monday 29 November, 2021, by Oli Masters
Over 100 hardy souls turned out at Two Meads on Saturday in near freezing conditions to see if the Crabs could do something not achieved in more than a decade in stringing together 3 league victories in a row. It says a lot about the growing reputation of this side that there was more than an air of expectation that Salcombe would be able to beat a side that has historically had their number and have dominated the last few years’ meetings.
As it was, the home side came out firing and began the game as they finished the last one with some aggressive forward play and a quick ball to centre Jordan Tebb who was able to finish smartly and continue his rich vein of form. Unfortunately however, as happened last week, Dartmouth came to negate that score with one of their own after some weak tackling allowed a number of line breaks, one of which culminating in a score out wide. This was compounded a few moments later with an almost identical score on the other side of the pitch following yet more poor tackling.
It was at this moment when the home side were given fresh instructions, impetus and four letter word encouragement by the recently arriving coach Eoghan Grace, a few players perhaps fortunate that he missed the opening segment. The Crabs then dominated the latter stages of the half getting the better of the scrums and winning the physical battle up front. When a series of penalties gave Salcombe a line out on the Dartmouth try line a rolling maul expertly marshalled by skipper Toby Woods saw him break away and dive over from 2 yards out. The conversion was missed but it did mean parity at half time.
The second half saw a more direct and confrontational Salcombe and once again telling substitutions from the coaching team adding a boost from the bench the likes of which SRFC are fortunate to be able to call on. Toby Fellows returning to the match day squad from a long injury layoff made several direct incursions on the right wing, punishing a few first up defenders who tried to tackle him too high. Back Rower James Lake as last week brought a ruthlessness off the bench that the tiring Dartmouth forwards struggled to cope with and the evergreen Neil Elliott, now sporting a new slimline physique, gave the Crab pack a huge boost with his leadership and experience.
This was a game that Salcombe historically may have lost and shied away from when difficult questions are asked, but this is a different Salcombe RFC; a team who may not have all the answers all the time and most certainly will find the going tough this season, but also a team who are up for a challenge, using the experience of others to try and build a new club both on and off the pitch.
And so it was with this new directness and enthusiasm that the home team were able to add to their own score via a scything run through the midfield by John Squires. But with Salcombe now only up by 5, calm heads were needed to see out the game. Dartmouth threatened but the Crabs’ resilience told, and even despite a number of penalties against them their defence held strong. The game culminated with a bonus point try from Lake who got on the end of midfield break to evade tackles and round off under the posts from 25 yards out. A further blow to Dartmouth as it removed their losing bonus point and stretched out the gap in league positions between the two clubs.
There were many notable performances, Lee Clarke at fly half who had one of his best kicking displays, prop Jay Hannaford who was a chief ball carrier all afternoon and full back Mark Parnowski who was the last line of defence in the tackle and secured everything that Dartmouth threw at him. The Man of the Match however was Neil Elliott who’s understanding and skill when added to the fray ensured the win and that the game didn’t slip out of Salcombe’s hands.
SRFC would like to thank the ladies who coordinated the raffle and food, Nick LV at LV Catering for the players after match meal, and to Dartmouth RFC who will no doubt give us a fierce reception at their place later in the year. The playing squad would like to thank the vocal and passionate support offered to them by the crowd, this included a few old faces that we were very pleased to see looking so well. As always anyone who feels that itch, training is Tuesdays and Thursdays 7pm, come and see us.