Monday 10 January, 2022, by Oli Masters
Buckle up – this is a long one…
Salcombe had a team meeting on Thursday where collective team targets were set in order to build on the second half of the season. One of these was to put in performances in order to prove beyond doubt that the victories already in place were not merely an over achieving fluke and set a foundation that establishes firmly that this is the standard in which these new Crabs operate weekly.
In order to offer evidence of this Salcombe had to negotiate the first fixture of 2022 and show the team that now occupy joint second in the league, beyond question that they did in fact, want it.
The conditions were frankly atrocious with the pitch more closely resembling a marsh than a rugby pitch. The Crab pack began the match however with venom and aggression that is fast becoming a trademark of a team growing in belief. Repeated infringements caused by the home side in the face of some relentless tackling and discipline in the tight saw them cough up multiple penalties. This in turn led to a period of pressure from the Crab forwards seeing them camped on the OPMs Try line. Eventually the ball was spun wide into the back line for a try to be scored by Mark Parnowski; in truth this could have been scored by any one of four Salcombe players such was the pressure by the pack causing defenders to be sucked into the contact area. The Plymouth side bit back almost immediately however with an unconverted try, arguably against the run of play courtesy of a rolling maul, and with a scrum that was getting the better of the Crab forwards. The next 20 minutes or so was played out in a repetitive fashion with Salcombe playing the better rugby despite the freezing rain and wind and OPMs using their powerful pack to take advantage at scrum time, kicking deep wherever possible and thus the pattern would start again. This was until a home scrum on the half way line was disrupted by scrum half Lee Clark dislodging the ball from the number 8’s hands and plucking it out of the air before feeding fly half Jon Squire, who cut through the defensive line before chipping the full back to dot down to the right of the uprights to the complete shock of the home side. This made the score 5 – 12 at half time but with the Crabs playing into a fierce wind and another icy downpour.
Luckily for Salcombe they started the 2nd half in the same way they finished the first and were unlucky not to extend their lead when 2nd row Keiron Clarke looked to have scored a perfectly good try only for it to be deemed to be held up. Not to be deterred however Squires bagged his second, setting fire to the rain by running a cute angle through multiple tacklers and scoring under the posts.
The last 20 minutes of the match were as attritional as you could want, OPMs using the strong wind to pin back Salcombe and using their powerful scrum which, although not the same force it was after some tactical tweaks by Salcombe, still made some hard yards and dominate territory. They used one such scrum to garner a penalty try which came rather without warning and certainly put Salcombe on notice, as by now they had no front row replacements after an injury to the impressive Jay Hannaford meaning they were forced to play with 14 for the final ten minutes.
Hearts were in mouths during a time in which wave after wave of attackers were brought down just shy of the Salcombe line and, in what turned out to be the last passage of play, Salcombe conceded a penalty which the home side elected to kick. If it were successful they would take the game by a point. It was not however to be their day, the kick missed, the Crabs cleared and the referee blew for full time sealing a dramatic and momentous win that will live long in the memory.
Big performances were abound, Squires’ two moments of individual brilliance set up an attacking platform that meant Salcombe never relinquished the lead, James Lake was an absolute force of nature in the tackle and with ball in hand – there are defenders that will be seeing him in their nightmares for weeks to come. The second row pairing of Sinnott and Goodman were the archetypal engine room of the side and played their role to perfection. Clark L was an absolute pain in backside all game and brought parity at times to a scrum that in the first half especially found it tough going. Man of the Match however was the now indecipherable Dafffyyydd Bonar who tidied up everything within a 5 meter radius of the contact zone using his body to get around, upside, downside and inside all that came his way.
In my last match report I wrote that after a significant performance I would usually list the whole match day squad but would save it for when we got the big W. There can be no time better than now to do so following a league win at a ground that has never been achieved since records began ( I checked). Match day Squad for win over Old Plymothians and Manameadians – P Lloyd, T Woods (C), J Hannaford, B Goodman, D Sinnot, K Clarke, D Bonarrrr, J Lake, L Clarke, J Squire, O Masters, E Grace, L Wills, S Wilkins, M Parnowski, S Harding-Hodder, N Roberts, J Hawtin, M Lidstone, D Mugford.