Monday 21 February, 2022, by Oli Masters
Former All Black’s Boss Steve Hansen once said of a drawn rugby match between his team and the Lions in 2017 - “it's a little bit like kissing your sister, there's not a lot in it for anybody.”
In terms of Saturday’s game at Two Meads both teams will come away thinking that the win was there for the taking but for some extra accuracy of execution, arguably with Salcombe being the happier of the teams as it was them that were losing until all the but the final whistle.
Tamar clearly had an early game plan to bully the Crab pack and set their stall out early, very early in fact as they were out running through their plays even before most of the Salcombe team arrived to get changed. Notwithstanding Salcombe were able to meet Tamar head on with neither team particularly controlling the early exchanges despite the tail end of Storm Eunice blowing directly along the length of the pitch aiding the Plymouth team. Salcombe were also dealt an early blow as new signing Rhys Cattell and shortly thereafter (not new signing) Mark Parnowski suffered match ending injuries neither of which looking pleasant. This forced a couple of reshuffles in both the forwards and backs but even with the wind in their faces the Crabs excellent defence and truly dominant scrum restricted the visitors to only a couple of penalties to make the score 0 – 6 at half time.
With the wind the second half largely belonged to the Crabs, themselves grabbing an early penalty curtesy of Lee Clarke. They would have really hoped to add to that score when Saracens were reduced to 13 with 2 yellow cards in quick succession. As in last weeks defeat to South Molton a period of sustained attacking pressure within touching distance of the try line failed to yield and points. It’s here where lessons must be learnt for Salcombe to begin to turn the screw a little and settle games down when the line is beckoning. As it was and having held off the Crabs attach Tamar launched one for themselves and were unlucky possibly to have a score in the corner ruled out for a double movement.
So it was with time running out and the ball in the hands of the away team the last little bit of drama occurred. With the time seemingly in the red a Tamar player bizarrely didn’t opt to kick the ball dead and end the game, instead he took it into contact one more time and was promptly penalised. Salcombe kicked to the corner going for the try and the win. The line out failed but possession was retained and the ball passed wide only for Tamar to infringe again and give away another penalty. Again Salcombe kicked to the corner and again no forward motion was forthcoming with the ball again spun wide to the backs and as before Tamar infringed. This time with the penalty in kicking range Captain Toby Woods correctly pointed to the posts with Ice cold Lee Clarke levelling the match with the last touch of the ball.
Salcombe despite it apparently being like kissing your sister will look to take the positives from this performance which was far improved on the previous week. Tamar were a very strong and fancied team who could not break down Salcombe as they had done in the reverse fixture. The Crab pack, particularly the front row went through 4 different combinations of opposition scrummagers none of which could take an inch from them. The line out was effective in difficult conditions and the bench was used to great effect with a real impact being made by the whole squad. A niggle remains about taking chances when they are on offer but this was two points gained and a match that would have ended quite differently not that long ago.
Notable performances were from the front row combination of Elliott, Woods, Hannaford and Clarke Snr and Dave Evans, thrown in an unfamiliar position of Full back and whose powerful carry at the end won the penalty which brought about the draw. The Man of the Match despite loosing his yard record in the post match festivities however was Jay Hannaford who was rock solid in the tight and an unrelenting ball carrier all match.
As always the playing squad would like to thank the supporters for their encouragement, LV Catering for the post game meals, the ladies organising the raffle and serving the food and the bar staff. Without this team effort Two Meads wouldn’t be the place it is and the place it aspires to be, roll on next week when local rivals Totnes make the short trip in a rearranged fixture from January.