Sunday 11 September, 2022, by Oli Masters
Salcombe were able to back up last weeks hard fought away victory with a back to back win this time at home against an impressive Paignton 2nds team. Keen to maintain the momentum and playing on home turf the Crabs wanted to make a statement and with no clue as to the quality of the opposition that would turn up this match was due to be the perfect opportunity to show how far the team has come. This was complicated somewhat by the second team nature of the days opposition, would it be an disorganised group at different stages of their playing career turning up in dribs and drabs? Or just as likely, a feeder squad designed to develop their first team. The answer was emphatically the latter and any suggestion that the afternoon would be a breeze was dispelled within a few moments of each teams warm up beginning. This in reality was exactly what Salcombe needed, a high quality and physically demanding dog fight, big collisions, dynamic defence and a set piece that at times favoured either side with questions to answer in both with and without the ball.
Paignton got off the mark early on with a penalty, this was quickly cancelled by Salcombe with one of their own thanks to the boot of Lee Clarke. Both teams were able to launch attacks but a lack of discipline, at times poor handling along with some resolute try line defence meant the half was played out predominantly between the 22’s and the half time score 3 - 3.
Salcombe began the second half on the front foot, more frequent incursions into opposition territory and an increased willingness to run the ball began to pay off as the crabs dominated the 3rd quarter. One such incursion courtesy of a 50/22 kick and resulting line out laid the ground work for Salcombe’s try thanks to a neat finish from centre Dave Evans following the forwards battering the Paignton try line before spinning the ball wide. The rest of the half was played without further score but was an attritional spectacle for those involved and looking on. Paignton came close with a few minutes left and even looked to be on the cusp of driving over under the posts only for Liam Wills to put in a trademark hit from point blank range and dislodge the ball from one of the Paignton strike runners.
With Two meads bathed in sunshine the crowd were treated to a high calibre game of grass roots rugby that the players will be feeling for several days after. Paignton will be a team to be reckoned with and if they can keep their large player pool together (35 plus at training) will trouble many teams this season on todays evidence. It is therefore to Salcombe’s credit that they were not only able to match the level expected of them but raise their game in order to shut out the visitors and unpick the lock and score the crucial points that were demanded of them. It is too simplistic to say in previous years the result would have been vastly different but the feeling is that a shift in mentality since the disappointment at Buckfastleigh in August has brought out the best in the squad who should take nothing for granted and fight for every point and blade of grass. As last week this was not a perfect performance, discipline was at times poor with far too many penalties conceded. Handling errors at key points may have also left a try or two unscored but the positives hugely outweigh the negatives and give a good base from which to build for next week against bogey team Tamar Saracens who Salcombe have not been able to beat in recent memory. Notable performances were across the team but in particular centre Wills for his work in defence, Lock Dan Hepburn for a tireless display and ruling the air at the line out and for veteran hooker and cyclist Neil Elliott back for another season in the front row. Man of the Match went to number 8 Rhys Cattell who ate up meters with the ball in hand but also marshalled the back row to perfection despite a number of personnel changes throughout the game. The playing squad would like to thank the supporters, Nick at LV catering for the post game meal, the bar staff and volunteers in the kitchen and groundsman who, as promised, had the pitch ready to go for match day.