Tribute Devon Two

Plympton Victoria 7

Salcombe arrived at Two Meads on Saturday with a strong squad and a determination to arrest a run of defeats going back to December.

Having been outplayed in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, the Crabs knew that the game could not be taken lightly, especially as for the first time in recent memory their opposition occupied the league space above them.

With that in mind and with a bumper crowd turned out due to the club welcoming its past players, the start could not have been much worse.

A poorly dealt with kick-off gifted Plym Vic territorial advantage and eventually allowed them to score under the posts after a few minutes. This was not the start that anyone would have wanted, but annoyingly has become a little too frequent in recent matches and something that needs to be reinforced at training (again).

From here Salcombe rallied but still found it difficult to make the possession that they now dominated count for anything on the score board.

A pattern emerged whereby good field position would be secured during open play only for it to be squandered in the resulting set piece, which at times was a little creaky despite the pack’s best efforts, specifically the back row of Hurst, Alfano-Rogers and Gregson.

Eventually the constant pressure and passion took its toll; a delayed pass from returning hero Chris Drew to put Jack Howitt into space saw him carve though the defence before floating perfect pass out wide which was gratefully received by full-back Craig Julian, who raced in to score Salcombe first points of the game. Unfortunately the conversion missed but Clarke at 10 quickly made amends with a penalty to put the Crabs in front by a point going into half time.

A raft of half-time substitutions were made with the intention of giving Salcombe the upper hand in the scrum and the size and added power from Trant, Kemp and Bonar in the front, second and back rows respectively quickly told. The scrum was suddenly able to be used a weapon, giving number eight Hurst a great platform to make metres which he gobbled up with glee.

Again the pressure got too much for the tiring Plym Vic defenders and great retention from the pack allowed quick ball to come flying out along the line, with Drew probably involved somewhere before stand-in captain Neil Elliott was able to draw the last man, giving winger Schalk Herselman the tiny slice of pitch he needed to outpace the covering defence and dot down in the corner (conversion missed).

Next it was the forwards’ turn to get on the scoresheet; this time, instead of sending the ball out wide they churned out phase after phase, grinding down the defence until Salcombe’s Welsh back row union of Bonar and Hurst were able to force themselves and the ball over the line, with Bonar being the last man up from the deck and getting his first-ever senior try (conversion missed).

Salcombe now had their tails up and in the knowledge that a bonus-point win would effectively switch the two sides in the table they went in search of the elusive fourth try, something they had only done once before this season.

However, old habits began to creep in and another poorly dealt with restart gave the away team territory and possession which they used to secure a line out on the Salcombe five-metre line.

Salcombe, having had recent practice at dealing with driving mauls, did not compete and instead sacked the maul by standing off and sending in a lone tackler to attack the ball.

All sting was taken out of the attack as strike runners were held up one after another by the ferocious tackling of Alfano-Rogers, Kemp and Hannaford, eventually they panicked and through the ball wide were it was snaffled out by the midfield defence.

Salcombe quickly turned into attack mode. A penalty kick to the far 22 saw a line-out successfully retained and after several attacks at the posts the ball was spun wide to the ever-ready Howitt, who drew two men before passing to centre Oli Masters, who went between the winger and covering defenders to crash over the line. Again the conversion was missed, but to be fair it was quite misty, to make the final score 23-7.

The two men of the match were Marco Alfano-Rogers, who at times resembled Wolverine, being so dominantly aggressive in the tackle and contact that the Plym Vic (and some Salcombe) players seemed genuinely afraid of him and Jack Howitt, who somehow manages to have much bigger men bounce off him at will while chewing up the meters like a hungry hungry hippo, we’ll just forget that one pass in their 22.

The match day playing squad was completed by Sinnott, Cooper, Clarke K, Bromwich, Lidstone and the impressive Tom Veale, who made his debut off the bench for the Crabs.

This win was significant not just because of the improvement in league position, but also represents the first time in several years that the Crabs have beaten a team in a higher league position than themselves.

Next week sees the potentially rearranged fixture against DHSOB going ahead where the Crabs must consolidate their new position with another victory before the visit of St Columba in another must win match the following week.