Seasiders retain County Cup
By Pete Sloman
The 1st XV retained the Somerset Cup with a hard fought 15-8 victory over Taunton and condemned their opponents to their first defeat this season.
Weston retained their grip on the Cup they won last year, prevailing for the sixth time in the last nine years in a fiercely contested match that restored credibility to the Cup Competition, and that must have delighted both the County Committee and the considerable crowd, vindicating the decision to stage the event at Bridgwater.
Taunton, already promoted, were going for an unbeaten season and Weston were seeking to overturn the narrow League defeat suffered at Taunton two weeks ago.
The Seasiders took the lead after 3 minutes when Dickson slotted a regulation (for him) penalty from 45 metres. Taunton should have learnt their lesson not to concede penalties but this was not to be the case and Westons’ tactics to stifle the “shenanigans”of the opposition back row, and to frustrate and minimise their forward progress worked a treat as their discipline deteriorated.
Saunders replied with a simple penalty from 15 metres after 7 minutes and hit the post with a slightly more difficult kick from 35 metres to spurn the chance to put his side ahead.
Dickson made no such mistake after 17 minutes with a wedge shot from a similar distance, and then had to get the driver out to slot a huge penalty from inside his own half three minutes later for a six point lead. A further success from a mere 47 metres increased the lead to 12-3, and with it the first signs of dissent within the ranks of the Taunton team as the fierce Weston defence meant that Taunton were constantly being forced across the pitch.
Perversely Weston were reduced to 14 men after 31 minutes when Smith was invited to take a ten minute break following intervention from the T.J., ostensibly for over vigorous rucking of an opponent who just lay in the way preventing release of the ball. Strangely, the elbow to the face of Weston No.7 by his opposite number Dyer was totally missed by the same touch judge, but not by the crowd, and Wright was forced to be replaced by Simpson.
Taunton were unable to capitalise on their advantage, and were pleased to escape further punishment when Dickson narrowly missed with another 55 metre shot at goal on the stroke of half time.
Neither side had looked like scoring a try for the first forty minutes.
The second half mirrored the first with Taunton, to their credit, continuing to try to play open rugby, and to free up their normally dangerous wingmen, who have scored a hatful of tries this season, but who went nowhere in this game.
However they were having problems with gaining quality possession. Their lineout was a mess. Crooked throws abounded. Hooker Cooper was replaced, only to be reinstated after twenty minutes when his replacement suffered an apparent shoulder injury. This had nothing to do with him faring even worse when it came to the accuracy of his darts?
Dickson pushed Weston out to a 15-3 lead 15 minutes into the half with his simplest kickoff the day, but from thereon, the Seasiders were forced into a protracted rearguard action in their own half as their opponents dominated the last twenty minutes, but it was not until the 41st. minute of the half that the defence finally cracked and full back Ayres crossed for the elusive try. Once again the conversion was beyond Saunders but at 15-8, Taunton were only a converted try away. There was still much work to be done.
Referee Bob McCrudden played another ten minutes of injury time, (in addition to an extra eight minutes in the first half, all apparently due to Weston deliberately feigning injury to slow down the game!), time which was spent with Taunton pummelling the Weston tryline…to no avail.
One could write another two pages lauding the efforts of every single Weston player. Players who freely admitted that any extra time would have been beyond them, but nevertheless, it would be churlish not to mention Sparks, inspirational as a captain and a player, Bennett, the veteran centre who tackled everything in sight, and of course Dickson, rightly voted as Man of the Match.
Neil Trevena, Kirk Middlemiss (Chris Young), James Mackay, Sean Bennett, Paul Sprague, Glen Dickson, Jack Conway, David Price (Steve Donegan), David Burge, Simon Williams, Andy Richards,Stuart Board, Eddy Smith (Dan Fry), George Wright (Gavin Simpson ), George Sparks ( c) .
This match was also a personal celebration for hooker Dave Burge, who led the team out to celebrate his 200th first team appearance.
Match report by Tony Russell, and photos courtesy of Andrew Collins, Phil Trevena and Harry Trump. further photos are included within the photo albums, elsewhere on the website.