Weston turn the screw after half time to shut out Barum
By Pete Sloman
Match report by Tony Russell, photos courtesy of Andrew Collins
Friday 17.30….just starting to plan a Saturday with no rugby, which everyone hates. Shopping?!! Decorating!! Watching a Welsh club on television, or worse still, a soccer match!!
Friday ….18.00 hours. Frantic phone calls to players, committee and supporters. The match was definitely ON.
Saturday ….noon. Having departed, doubts from all travellers. The snow as bad as it had been in Weston. Were Barum pulling our leg? What were we going to find at Pottington Rd?
Saturday 12.15…all doubts dispersed. A mile past the South Molton junction, all the snow had disappeared. Barnstaple appeared to be lying in its’ own little green valley, although there was obviously much snow on the surrounding hills.
And on arrival, a pleasant surprise. The pitch was tacky and muddy, but eminently playable. Congratulations to the groundsman.
And on to the rugby…. This match went the same way as many of Westons’ matches this season. A fiercely competitive first half with the visitors pulling away in the second.
Barnstaple is a difficult side to beat on their ground. They play with pride and commitment for what is usually a very decent sized, demanding and noisy crowd, and away wins are hard earned.
They were quickly out of the blocks. Weston dropped the kick off. The ball from the ensuing scrum reached Brock via Perrys’ miss pass (the first of many, but it only worked once). The centre ran through several appalling attempted tackles to run in from 70 metres for a fine individual try.
45 seconds gone…5-0 to Barum. The visitors responded after 10 minutes when winger Jones went in for a try following an elusive run. Mackay converted. 7-5 to the Seasiders. Equality reigned for 15 minutes, but following a rare drive by the Barum forwards, Weston lost flanker Morrissey and No. 8 Sparks to yellow cards in the space of a minute. Unsurprisingly the home sides’ Roberts managed to get the ball down following a driving maul. The conversion was missed but in another attack, Weston lost prop forward Swann to another yellow after 34 minutes. 12 players vs. 15 and Barum naturally took the attacking lineout, which was stolen and driven away by Westons’ five remaining forwards. Within a minute, the visitors were throwing in near the home line. The ball was won and Jones squeezed over in the corner for his second try from the rucked ball. The conversion was missed but Weston led 12-10, still with a man short.
Topps added a penalty in the 4th. minute of injury time to give the hosts the slenderest of leads.
The second half brought exactly what Barum had feared as Westons’ pack got on top, stifling and squeezing the life out of the opposition. Mackay, now with a breeze at his back, kicked long for position. The chasing and tackling from the backs was good and the home side found it hard to escape from their end, although they gamely tried to run out of trouble. Four times, the Weston forwards drove on inexorably. Four times Barum were penalised, interestingly with no sign of yellow, and Mackay kicked close range penalties after 48, 53, 62 and 67 minutes to ease the visitors out to 24-13, and a fifth onslaught after 75 minutes, with a home player finally in the bin, brought a try for Burge, also converted for a final 31-13 scoreline. No bonus point try but a second half shutout which will please the coaches.
On a statistical point, the penalty count was 11 each, which gives the lie to some of the “lively comment” proferred on Rolling Maul, and for some of these august citizens, hone up on the rolling subs. law (although the one uncontested scrum remained a mystery to WSM as well!)
Weston team…Bennett, Watkins, Smee, (Sprague), Edwards, Jones, Mackay, Waldon, Swann, Burge, Hobbs(Donegan), Somers, Russell,
Eaton (Glen), Morrissey, Sparks.