Wow, what a game that was and what a great result. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster today as the Chiefs welcomed Clifton to Pottington Road. It was all upside down before the start as Jordon Petherbridge was ruled out sick this morning and, it seems, Jack Bond too was unavailable. So a lot of reshuffling saw Luke Berry starting at 15 and Jake Murphy slotting into fly half, with Brad Drew and youngster Troy Willis brought in on the bench.
Clifton started the match the quicker with some quick handling and free running which seemed to catch The Chiefs flat footed, at least for the first ten minutes as a series of missed tackles gave the visitors a 14 point lead. Barnstaple worked their way back into it when Gaz Evans, snatching a Jake Murphy pass off his toes, somehow managing to launch himself over the tacklers to land Barnstaple’s first try, hope. Ha that was quickly dashed as more missed tackles helped Clifton to score a third try five minutes later. It is a bit dismissive to say it was just missed tackles, to be fair the pace at which Clifton played combined with some really good handling meant that there was always going to be missed tackles and Clifton made the most of their opportunities. But the exhaling breathes of a big crowd expecting the worse could be heard as many scratched their heads as to what was happening.
Not the Chiefs though as Winston lead the way upping his aggression to start hitting the gain line with the sort of ferocity we used to see. This seemed to galvanise and energise the rest and immediately a Will Topps pass put Oli, the stag, Mason into space and the big lock made hay ploughing through the open space to score his first ever National 2 try. A much deserved reward for the stag who is having another great season. Now Barnstaple started to build momentum and take control of the game. From a lineout drive James Starkey slipped down the blindside to see no opposition. The startled look suddenly gave way to the realisation that the try was but a few short steps away as he rolled over for Barnstaple’s third try.
Clifton did try to press towards the end of the half, but more pressure from the Chiefs and Will Topps spotting the gap ran from within his own half unopposed to score The Chiefs 4th try and earn them the bonus point before half time. The break saw Barnstaple 27-19 ahead and heading into the changing rooms to rapturous applause.
The second half saw much more control from The Chiefs as the started to go through the phases and although for 25 minutes they applied a lot of pressure only a penalty was scored to increase their lead to 30-19. Clifton was not done yet and they came back hard and fast to power over for a try in the 65th minute. This seemed to give them new energy as they attacked relentlessly for the next 10 minutes with only 6 points separating the teams, the Pottington Road faithful held their breath as one for what seemed an eternity. But the red line held magnificently and was rock solid throughout forcing the knock on in their own 22. From that The Chiefs went deep into Clifton’s 22 and setting up a driving maul Ashlee crouch was driven over for the final score of the game to secure victory in what was a great game of rugby and has propelled Barnstaple to 8th in the league.
So what can we take from this, well the first thing is we have to start better. That being said Barnstaple are showing great character to not panic after being 14-0 down inside 10 minutes and to really get the bit between their teeth. Once they get momentum you can feel the desire from the team. It also means that any team visiting Pottington Road has to be pretty special to win here.
Man of the Match was Kyle Speare as chosen by the Ladies today. He had a great game today to further cement his growing popularity, although there must have been at least another dozen candidates for that award. It was great to see Winston ignite the rest of the team as he has often done in the past, and whilst fly half is not Jake Murphy’s favourite position his positional kicking was exceptional today relieving pressure and setting up situations for the lads to play from. Danny Southworth still impresses as do the pack in general and it was nice to see so many tries scored by the forwards today, richly deserved. Unfortunately Ryan Carter appeared to sustain a nasty injury and needed to be helped off the pitch, hopefully it looked worse than it was, we will have to wait and see. So next stop is Henley for The Chiefs and another chance to put some distance between us and the rest of the pack.
Today’s other games have thrown up some interesting results, Cinderford in particular seem to now be struggling as they failed to cope with a very solid Chinnor. Losing at home 20-31. I can only think a couple of key injuries have stalled their progress. Our opponents next week Henley Hawks managed a 25-25 draw at Old Reds making it their second draw so far this season. Redruth and Bury fought a very tight low scoring game in Cornwall but Redruth just edged it 12-9. Taunton is now running away with it clocking up a further 81 points in their win over Worthing, whilst Tonbridge are still struggling to win at home only achieving 1 out of 4. The result of the day though goes to Broadstreet who chalked up their first win of the season beating London Irish 53-40, what a score line.
So that’s it till next week although I should have some junior results midweek, enjoy today and get ready for next week. A quick reminder that the Tic’s are back in action at Pottington Road next week against Crediton 2nds, so if you can’t make it to Henley why not come and watch the Tic’s entry is free just some beer money is all you need.