Old Techs edge home as they put boot into promotion rivals
Old Technicians…6 St Columba and Torpoint…5
TWO penalties and a missed conversion were enough for Old Techs to win the battle of the Devon Two mastodons.
Techs' two penalties came from Billy Evans, who probably won't notch more valuable kicks this season, and the missed conversion attempt was by St Columba's Ben Green, who is normally so accurate you'd bet your mortgage on him.
No classic, the match belonged somewhere in the region of instantly forgettable, but as a season-defining result, Techs would have taken the score well before kick-off.
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St Columba, you see, have been scoring tries for fun recently. They saw off many people's tip for the title, North Tawton, away from home and will feel they didn't perform anywhere near their best at Weston Mill on Saturday.
The reason for that is Techs didn't let them. They stopped St Columba's expansive style of rugby cold, which is why they are unbeaten in the league this season on top of Devon Two.
Saturday's win may not have been pretty – in fact there's not much worth recording except that much of the game was slugged out in midfield and attacking moves were a rarity. Both sides, however, wanted to win this one with an intensity which could practically be cut with a knife.
What the game – and the result – boiled down to was that Techs hit their penalty kicks and Saints didn't.
Evans, for the home side, planted two from three penalties, one in the first period, the other in the second. Green, given a similar opportunity, missed his kicks.
Green, who was trying to lift the ball off a swamp, missed his most crucial kick with five minutes remaining. Saints, who had been slowly, yet surely, making ground against a first-class Techs defence, finally got the ball into their opponents' 22 and shoved player-coach Damien Chambers over for a try.
That left the score at 6-5, unless Green could nail the conversion. Green, one of Saints' best players on any other Saturday, lined up the kick and shanked it 25 yards. The ball didn't even reach the Techs uprights and since the home side promptly set up an attack down the other end and kept the ball until the final whistle, there was no chance to make amends.
Oddly, Green had mislaid his kicking tee before the game started and that obviously had a bearing on him trying to lift a mud-covered ball off a surface resembling a cow-field. But Techs have the gift of being able to slow the pace of the game down to their speed. Saints, as yet, don't and that maybe was the difference.
Saints chairman of rugby Chris Goodman was philosophical about the defeat, which still handed the visitors a valuable losing bonus point. That kept them in second place, a point in front of challengers Plymouth Argaum, who were 59 points better than Plympton Victoria on Saturday.
St Columba face Argaum at Defiance Field in a fortnight and Goodman was still upbeat about promotion despite losing at Weston Mill.
"Losing our kicking tee I think cost us the game," said Goodman afterwards. "Ben was at sixes and sevens and I know he'll be really disappointed at missing the conversion.
"But I don't think any of the team should feel disappointed, because they played with a lot of spirit. I still think these two teams will go up at the end of the season."
Techs coach Nigel Bullock, while pleased with the win, was less inclined to indulge in promotion speculation after the match. Techs are, after all, only three points in front of Saints, although they have a game in hand.
"I wouldn't want to have called the match before the game," he said. "It may sound like the same old thing, but we have to take every game at a time. If you look ahead too far, then you miss what's right in front of you."
Club spokesman and full-back Shaun Bedford-Smith, who put in a sterling shift, added: "It was a tough old game and it wasn't free-flowing rugby. Both teams wanted to win and basically it came down to us getting the two kicks and St Columba missing theirs.
"We didn't give an inch and neither did they. I'm over the moon about winning, but as Nigel (Bullock) said, I'm not worried about promotion, I was worried about winning this game. That's the way we'll approach it next week."
Plymouth Argaum…59 Plympton Victoria…0
ARGAUM got off to a slow start against the division's bottom side, then turned on the afterburner in the second half.
Plymouth's oldest rugby club were just 12-0 up at the break after not having a competitive game because of postponements due to filthy weather for some weeks.
However, the third-placed team got into their stride after the break, recorded a winning bonus point and put themselves within one point of the promotion party.
Argaum boss Dave Sansom was not yet ready to bet his shirt on nabbing one of the top two places, but he was cautiously optimistic about his side's visit to Defiance Field on February 9.
He said: "I think if we can play like we can, then we've got a chance of competing with them (Saints).
"All I was glad about on Saturday was getting out and playing rugby again after getting a few weeks off.
"I think we were trying to play too much rugby in the first half, but after we had a talk at half time, we went back to playing the basics and keeping it simple, so we turned it on in the second half."
Argaum, still below full-strength due to injuries, played Dan James and Scott Galloway after their returns from the physio's couch and they both promptly scored.
Jake Turfrey weighed in with two, Cal Sullivan added a further brace and Aaron Anderson-Smith and Mason Edwards added a try each. The eloquent boot of Tom Richards provided the rest of Argaum's points.
RAPIDLY-improving Tamar Saracens scooped a handy losing bonus point at North Tawton, holding their hosts to a creditable 6-0 victory, while in Devon One, Plymstock Albion Oaks' match against Totnes was postponed.