Tavistock drop into relegation zone after home defeat to Bude
IT is ironic that the only game in three divisions across Devon and Cornwall not washed out by torrential downpours was played in the town which gets more rain per square metre than any other place in Great Britain – at least according to the natives.
So you'd think the Tavistock players would have taken to Saturday's sodden conditions like, well, ducks to water.
Unfortunately for the moorlanders, who now slip into the Western Counties West relegation zone while Bude jump out of it, it was the visitors who adapted to the semi-aquatic conditions far better than their hosts.
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The importance of Saturday's match at Sandy Park to the chances of Tavistock remaining in the division longer than one season cannot be overstated.
They have to take points off teams around them in the table if they want to stay up.
It has to be said that Bude were coming off the back of an heroic win over leaders St Austell and Tavistock were under-strength, particularly in the forwards.
Notable absentees were carnivorous flanker Duncan Law and second-rower Andy Schuttkake, who normally has a massive influence on Tavistock's set-piece plays, plus any other area of the field he cares to pop up in.
But even taking that into consideration, on Saturday's evidence Bude wanted the result far more than Tavistock did and if the conditions were unquestionably vile, they were vile for both sides.
Tavistock played as well as the conditions were allowing them to in the first half, taking a 13-10 lead by the interval, but faded badly in the second period.
Bude opened the scoring with a penalty, but Tavvy drew level when fly-half Richard West potted a nifty drop-goal – one of his specialities – from around 30 metres out.
Tavistock went down to 14 men when centre Doug Lloyd, one of their most effective players, was binned before five minutes were on the game clock after committing his first offence of the match – although it was difficult to fathom exactly what it was.
The visitors, who had more of the possession but lacked penetrating power against a stubborn home defence, finally cracked Tavistock's rearguard a third of the way through the first half to record a converted try and take a 10-3 lead.
Tavistock upped the tempo and hit back almost immediately, captain Lloyd James taking advantage of a muddle in the Bude line-out to punch over for an unconverted try as a result of the home side's first serious foray up field.
With only two points separating the two teams, Tavistock scored a try which would have lit up any game were it not for the rain clouds darkening the arena by the minute.
Bude's defence expected West to have a crack at a drop-goal when he received the ball 20 metres out – Tavistock's fly-half had tried a few previously but missed the target.
Instead, West dipped his shoulder and fed the ball left to the now-returned Lloyd, who neatly handed off the ball to Danny Luffman. Luffman, running in from deep, evaded his would-be markers and flung himself across the Bude try-line.
West missed the conversion, but Tavistock – who had to move the match to the second-team pitch because their new first-team pitch was flooded – could have viewed the second period with some confidence as they were playing downhill.
Bude, however, visibly squared their shoulders and tied the game with a penalty. They followed that up with a converted try to take a 20-13 lead.
Tavistock were, briefly, in the ascendancy after that, a penalty negating a searching run from Luffman which took him deep into Bude territory.
Bude cleared, however, and created a platform from which they scored their third try of the game, again converted.
Tavistock were visibly drooping and started to run out of ideas, battering unremittingly against Bude's pack, but getting little more than bruises for their trouble.
Bude, sensing Tavistock's will to win was ebbing, contented themselves with break-outs, from which they scored two, more tries, one of them converted.
It could have been worse for the home side, as one of their 'tries' was wiped out by a penalty within sniffing distance of their goal-line.
Tavistock head coach Mike Lewis was unhappy with his team's performance, after they had started so promisingly.
"Bude deserved to win," he said afterwards. "We had filthy, muddy, dreadful conditions, which also summed up our play. We kept to our game plan quite well in the first half, but completely forgot it in the second. It was disappointing."