Withy suffer late heartbreak as visiting South Molton deny them

PUBLISHED: 13:09 28 January 2019

Withy players in a half-time 'huddle' during the game with South Molton. Picture ANDREA PARKIN

Withy players in a half-time 'huddle' during the game with South Molton. Picture ANDREA PARKIN

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Two late South Molton tries denied Withycombe what would have been a morale-boosting success as they went down 22-15 in a close encounter played out in soggy conditions at Raleigh Park, writes Adam Curtis.

Withy co-captain Liam Cullen scores a try in the meeting with South Molton. Also in shot are team mates Tom Cooke and Jack Fear. Picture ANDREA PARKINWithy co-captain Liam Cullen scores a try in the meeting with South Molton. Also in shot are team mates Tom Cooke and Jack Fear. Picture ANDREA PARKIN

To date, this Tribute Cornwall and Devon League campaign has been one of problem after problem for battling Withycombe, but, since the turn of the year there has been a clear change of mindset to such a degree that the performances have been improving game by game; this one was no exception as, to a man, Withy players showed true grit and determination and they so nearly got the win their all-round shift deserved.

Withy made a bright start and there were just seven minutes on the clock when a move initiated by Ben West ended with Jack Fear running 22 yards to score under the posts at the Brook End and Paddy Haddad slotted a straightforward conversion.

With a heightened level of confidence and passion, some good attacking play and a strong defensive line, the next 15 minutes was mostly played in the South Molton half.

However, the rain became stronger, which made handling difficult for both sets of players.

Jack Fear scores the opening try for Withycobe in the home meeting with South Molton. Picture ANDREA PARKINJack Fear scores the opening try for Withycobe in the home meeting with South Molton. Picture ANDREA PARKIN

With the heavier pack, South Molton had the advantage in the scrum and this saw them gain territorial advantage further up the pitch.

Withy resisted well until, from a scrum on the home five-metre line, the ball was spun out to winger Luke Doyle, who crossed for an unconverted try to reduce the home lead to one of 7-5.

Clearly buoyed by their score, the visitors ended the half on the front foot, but, once again, the Withy defence stood strong, equal to the best that was thrown their way and half-time came with that 7-5 score still on the board.

The second half started with a bang as some superb footballing skills saw the ever-present Danny Sansom follow his own kick to a successful conclusion in the clubhouse corner – a score greeted with a huge Raleigh Park ‘roar’!

What was a tough conversion was missed, but, two minutes into the second half, Withy led 12-5.

The next 10 minutes saw pressure from South Molton, but more strong Withy defence was also aided by enforced handling errors by the visitors.

Unfortunately, for Withy, as the pitch got heavier and took its toll on the home legs – playing up the slope – the power of the South Molton scrum again came to the fore and, following a turnover in the scrum, a driving maul carried them over for an unconverted try.

Tom Cooke then slotted a try – a kick that was all the more impressive given the increasing wind and rain! The successful kick meant Withy held a 15-10 lead with 15 minutes remaining.

As the rain turned to hail, play was congested in the middle third when a huge kick took the visitors deep into the Withy 22.

From the resulting line out, the ball was stolen and, once again, the difference in pack weight was evident as the ball was walked over the line, bringing the scores level at 15-15.

It was to get more painful for another terrific turnout by the Withy faithful when, with just a couple of minutes left, another South Molton scrum on the Withy five-metre line saw the visitors again power their way over and kick the conversion to seal a narrow 22-15 success.

Despite the loss, this was a performance from which the boys in ‘green and black’ can certainly hold their heads very high. In what were difficult conditions they came mighty close to that much cherished win, one that will surely come soon if this sort of effort and determination is continued.

This Saturday there’s no league action and so the Withy players will resume their league campaign on February 9 with a trip to title-chasing Bude.

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