Withycombe march on in league and cup after double-header win in Plymouth
PUBLISHED: 12:48 24 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:48 24 February 2020
Withycombe magnificent season shows no sign of letting up after the team returned from Withy with their 100 per cent Devon One record intact and a place in the final of the Devon Junior Cup booked thanks to a 26-7 success at Tamar Saracens.
After the previous week's league meeting had been cancelled owing to the presence of Storm Dennis, the teams, who sit first and second in the league table, met in a double-header to determine not only league points, but a place in the cup final and, at full-time, Withy had extended their lead at the top of Devon One to 16 points!
Withy were swiftly out of the traps down in Plymouth with Neil Williams intercepting a home pass to power home from 10 yards to score a first minute try that was converted by Glenn Channing.
Staying on the front foot, two quick Withy penalties put them deep into home territory but Tamar Saracens defended well, though they did lose influential number eight Sin Manu to a knee injury and the change in the home teams back row proved significant as Withy won four successive line-outs thanks to the exploits of Chris Gibbons and Jake Prophett O'Neill.
On the half hour, the Withy lead was increased when Jake Prophett O'Neill finished off a slick team move. A tricky conversion kick drifted just wide, but Withy held a 12-0 lead that they carried through to the interval.
The second half saw the home side make an impressive start and, despite some excellent defensive work from Withy, Tamar Saracens were not to be denied and, seven minutes after the restart their hooker went over and a successful conversion saw them put seven points on the board and reduce the Withy lead to one of five points.
A few minutes later, a brief lapse in discipline saw Max Cooke sent to the sin bin for an off-the-ball tackle leaving Withy a man down for the next 10 minutes.
The home side looked to press home their numerical advantage and they spent a period of time camped close to Withy line, but the defence was again superb and ultimately it was a turnover on the try line from the Withy forwards that brought an end to a period of sustained pressure.
Withy worked their way back upfield and, on 70 minutes the game took a decisive turn when a George Toomey break on the halfway line found Neil Williams who took the ball one before passing it out to the supporting Will Cooper who took it over the whitewash, scoring his firsts senior try and on his 1st XV debut in the process!
As the visiting supporters erupted into applause, there was some disagreement from the home scrum half Rikki Brandham and he said a word too much for the match referee who brandished a yellow card!
The extra man advantage benefitted Withycombe greatly as they saw out the last 10vminutes with the lion's share of possession and territory.
There was still time for another try as a break from Williams from the edge of the 22 saw him complete the scoring and ensure another bonus point success. Another Channing sailed between the uprights to complete the scoring.
In terms of the Devon Junior Cup, Withy will face Buckfastleigh Ramblers in the final after they won 13-19 away at OPMs. The date and venue for the final have yet to be confirmed.
As for the league campaign, just two more points are required to confirm an instant return to the Devon & Cornwall Division and the celebrations for that may well come this Saturday (February 29) when Withy entertain an Ilfracombe side that Withy beat 31-19 when the teams met in North Devon in late November.
Kick-off at Raleigh Park on Saturday is at 2.30pm.