Newton Abbot 37 Old Centralians 27
CENTRALIANS paid their first visit to Rackerhayes, home of Newton Abbot RFC, won a bonus point for their share in a 10-try thriller in this National Three South West match but still ended just missing out on the losing bonus point their battling performance deserved, writes Mike Wallace.
Newton Abbot kicked off and soon established their pattern of play.
Quick ball from the breakdown was swiftly run at pace in a series of sweeping three-quarter movements.
Cents were confined to deep clearance kicks by fly-half Connor Gwilliam and counter-attack runs by full-back Lewis May and centre Liam Hemming.
Newton Abbot scored twice in the first 15 minutes when centre Kevin Dennis broke two tackles to round off one move and number eight Martin Browne weighed in for the forwards.
Fly-half Laurence May converted one for a 12-0 lead and warning bells for Cents. The Gloucester boys responded in the best possible way. May set off on one of his trademark mazy runs, off-loading to Hemming, who accelerated through to score and add the extras himself.
Four minutes later, Cents won a penalty lineout and the forwards drove Rob Pinkney over to tie the scores 12-12.
Cents were holding their own despite, as usual, being outweighed in the scrums but a charged-down clearance kick gave Newton wing Josh Davey a soft try and then Rob Pinkney got a technical yellow.
From the resulting penalty Newton Abbot took a penalty lineout and, against seven men, drove flanker Jason Keenan over. May slotted the conversion to give the hosts a 24-12 interval lead.
An early technical sinbinning of Newton Abbot flanker Alex Smith helped Cents exert pressure from the restart.
Penetrating runs by wings Rob Jones and Ollie Townsend were halted just short of the whitewash until a clean break by Hemming set Jones up for a score in the corner.
Newton Abbot hit back with a May penalty before Cents resumed battering the uncompromising home defence.
Newton Abbot then showed how to finish from nothing when, with all eyes on the yawning open side, full-back Steve Ward eased down a narrow blind side to squeeze over in the corner. May converted from near the touchline to take the Devonians 34-17 ahead with 15 minutes left.
The frenetic pace showed no signs of easing and Newton Abbot may have thought it was game virtually over but Cents’ fitness began to tell.
Noticeably, Newton Abbot were kicking more than running but Cents’ backs were far from finished.
The fresh legs of replacement Joe Preece rounded off some slick inter-passing with a corner try and all Newton Abbot could offer was another May penalty. Crunching tackles by Cents’ centre Mike Mathers bottled up the midfield and Hemming’s angled running put Cents on the offensive. A multi-phase move brought just reward for Townsend as he crashed over to take the score to 37-27.
Cents were now in the ascendancy. With a losing bonus point only a score away and time running out they launched an all-out attack. In the final moments they camped out in Newton Abbot’s 22, winning a penalty taken to touch five metres out. But a final effort by Newton Abbot nicked the throw, the ball was cleared and the referee blew for full time.
Cents now have four postponed matches to play, mostly at home, giving them a realistic chance to escape relegation.
NEWTON ABBOT: S. Ward; K. Browne; K. Dennis; A. Moore; J. Davey; L. May; M. Newman; L. Radford; D. Avery; T. White; B. Cole; C. Stewart; A. Smith; J. Keenan;
M. Browne. Reps: T. Murch; N. Holt; M. Templeman.
OLD CENTRALIANS: L. May; R. Jones; L. Hemming; M. Mathers; O. Townsend; C. Gwilliam; H. Preece; M. Vye; N. Stroud; S. Fritchley; R. Pinkney; P. Willetts; J. Huxtable; K. Blackburn; R. Pinkney. Reps: J. Preece; S. Preece; B. Slatter.
REFEREE: Ben Wiles (Hants Society)
STAR PLAYERS: For Old Centralians – fly-half Conner Gwilliam. For Newton Abbot – fly-half Laurence May.