Plymstock Albion Oaks 21 : 36 St Ives
The first game of the season saw St Ives travel to Plymstock Oaks RFC for the opening league match in the Tribute Devon & Cornwall League.
With a number of players unavailable through work, holidays or injury St Ives were still able to travel with a strong playing squad and 2 travelling reserves a luxury that was not available all of last season.
All the hard word put in during the pre-season certainly provided the Hakes with enough power and skill to return from Devon with a 5 point bonus win, a result that wipes out the 5 point deduction that St Ives carried into the new season from a penalty carried over from last season.
The home side managed to contain the enthusiastic Hakes for much of the early part of the game but were unable to prevent several tries when losing a player to the sin bin. Plymstock coach Tim Mathias and his team were competitive in the set piece and collision area and gave the Hakes a few worrying moments throughout the afternoon.
Player / Coach
Head coach Paul Thirlby found himself playing at fly half for this opening challenge due to the work commitments of several of the new signings that the club has made in the close season. The game started with the Hakes winning the toss and playing up the steep slope against the strong wind. With plenty of enthusiasm the Hakes forwards and backs battered the home defence but with little result. Eventually inside centre Grant Thirlby converted a penalty on the 20th minute mark to take the lead 3 – 0.
Good work from the forwards and plenty of continuity in the backs saw new recruit Lewis Thomas playing at full back go over on the 25th minute for the first try of the new campaign. Grant Thirlby converted to take the score to 10 – 0.
10 minutes later saw the try of the match, starting inside the St Ives half with some great interaction between the forwards and the backs, quick ball to the wings resulted in some good inter passing before blind side flanker Neil Corin a stalwart of the club in recent seasons took the ball over the line for the Hakes second try of the afternoon, this time the touchline conversion attempt was unsuccessful to make the score 15 – 0.
The Hakes continually made good use of the replacements on the bench with 7 interchanges throughout the afternoon, influential and industrious second row Louis Stevens made an immediate impact coming on for young Harry Parton who has featured in all of the pre-season matches this season before his departure to university mid September.
Sadly as things were starting to play out for the Hakes open side flanker Sam Heath suffered an injury that brought his afternoon to an abrupt end. Hardworking and skilful Sean Stevens another ever present in recent years stepped in to continue the good work started by Sam.
Minutes before half time head coach Thirlby received the final pass and was happy to collapse over the line for the third try before the break, his brother Grant converted to see the Hakes stretch their lead to 22 points to nil.
It was the home side however who had the last say of first half when shortly before the break Plymstock’s right winger darted over for a try which was fantastically converted from the touch line by their fly half, to make the half time score 22 – 7 to the Hakes.
The second half was all set for the travelling side to step up a gear and start to show some of the appetite that has been missing in recent years. The focus was lost a little at times and the execution could have been better, but the players played with pride and plenty of enthusiasm and were very competitive. Not everything went the Hakes way and it took almost 25 minutes into the second half for a further score to be added. This try was an individual effort from new signing Martyn Lawrence who has been inspirational in the No.8 position for the Hakes during pre season. Martyn took on the world and somehow managed to evade capture from running through and around players to eventually stretch out over the line for the 4th try of the day, converted once again by Thirlby, 29 – 7 to the Hakes.
Ben Wheeler the Hakes ever present front row travelled from a family holiday to support the squad and having replaced young Joel Stevens at hooker soon found himself in the sin bin. Joel returned to field of play and proved himself a good substitute for the club's captain, Ben Taylor, who was unavailable for this match.
Two quick Plymstock tries, both converted by the fly half one of which was scored by player coach Mathias were the result of the Hakes going a man down, the last few minutes became a little concerning for the travelling support on the touch line.
The last minute of the match created an opportunity for the players and supporters alike to get a real look at the pace and ability of new signing Nathan Allen. Nathan took the ball from a clearance kick, set his sights on the goal line and off he set swerving and dancing around the pitch and any player that tried to get in his way. Eventually touching down for the Hakes bonus point try. This was brilliantly converted from the touchline by Thirlby making the final score 36 – 21 to the Hakes.
After the match head coach and fly half, Paul Thirby, commented, ‘This was a great result for the club and players who have spent some difficult times in recent years working hard to keep their heads above the water. To travel and play as we did and get the result away from home was pleasing, not only for me but for the committee and all who have supported this wonderful club. Things can be progressed and improved but as a starter this was very satisfying’.
Director of Rugby, Joff Rowe, also commented, ‘...lots of positives, with plenty of work that can be developed around game management, but for the first match the all-round competitiveness was excellent. I thought the players were managed by vice-captain Grant Thirlby superbly in the absence of Ben Taylor. Well done Grant and well done to all the lads’.
St Ives now look forward to their first home game of the new season this coming Saturday against Paignton, kick off is scheduled for 3.00pm at Alexandra Road.
St Ives : Jess Thompsett, Joel Stevens, Ben Jenkins, Jamie Prisk, Harry Parton, Neil Corin, Sam Heath, Martyn Lawrence, Jason Jackson, Paul Thirlby, Nathan Allen, Grant Thirlby (Captain), Peter Mabbot, Tom Chandler, Lewis Thomas.
Replacements: Sean Stevens, Ben Wheeler, Louis Stevens.
Travelling Reserves: Joe Rouncefield, David Bramwell.