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Hakes Come Out on Top at Withycombe

Withycombe 20 v 23 St Ives

Last Saturday the St Ives 1st XV travelled to Cornwall & Devon league leaders Withycombe for their latest league encounter. Head coach Paul Thirlby was able to name a strong squad for the match, including newly re-signed Todd Prisk who re-joined the club from National league side Fylde. He joined his brother Jamie in the second row for this game. Tom Nicholas came back into the centre with Bobby Conroy-Smith moving out on to the wing.

The Hakes travelled with good local support for this important match and it wasn’t long before they gave the supporters something to cheer about. After 4 minutes play St Ives found themselves in an attacking positon in the Withycombe 22, from the base of a ruck the ball was fed to flanker Cameron Bone who caught the home defence napping with a change of pace. He scampered through a gap in the defensive line to score under the posts. The try was converted by Grant Thirlby to give the Hakes the perfect start at 7 points to nil.

Under pressure

It soon became obvious that St Ives were not going to have it all their own way. The home side began to demonstrate why they are the side at the top of the league. In what was their first attack, which came from of one of their own scrums just inside the St Ives half, the Withycombe back line ghosted the ball through the Hakes defensive line only to be stopped just short of the line. From the ruck the ball was offloaded to fly half Tom Steer who dived over in the corner to score the home side’s first points. The conversion was missed, but it was game on at Withycome 5, St Ives 7 with 10 minutes gone.

The next 20 minutes of the half saw the home side pin the Hakes back into the own 22, against the wind the St Ives players struggled to find an exit strategy from their own half and found themselves pinned in their own left hand corner. A number of Withycombe scrums followed and with St Ives on a warning from the referee for infringements in the scrum the next set piece saw the whistle blown again and a yellow card produced for Louis Stevens who had only just entered the field of play as a replacement for the injured Sam Heath. Withycombe elected for another scrum from the penalty and the Hakes now a man down, were pushed backwards over their own line allowing Withycombe number 8 Mike Richards to score from the back of the scrum as the ball was marched over the line. The conversion was missed to make the score Withycombe 10, St Ives 7 with 25 minutes gone.

After going behind it was the Hakes turn to put the pressure back on the home defence. At last they had some possession of their own. The St Ives forwards began to cause problems for the home defence in open play. Powerful runs from both Jamie and Todd Prisk punched holes in the home defence on more than one occasion and in the 39th minute the pressure told when the Hakes were awarded a penalty in the last play of the half. Grant Thirlby successfully placed the kick between the posts to set up an exciting second half with the scores level at 10 points each.

Tables turned

The second half began with the Hakes imposing themselves on the game once more, as the pack continued to punch holes in the home defence. It wasn’t long before St Ives had the platform to mount an attack on the Withycombe line. This time following an attacking scrum the ball was swept wide and finished superbly by centre Tom Nicholas to convert the St Ives pressure into points, the conversion was missed but the Hakes had a precious lead in the match by 15 points to 10 with 46 minutes gone.

Ten minutes later the Hakes again turned good pressure into points. This time it was from a penalty awarded when Withycombe pulled down a St Ives lineout illegally after 57 minutes. The kick was converted by Grant Thirlby once again to put the Hakes more than a score ahead at 18 points to 10.

The next score in the game was going to be crucial and it was Withycombe who responded first. Their forwards got them into position in the St Ives 22 and some good work saw them work the ball over the St Ives try line from 10 metres out through Chris Gibbons. The conversion was added by Tom Steer to make the score Withycombe 17, St Ives 18 with 59 minutes on the clock.

Only 5 minutes later and the home side were given a chance to retake the lead when they were awarded a penalty in a kickable position. Once again Tom Steer converted the kick to put Withycombe ahead in the game by 20 points to 18 with just over 15 minutes left to play.

Brilliant try

The last quarter of an hour saw some ferocious attacking met by some equally ferocious defence from both sides as both teams looked for a score that would change the outcome of the match. In the 76th minute of the game the St Ives players charged down an attempted clearance from the home side. The Hakes seized the ball and swept it quickly wide into the arms of winger Bobby Conroy-Smith. As the home defenders closed him down he cleverly kicked the ball ahead, chased it through and dived over the line to touch the ball down with great skill. The home defence were sure the try should not be given as they claimed the St Ives player was in touch, but the referee was in no doubt that the try had been scored and duly awarded the score. The wide conversion was missed, but the Hakes had their noses in front at 23 points to 20.

The last few minutes saw wave after wave of Withycombe attacks; the St Ives defence was tested to the limit, but held out. Crucially, a kickable penalty was awarded and the home side chose to run the ball. The referee had declared this the last play baring further penalties. With nerves on edge, fitness and discipline tested to the limit, The Hakes held firm, all the while in their own 22. After more than three minutes of added time, the referee blew his whistle for the end of the match to confirm the victory for St Ives by 23 points to 20.

Following the match a delighted St Ives Director of Rugby Joff Rowe commented,

“The game was played with pace, aggression and fantastic spirit. Either side could have taken the victory today and some would say that a draw would have been the best result. However, this result today gave both myself and Paul [Thirlby] an idea of how far we have progressed since May when we took up the challenge of managing the Hakes.

This game showed our maturity and discipline in many ways. Open running rugby with our trade mark forward dominance was brilliant to watch. A welcome return for Todd Prisk in the second row saw him fit into the squad with ease, but this week’s thanks must go to his brother Jamie who produced a man of the match performance along with Tom Nicholas. Both of them caused the home side problems in both attack and defence. Finally my personal thanks go to Paul and his team for a fantastic result. Well done and congratulations.”

The Hakes are back in action this coming Saturday with their final fixture of 2015 which is a league game at home to Exeter Saracens, kick off at Alexandra Road is scheduled for 2:30pm. Any support for the lads would be very welcome. Wear your Christmas jumper and join us in the clubhouse after.

St Ives: Jess Tompsett, Ben Taylor (Captain), Ben Jenkins, Jamie Prisk, Todd Prisk, Sam Heath, Cameron Bone, Martyn Lawrance, Sam Carter, Grant Thirlby, Peter Mabbott, Greg Loydall, Tom Nicholas, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Lewis Thomas.

Replacements: Tony Stevens, Louis Stevens, Sean Stevens. (All Used)

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