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  • Words: Matt Chandler; image: Shaun Parkin

Hakes on Brink of Promotion

St Ives 37 v 14 Withycombe

Last Saturday in glorious springtime sunshine St Ives welcomed third placed Cornwall & Devon league side Withycombe to Alexandra Road. Head coach Paul Thirlby was able to name a strong side for the top of the table clash. Luke Collins came back into the second row, Grant Thirlby returned from suspension and Bobby Conroy-Smith resumed his position on the right wing.

Mark of Respect

Prior to kick off a minutes silence was immaculately observed to mark the passing of a former club Captain. Denis Stevens captained the Hakes in the early 1960’s and was a regular in the end of season charity games where a whole team of Steven’s would take the field.

Withycombe, playing away from the clubhouse had the advantage of a strong breeze. The early exchanges in the match were tense and edgy as both sides probed the others defence. It was quite apparent that both teams knew what was at stake and this resulted in the score remaining 0-0 for 27 minutes. Withycombe did have a chance to score from a penalty kick in the 1st minute of the game, but the kick went wide of the posts. In the 28th minute, however, the visitors did score the first points of the contest when they swept the ball quickly wide from a penalty, which was awarded when the St Ives defence was penalised for offside. Kevin Rodwell crossed to score the try which was converted by Glenn Channing to give the visitors the lead.

The St Ives players were guilty of indiscipline in the first half hour of the match which led to the a frustrating end to several excellent breaks up the field and the opening try. This kept the pressure on their defence for long periods of the first half. As they tried to break out of defence and reply to the Withycombe score St Ives began to pressurise the visitors defence. Following a clearance kick from within Withy’s 22 the ball was gathered and ran back towards the on rushing Withycombe defence. In the act of passing the ball a mistake was made which lead to an interception from Withy’s Adam Morris who gathered the ball and ran half the length of the pitch to score the visitors second try of the afternoon. Once again the extras were added by Channing to put Withycombe ahead by 14 points to nil after 31 minutes, silencing the sizeable crowd at Alexandra Road. Louis Stevens and Neil Corin came from the bench and made a noticeable impact for the home side.

As the clock ticked by towards the end of the first half the Hakes finally got their first points on the board. Grant Thirlby successfully kicked a penalty in the 35th minute when the Devon side were caught offside. The referee blew his whistle a few minutes later with the score at half time. St Ives 3, Withycombe 14. It was becoming clear that both sides were likely to give away penalties when under any pressure.

34 points unanswered

The St Ives players came out for the second half and almost immediately showed that they weren’t going to allow the visitors to dominate this half as they had the first. The ick off wae by the Withycombe no.5. Captain Ben Taylor gathered the bouncing ball and offloaded to replacement Neil Corin, who sprinted over the try line to score the Hakes first try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed, but the Hakes now trailed by only 6 points at 8 points to 14.

The longer the second half went on the stronger the St Ives players seemed to take a grip on the match. The St Ives front five were beginning to show their strength. The Hakes were dominating line out, scrum and ruck. This was underlined when in the 55th minute. From an attacking line out in the Withycombe 22 the pack formed a maul, which the Withycombe defence was powerless to stop from marching over their own try line allowing Ben Taylor to score the try at the rear. Again the difficult conversion was missed, but the Hakes were now within a point of Withycombe at 13 points to 14.

With the visitors beginning to struggle to put together any meaningful attacks in the St Ives half of the field. It was once again Neil Corin who created the chance for another St Ives try when he made a break up the right hand channel. Corin offloaded the ball to centre Tom Nicholas at the right moment allowing the industrious centre to dive over the try line and score St Ives third try in the 63rd minute. This time Grant Thirlby added the conversion to put the Hakes ahead in the match for the first time by 20 points to 14.

By now it was clear to see the confidence running through the St Ives team, quick ball allowing some enterprising passing moves. The Hakes were unlucky not to score their 4th and bonus point try only 5 minutes later when following a deft kick behind the visitors defence by Paul Thirlby left wing Pete Mabbott was just beaten in the foot race by a Withycombe defender preventing the try being scored.

Brace Yourself Martyn

It was, however, only a matter of time before the now dominant St Ives recorded the all important bonus point try. In the 68th minute following a sustained period of pressure on the Withycombe 5 metre line, during which several St Ives scrums threatened to push the visitors back over their own try line. Martyn Lawrance gathered the ball from the rear of the scrum and barged his way over the line to score a well deserved try. Thirlby once again added the conversion to put the Hakes in charge at 27 points to 14.

Despite persistent attempts by the visitors to break out of their own half and put pressure on the home side it was a determined St Ives side that kept them pinned back in their own half. The St Ives lead was extended in the 75th minute when Thirlby kicked another penalty to extend St Ives lead to 16 points with the score now 30-14.

The final few minutes saw no let up in the pressure on Withycombe as the St Ives players confirmed their promotion credentials with a dominant second half display. In the last play of the match, with the Hakes still camped in the Withycombe 22, it was Martyn Lawrance who claimed his second try of the match with another powerful break for the line to score the Hakes 5th try and confirm the victory. Again Thirlby kicked the extra 2 points to make the final score St Ives 37, Withycombe 14 at the final whistle.

This victory sees the Hakes take a grip on second place in the league. They trail leaders Bude by 10 points, but have an 18 point advantage over third placed Plymouth Albion Oaks who have one game in hand over St Ives. Withycombe now slip to 4th place, a full 20 points adrift of St Ives, but still with 3 games in hand.

Next week sees the Hakes travel to Exeter Saracens for their final league away fixture of the season knowing that a win will all but seal their promotion back into Western Counties for next season. Kick off in Exeter is scheduled for 3:00pm; any travelling support would be very welcome.

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

Replacements: Ben Wheeler, Louis Stevens, Neil Corin (All Used).

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