St Ives 17 : 3 Falmouth
It was the sort of game one relished in hungry anticipation; two historic Cornish teams; an opportunity for St Ives to show their promotion credentials; the delight that would be the case if St Ives could turn over the defeat at the hands of Falmouth earlier in the season. The contest had all the ingredients for a feast of rugby. However, Cornish winter weather stepped in with a wet and windy front, to soak an already almost waterlogged pitch. Well, every spectator knew that this would be largely a forward affair.
Falmouth had a reasonably strong squad. Head coach, Graham Whitmore, has used forty one players this season, to match the thirty seven of St Ives, who also had a strong side on the field. The pace outside the pack would be nullified by the horrendous conditions. It was twenty minutes before returning winger, Nathan Allen, was in the game and then only fleetingly. His lack of rugby in recent months showed. It would be the other wing that provided a rare glimpse of flowing rugby.
There was a minute's silence to mark the passing away of Terry Perkin and show respect for the family. St Ives played towards the clubhouse in the first half, against a robust westerly breeze. Their pink shirts, necessary as Falmouth were predominantly black, soon became brown in the sea of mud. The young Devon referee, Alex Rolfe, would have to be on his metal.
The pattern of the first half was soon identified. Falmouth defended stoically as St Ives tried to penetrate the solid wall of defence. A look behind along the Falmouth backs at every ruck St Ives created would have kept the lucky No.13 on side. However, it was St Ives who were penalised for encroaching following a line out, that gave a chance for a penalty goal. The rare opportunity was missed.
Meanwhile, wave after wave of one pass and drive close to the pack was applying pressure towards the clubhouse. St Ives had their first real chance close to the line. That well debated interpretation of the ‘double movement’ was brought to bear. The Hakes were penalised, for The Eagles to clear their lines. It would be a frustrating afternoon, but captain, Ben Taylor, would endeavour to keep a lid on things. Sadly, this was not fully adhered to.
Fifteen minutes in and St Ives were again rumbling towards the Falmouth line. Desperate defence held them at bay, until a classic move of swift and accurate handling on the short side, in the changing room corner had the St Ives crowd cheering. Jess Tompsett’s deft assist put Bobby Conroy-Smith in close to the touch line, the latter diving away from last ditch tackles. The very difficult conversion was missed. St Ives 5 nil up; this was now a good start.
The half continued in similar fashion. St Ives attacked often, but Falmouth put up steady resistance. Scrum half, Jason Jackson, worked the ball to right and left and made useful breaks himself. Several ventures into the opponent’s ‘22’ were halted with a knock on or a turn over. The away side used the wind to clear their lines. It is difficult to remember the visitors having any other than first phase ball throughout the half.
Surely St Ives could use the elements to put pressure on Falmouth in the second half? But a side that knows it has to defend can produce a stern rear guard. But the pressure told early in the half. A five metre lineout from a penalty kick saw St Ives drive over the line for a 10 nil lead, Cameron Bone scoring his ninth try of the season. Again a difficult kick left the try unconverted.
In the fiftieth minute, after a scruffy scrummage, Tony Stevens, replacement prop, was seen clearly by the referee to throw punches into the face of his opposite number. Retaliation cannot be overlooked, however provocative the opposition may be, and St Ives were down to fourteen for the rest of the game.
Falmouth’s mood changed. Their game plan did too. For the first time in the match it was they who took the initiative. St Ives had plenty of defending to do, albeit never near The Hakes line, even with diminished resources. A penalty from short range in front of the posts brought the score to ten points to three.
With 20 minutes remaining, hardworking Jamie Prisk showed great line speed in defence to cut off a possible Falmouth attack on the open side. The referee assumed the player to have been offside and duly gave the penalty. Astoundingly, he also brandished a yellow card. Oh that he had noticed Falmouth’s consistent off side tactics in their backs! Down to thirteen men The Hakes showed relentless spirit trying to find a further score. The game was more open. Falmouth were caught in less guarded mode. After all, they had a two man advantage. The Hakes finally had a reward for their considerable efforts. Another lineout on 5 meters in the far corner finished with Jess Tompsett going over the line, with his pack adding the required impetus. A brilliant kick from
Grant Thirlby moved the score to 17: 3.
The game was won, but St Ives tried everything to get the bonus point try. Falmouth showed guile, discipline and resilience close to their line. With still enough time, just, a scrum was conceded by them just five metres out. Memories of how similar this ending was to the game at Dracaena Avenue in October flashed up. Then the referee decided against a penalty try and yellow card as Falmouth repeatedly infringed in the danger zone. How would today’s encounter end? But, with a minute to go (according to the referee), he astonishingly blew his whistle to end the match.
St Ives should be pleased with the win and the four points it brings. But the changing room was somewhat mellow with disappointment at missing out on a bonus point. This is more aggravating with Bude and Withycombe gaining huge wins. However, this was a tremendous effort from the home side against a well drilled and defiant Falmouth. The team and replacements was as announced in the preview and all played their part, especially Jamie Hoskin, who was named man of the match.
St Ives travel to Tavistock for their next league match. All support is welcomed.