Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Honiton completed their league campaign in style on Monday afternoon with a convincing 27-17 win over promoted Tiverton at Allhallows, sealing their fifth placed finish, writes Nick Guilbert.
The mid Devon side will play their rugby in Western Counties West next season, having lost just one game in the league all season; until they arrived at Honiton!
In truth the Lacemen had been targeting this game for a while. There were so many reasons, a farewell fanfare for player coach, Callum Hill; a potential farewell for a few players that may try their hands at other clubs over the summer; the last game of the season; but most of all a chance to have a real pop at a confident Tiverton side, a benchmark for the improvement of the side since Christmas when they lay 11th in the league, and relegation was a possibility.
The Lacemen came out in determined fashion, and started by probing the strong Tiverton defence. Tiverton are being promoted for good reason, and they showed good structure whilst resisting the hosts in the opening period. Sometimes the opening period can just be about letting the opposition know ‘wos on’ for the afternoon, and Honiton showed an intensity that Tiverton couldn’t live with, not only in the opening period, but all afternoon.
Tiverton have always been a side that have had an impressive set piece, however it was the Lacemen that dominated that facet of the game. Honiton moved the mid Devon side around in the lineout, and the visitors couldn’t react to Honiton’s speed on the floor. This gave Thompson plenty of ball and both he and second receiver Canniford used possession sensibly going up the slope.
It was clear that Honiton wouldn’t break Tiverton down with the same ease as Newquay and Exeter Saracens, so patience was key. Tiverton couldn’t really get out of their own half and Honitons persistence began to pay dividends. Hill put Dalton in space up the left hand side, and while a loose pass saw Price scramble back to the half way line he did superbly to gather the ball and brush aside a couple of defenders to re-establish the move. Quick ball provided Thompson with enough space for him to use his quick feet and pace. He showed the defence a clean set of heels to dot down to the left of the posts. I’ve just remembered that we had kicked a penalty before that through Thompson, so it must have been 8-0 at that point.
Long story short, they didn’t much like the Honiton boys in their faces, and it was the home sides line speed that was doing the damage. By applying pressure to the nine and ten they were able to force errors continually. Tiverton did acquire some territory in Honiton’s half and knocked over a penalty to take the half time score to 8-3.
Honiton knew that they had to keep the work rate up to sustain the pressure on the visitors; however having played just 48hrs beforehand it was always going to be a massive ask of the players.
The pack started well, and set about the Tiverton scrummage with the advantage of the slope. The blue and blacks were under the hammer and couldn’t get enough clean ball from either set piece to really go about Honiton. While the pack kept up their end of the bargain, the Honiton back line showed fantastic penetration to keep Tiverton in the bottom half of the pitch.
Substitute Hyland showed his value from the bench with some telling tackling, but his most poignant moment of the afternoon summed up his and the teams commitment throughout the 80. Having lead the defensive line from a lineout, he and his colleagues forced a handling error thirty yards out. Hyland gathered and showed good speed to out pace the chasing Tiverton players.
Tiverton came back and when they gained possession on the top right hand side of the field, they moved the ball through several phases to the centre of the park. Player coach Wayne Sprangle found space to fend off a couple of Honiton players and cross to the left hand side of the posts.
Honiton went back at Tiverton and when a touch finder went over the try line, Tiverton were presented with a twenty two drop out. They cleared into a space fifteen yards in front of the line, slightly left of centre. Thompson was nearest but could only volley ahead. Honiton do practise volleys, but they are not generally put into practise regularly. As it was Thompson chased his kick, probably partly through enthusiasm and partly through fear of a dressing down from me (although I am partial to a volley). As it was, the ball bounced badly for the covering defence and kindly for Thompson, he managed to get the ball down and win his side a 20-10 lead.
Tiverton got back into it as Honiton started to tire. The pace of the game was telling but the desire never faded. When Tiverton gained possession in the top right hand corner they mauled the ball towards the line, Honiton could only pull the maul down, and Tiverton used the period of advantage to put the winger in the right corner. An excellent conversion saw the scoreboard click over to 20-17.
With ten minutes to go Honiton were pretty much out on their feet, but decent field position through running rugby and excellent support play saw Honiton win a penalty in the Tiverton twenty two. Guilbert elected to scrum rather than go for posts in a bid to eek out the last four minutes in clubhouse corner. Tiverton managed to survive the onslaught and won a scrummage of their own. However they could only lash clear to the twenty two line where Coutts gathered the high ball showing commendable technique. Way helped to provide quick ball and when Josh Rice cut back against the grain he couldn’t be stopped by three wanna be defenders. Thompson did the honours with the conversion and Honiton saw out the last 30 seconds before Hill kicked it in the skate park.