Pinhoe RFC 17, Honiton RFC 1st XV 25

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Honiton beat Exeter Saracens in Pinhoe yesterday to claim just their second win of the season. The 25-17 win was well deserved, as Honiton dominated most facets of the game with a solid set piece and a high work rate around the field, writes Nick Guilbert.

On a pleasant day in the county’s capital, Honiton elected to play into the sun and defend the firmer end of the bizarre field in the first half. The pitch was solid in some areas but boggy in others which did at least provide a degree of variety!

Honiton received the kick off and played a sensible game, marshalled well by fly half Cave. Conditions were not conducive to overly expansive rugby, so they used strong runners, with Hannay particularly prevalent, to bash down the home side’s defensive door.

The first half ebbed and flowed and while Honiton did break into the Saracens’ half several times, they struggled to pinch a score, with Webber missing an attempt on goal 20 minutes in. Saracens came back as Honiton conceded a couple of penalties. With Saracens five yards out things looked ominous for the away side, but solid defence kept the red and whites at bay and, when a member of their back division became isolated, Rice did well to win the penalty.

Cave cleared superbly and with the Honiton line-out performing well they provided the platform for further progression. A later scrum saw Cave put in a massive cross field kick to Bowley to take play deep into Saracens’ territory.

Honiton kept the pressure on and won a penalty in kickable range four minutes from half time. Webber did well to convert the chance to give the Lacemen a narrow 3-0 lead at the break.

The Lacemen had the lion’s share of possession in the first half and knew they were the better team. They had to prove it in the second half.

From the kick off Hannay did well to force the turnover and, when Honiton won an advantage, Cave chipped over the defence before re-gathering and drawing the last defender. He found Hodge in support who dotted down 10 yards left of the posts for a score that Webber converted. Saracens soon came back at the Lacemen using their substantial backline to cause the visitors significant problems.

However, this proved to be a purple patch for Honiton as the game opened up for both sides. Hyland has begun to find his feet at this level in recent months and his penetration in the midfield was key as he shot through a gap in the defence and orchestrated space for Small who was stopped just short.

The ball was recycled quickly and, as Honiton were due to score, a lazy runner knocked the pass down. Webber reacted quickly and dotted the ball down over the line for a score which he converted to give Honiton more breathing space.

Saracens have been in this league for some time, and they showed their calibre as Honiton messed up the re-start, and the home side cashed in. They bludgeoned away at the Lacemen’s defensive line and managed to hussle Honiton into a clearance error, from which they capitalised and scored.

Honiton were hanging on and they knew they would need another score as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

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Saracens were beginning to roll the dice and, from the kick off, elected to run the ball out of their own 22. A handling error saw Small react to a drop ball first and evade several tackles to score to the right of the posts for another converted score.

With four minutes left and with Honiton more than two scores ahead the visitors were nearly there. Honiton gathered the kick off and cleared down field, but Saracens won the lineout well in their own half and spun the ball wide. They made yards down the left hand channel it was left to a fantastic defensive effort from Coutts and Small to keep them out.

Saracens kept smashing away at the Honiton line, the clock was ticking and Honiton were proving resilient.

Eventually they scored through their robust 12 but it was the final play and the Lacemen deservedly took the spoils

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