Honiton are masters of their own downfall as title bid stutters with Penryn defeat

Honiton rugby. Ref mscsp 48 17TI 3845. Picture: Terry Ife

Honiton rugby. Ref mscsp 48 17TI 3845. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

What a mouth-watering prospect there was at Allhallows last Saturday, writes Jerry Rice.

Not only was there a sponsors’ luncheon for both Blamphayne Sawmills and Ultim8 Construction, but then there was promised to be a ‘classic’ encounter between first and second in the Tribute Cornwall and Devon League.

The opposition were the same Penryn outfit that Honiton had travelled to – and beaten – in the national cup just 14 days before!

Despite a rather miserable dank day, there was the biggest crowd seen at Honiton for many a year and this was bolstered by bus load of Penryn supporters.

Honiton elected to play up the Allhallows slope, but from receiving the kick, a fumble soon after gave the visitors the ball and that set the tone for a period of sustained pressure from the visitors.

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However, the Honiton defence was equal to the challenge.

The Lacemen dug in and gradually got a foothold in the game, though all too often they were guilty of giving away penalties after working hard to get into scoring territory!

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The home cause was aided by a spell in the sin bin for the Penryn number 12 after an altercation with Josh Rice.

Soon after, a collapsed maul by the visitors saw Jake Smith knock over the penalty to give Honiton the lead.

Charges and tackles were certainly brutal as two evenly-matched sides went toe-to-toe! After a couple of tough scrums, Honiton’s line was eventually breached, with the ‘try’ awarded despite Honiton feeling that they had a player under the ball to prevent the touchdown!

A successful conversion was followed by Ross Watts being sent to the bin for not being 10 metres back from a penalty, but despite losing one of their number, the Lacemen continued to press but kept losing ground from unforced errors.

Honiton did finish the half strongly, and, with a series of pick and goes, it was player-coach Hannay who forced his way across the line for a converted try that saw Honiton troop off at the interval with a narrow 10-7 lead.

Another plus at the halfway stage was the fact that, for the second half, the Lacemen would have use of the slope – usually such a key advantage!

However, and unfortunately for the majority of the Allhallows crowd, Honiton were pegged back right from the kick-off as they had a man in front of the kicker and they then struggled to get the ball back and, with some good work up the left, Penryn crossed for a try.

To all close to the action, the ball was not grounded and, indeed, knocked on, but the try was given! Adding insult to injury, the conversion was true and the visitors edged into a 14-10 lead.

It was another error that proved ultimately fatal – in terms of the final outcome – as a turnover left Penryn able to canter over for their third try, which was also converted to extend the Penryn lead.

The Lacemen refused to ‘lie down’ and they bounced back with a try following sustained pressure with Robert Price crossing under the posts and a successful Smith conversion made it 21-10 to the visitors with 10 minutes to play.

Again, a ‘mistake’ in the Honiton ranks – a missed tackle – was clinically punished and a converted try meant the Cornish side had effectively sealed their success.

This was a good close game between two good sides. Credit to the visitors; they did their homework well and courtesy of too many Ton errors they deserved their victory and now have the clear edge in the title race.

There were some good performances from many a home player with Harry Wright getting the Honiton Man of the Match award.

The Lacemen must not now dwell on what is a disappointing, but not terminal, defeat, in terms of their own title aspirations. What must happen is that they take this setback on the chin, lick their wounds, cut out the unforced error-making and swiftly ‘rebuild the fortress walls’.

This Saturday (February 23) the next challenge on the road to Twickenham pops up – an Allhallows meeting with Burnham-on-Sea.

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