Pirates snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Final kick of the game from the 10m line sees Honiton go down 18-17
By Phil Oaten
Saturday’s league rugby saw the Lacemen set off at 10am as they made their longest league trip down to play Penzance amateurs. The Pirates are a big robust side who are notoriously difficult to beat at home and this season they are comfortably in the top half of the league. For Honiton there were a few positional changes as both Ollie Cave and Ben Logan were having to sit out the game because of concussion assessments. Phil Bennett an imminently expectant father would clearly have been in trouble if he’d not been accessible back home and finally Philip Cooke was away investigating the dark arts of cows and Milk in America, so unlike the previous weeks, there were several changes made but all were positive one’s and Honiton took a strong side.
Playing on the main Pirates championship pitch the surface was much better than Honiton were used to and despite the deluge of rain during the week conditions under foot were actually very good, the only playing issue was the swirling wind which did cause both sides problems throughout the game. Honiton got off to a cracking start and with only five minutes played a textbook catch and drive lineout saw Honiton maul the ball over and it was hooker Robbie Harrison who came up with the ball. Ben Webber added a difficult conversion for Honiton to go 7 up. Honiton did not sit back and took the game to the Cornishmen and from a ruck just outside the twenty two a clean break by Josh Rice through the guards saw him swat players off as he crossed under the posts for Honiton to go 14-0 to the good.
This lead stunned the home side into action and really form this point on in the game, Honiton were on the back foot and as has been the way recently, Honiton defended well against what were some big strong runners. Add to this some good hand kicking from defence from Andy Canniford they held firm in the main. Pirates should have been a man down for ten minutes following some blatant foul play that was dished out to Rice but the offender got away with just a stern warning about dancing on a player on the ground and shortly afterwards the seasiders scored a try that had a clear knock on involved in the build up. To be fair the Pirates did have two other clear scoring chances where they dropped try scoring passes but Pricey’s men rode their luck and hung in there and turned round 5-14 up.
The first 20 of the second half was a little disappointing for the Lacemen as they went off the boil and mistakes crept in and with and with decisions going against them the Pirates dominated this period of the game and were clearly on top. They crossed for a converted try on the 10 minute mark and on fifteen they went one point ahead with a long range penalty by using the wind well. Honiton did not drop their heads and they broke out of defence and on a couple of occasions and had final passes been given to the strong running wide men of Smith and Oaten, Honiton may have profited more. Honiton were also harshly adjudged with a couple of ruck offences and with a strong wind blowing behind the pirates, they were able to relieve pressure situations. It was then end to end stuff in the final minutes and with time running out Honiton were awarded a penalty, Webber calmly stepped up and slotted it to take Honiton to 17-15 with just a minute to play. Pirates restarted, Honiton received the kick off and maybe rather harshly were penalised straight away for going off their feet. This was on Honiton’s ten metre line and with no time left on the clock the only option was a long distance shot at goal. The Pirates kicker calmly slotted it with a great kick and they had cruelly snatched the win from their plucky visitors with what was, the final kick of the game!
Honiton were understandably crest fallen as what would have been a vital win, was snatched from them at the death. For Honiton maybe it was a game they weren’t expected to win and they were hanging in there for long parts of it, but they nearly did win and that said at a difficult away venue must be a positive in their fight to avoid relegation. Again Honiton’s defence was good against some strong powerful runners and their scrum was solid and they shunted the Pirates back on several occasions and whilst a pack is an eight man thing, the influence of prop Will Goulden has changed things immeasurably over the last few weeks. Another positive was the return of Danole (Luke) Witton who stepped back in to the nine position and looked sharp through out.
For Honiton work needs to done around the break down and whilst Honiton did seem to be penalised unfairly on several occasions the penalty count here was too high and it often allowed the home side to relieve pressure on them selves. Finally, Honiton perhaps needed to use the strong wide men more often and there were some simple two on ones that were not taken which could have reaped rewards.
Despite the huge disappointment it was another good performance from the Ton, who to a man all played well for their town. Honiton’s man of the match award went to talisman Josh Rice (sponsored by Ultim8 construction ) who’s work rate was outstanding as usual and he was a constant thorn in the side for the Pirates. Special thanks must also go to Alex Davis who made the trip as a sub with no complaints and he showed a true club man approach to a necessary job.
What’s next?... % games left 4 at home and this week it’s another must win game at home to Plymouth Argum next Saturday and with the England international kicking of at 4pm there will be an early kick off for this one and as always “the bigger the crowd the better the boys play”…see you there.