Crediton 33 - Topsham 29

WITH the league programme for the 2023-24 season over, at Crediton Rugby Club we turn our attention to the County Intermediate Cup and the semi-final against Topsham.

The semi final is played over two legs with the aggregate score deciding which team will travel to Sidmouth for the final on Sunday, May 5.

Crediton getting the ball away despite a tackle from Topsham.  AQ 3984
Crediton getting the ball away despite a tackle from Topsham. AQ 3984 (Alan Quick, Crediton Courier)

With a number of regulars not available a much changed First XV side took the field from that which lost at Truro the previous week. In the best conditions that we have experienced for weeks, we were immediately on the offensive putting the Topsham defence under pressure without managing a breakthrough.

However, on 10 minutes we stole a Topsham lineout inside their “22”.   The driving maul set up good ball for the backs and centre Josh Woodland forced his way over for the opening score, fly-half Josh Davey added the extras.

The visitors response was almost immediate.  Regaining possession from the restart, they went through the phases and eventually they were stopped on the line but they managed to get the ball back for one of their forwards to dive over and score an unconverted try.

Both sides were giving it a go and the game began to open up and it was Topsham who grabbed the next score.

A five metre scrum provided good ball for their backs and a missed tackle opened up the space for them to score a converted try.

We tried hard to prize open a solid Topsham defence and, as we built up the pressure through several phases, it was Woodland again who broke a couple of tackles to touch down.

Davey landed the conversion for a 14-12 lead at the interval.

Topsham began the second half the stronger and within four minutes had regained the lead when their backs, who always looked dangerous, moved the ball out wide for an unconverted try in the corner.

The game ebbed and flowed just as it had two weeks ago when these sides battled it out in the league.

On 51 minutes, a penalty was kicked to the corner and we set up a driving maul and replacement Brady May broke off the side to crash over, the conversion was missed but we were ahead by two points.

Stretching for the ball during a line out in the Crediton v Topsham game.  AQ 0154
Stretching for the ball during a line out in the Crediton v Topsham game. AQ 0154 (Alan Quick, Crediton Courier)

With an hour gone, it was the visitors turn to regain the lead and again through their backs and the first up tackles left something to be desired and a try and conversion gave them the lead by five points.

Things got worse for us eight minutes later when another missed tackle or two allowed Topsham in for their fifth try of the afternoon and what looked to be an unassailable 10-point lead.

With time running out we put the Topsham defence under pressure going through the phases before a long pass out wide caught their defence out and winger Bobby Jenkin raced in for a try, converted by Davey, cutting the deficit to three points. The restart had to be gathered cleanly, any error would bring the game to a close.

The first bit was achieved and Chris Courtier made 20 metres, a maul was set up before the ball was released to winger Freddie Borthen who was in space and made good ground before offloading to May who was once again up in support and he raced in from 22 metres for his second try. Davey converted and the game was won.

We take a slender four point lead to Topsham on Saturday in what should be another entertaining game. There were plenty of real positives with the number of players who stepped up, some playing out of position too. 

The three games between the two sides have produced a couple of remarkable statistics, a total of 229 points and 35 tries…Now that’s entertainment!

Brixham Second XV 34 - Crediton Quins 36

With promotion out of the equation, the Quins have one last chance of a trophy to round off another superb season. However, in order to have that opportunity we had to overcome a hugely confident Brixham second string on their own patch.

Call ups to the First XV meant a few regular Quins players were missing but those lads that came into the side made a huge contribution to the last gasp victory which, in fairness, we thoroughly deserved.

Skipper Chris Hooper took the sensible option to play up the slope and against the wind in the first half with the idea of containing the Brixham side and then take full advantage in the second 40.

Things did not start well as an early home line out on our 10 metre line ended with a good move through the hands for their left winger to score out wide with only three minutes on the clock.

A penalty for a high tackle three minutes later put the home side eight points to the good.

The strength of the wind made it difficult for us to clear our lines and any touches not found were run back at us and, although our first up tackles were not as effective as normal, we managed to hold them at bay.

On 17 minutes our fist scrum proved decisive and we pushed the Brixham pack backwards earning a penalty.

With the referee allowing an advantage, fly half Tom Ronchetti had the nerve to land a drop goal, a rarity these days at any level but against the wind it was quite an achievement. 

Whilst their scrum was something of a shambles, the Brixham backs were a force to be reckoned with and on 25 minutes, another backs move with a change in the running line bringing their centre in to catch us wrong footed and score at the posts, the conversion put them 15-3 ahead.

We began to work our way into home territory and from a scrum 10 metres out we drove over their line only for the scrum to collapse under pressure and the referee awarded a penalty try for 15-10.

Just as we thought we had held them to a five point margin, the home side scored again right on the stroke of half-time. Another backs move brought the same centre in to score again with a somewhat overelaborate showy dive.

At half-time 22-10 didn’t look insurmountable but the task was made more difficult when, two minutes into the second half an interception try put them 29-10 to the good. The general view amongst the travelling support was that this may be a score too far.

It became increasingly obvious that Brixham were simply unable to cope at scrum time as their pack went backwards at a quicker pace than their threequarters went forward and when we drove them back over their line from 25 metres out for Chris Hooper to touch down, things began to look hopeful, Ronchetti converted for 29-17.

Seven minutes later and another scrum ended with a second penalty try and suddenly it really was game on at 29-24 and we were in the ascendancy.

Despite the setbacks, Brixham still looked dangerous with ball in hand and again they came back at us with a good move which brought a try wide out, the conversion against the wind drifted wide which would ultimately prove vital although there were still 20 minutes to go and they held a 10-point lead.

With the time ticking away we managed an attack to the bottom corner and drove forward before releasing to the backs who found enough space for Liam Staite to squeeze over, the conversion missed its mark but the gap was reduced to five points. 

Within a minute we were back in their “22” and again a penalty advantage but we opted for a scrum 10 metres out and again crossed the whitewash for Hooper to touch down for his second try of the game.

The scores levelled at 34 all and the conversion to come from a similar position to the one that was missed a minute earlier. Ronchetti made no mistake this time as the final whistle blew for a momentous victory and into the Second XV Shield Final for the second successive year.

This was a magnificent fight back from a 19-point deficit in the second half. Brixham were good when they had the ball but their inability to cope with our pack in the scrum was their obvious downfall and it did create frustration for them which inevitably affected their discipline. Nonetheless a good game and we certainly deserved our win.

On Saturday the First XV travel to Topsham for the second leg of the semi-final and then on Sunday the Quins host Topsham Seconds in the Final of the Second XV Senior Shield, kick-off 2.30pm.

Newquay Colts 26 - Crediton Colts 31

The end of season tour to Cornwall was enjoyed by all and rounded off the Colts season with a good win at Newquay.

Tries from Tom Ayre, Samuel Cliff, Charlie Gribble, Harry Gulley and Charlie Conner plus three conversions from George Baxter sealed the win.

Paul Harris