WESTCOMBE PARK 39 v TAUNTON R.F.C. 20
Three tries in the first half and three in the second was the foundation of a Combe display rarely seen at Goddington Dene in recent seasons. Last week at Hertford with power, patience and control they built an impressive win.
In this game shear individual determination made for some explosive moments that saw Taunton, having competed well throughout the first half, blown away in the second.
Taunton were the more dangerous side in the opening minutes and were stopped three or four times near the Combe line but Combe worked their way deep into their territory and James Lindfield crossed for the first of his three tries after ten minutes.
Shortly afterwards Joe Simpson made it 8—nil with a finely struck penalty.
Taunton were soon threatening the Combe line again, after releasing their back division, and scrambled a try near the posts that said more about the officials than the players, credited to second-row Dave Bufton. Stand-off Tony Yapp converted and Taunton were within a point.
Three minutes later, with Taunton employing the long ball in the hope of releasing the backs again, saw Nikki Davies, hardly able to believe the gap offered, explode to the line. Joe Simpson duly converted and Combe now enjoyed a 15—7 lead.
The next ten minutes was all Taunton with Combe working hard to contain them but Tony Yapp first slotted a penalty and then released runners down the left-wing and though delayed Ruben Haile crossed for a try. Tony Yapp with a fine kick converted and Taunton were two points to the good with three minutes left on the clock to the break.
From experience that was enough time for Combe to leak another try but it epitomised their determination throughout this game that it was they who worked their way back to the danger-zone and James Lindfield went over for his second try and Combe reached the interval, of the most entertaining game, 20—17 in front.
The mindset of the Combe squad meant that as soon as the second half got under way they were deep in the opposition's 22 flinging the ball around and Kieron Leeper angled a run to the line close to the posts to make the Joe Simpson conversion a formality.
Combe had gone, in two playing minutes, from two points down to leading by ten points, 27—17.
Tony Yapp had an opportunity to close the gap, four minutes later, with a penalty but that was to prove Taunton's only score of the second half.
What followed the first five minutes was a war of attrition that Combe were slowly winning, particularly between the forwards, and two lengthy periods when ball possession was key and Combe were winning that war too, such was their pressure.
After another ten minutes of this a scrambled clearance saw the ball hacked forward into the in-goal area and a charge for the touchdown by most of the Combe players and it was full-back Chris O'Neil who won, deep and wide. Joe Simpson's conversion from the touchline was both brilliant and the icing on the cake for Combe to lead by14 points.
Despite being a man down following a cynical body-check during the charge, miles from the action, Taunton continued to strive for more but Combe were in no mood to relent and kept play largely in Taunton's half of the field.
With eight minutes left James Lindfield, despite the attention of three players lunged for the line, to get his third try, rich reward for an electric performance in attack and defence.
A Combe success of this magnitude must, by definition, have a certain bitter sweet feel at this stage of the season but credit must go to the players of both sides for providing rich pickings for the long suffering supporters and with Combe winning through to the Kent Cup Final on Sunday the season still has a kick in the tail.
Combe's Team: Chris O'Neil; Chris Lewis, Nikki Davies, Graham Purdy, Kieron Leeper (Dan Toms 74m.); Charles Edwards (John McDonough 74m.), Joe Simpson; Ben McKinnell (Matt Brieley 75m.), Hamish Barton, Dale Bellinger; Tom Clarke (Reece Conlon 74m.), Jon Wright; Oliver Pryce-Tidd (Nick Coles 69m.), James Lindfield, Jon West.
Match Reporter: Mike Attewell.