Combe get wake-up call at Tring
Tring 32-26 Westcombe Park
First game of the season, away at Tring, not an alarm call but a timely reminder that it is long, long haul, and probably a very competitive league this year. Tring, after their gap year are back in the league and they do like to throw the ball around. In some ways Combe were the authors of their own misfortunes: undone by errors either side of half-time and an inability to translate possession into points. There was a sizeable crowd, basking in the sunshine, eager for the new season to start.
Combe with the sun at their backs scored early, very early. The ball worked left, up the touchline and full back Josh Livett was in at the corner 0-5. No conversion, one minute on the clock. Thereafter it was Combe who dominated. They had plenty of possession, and promising position. Either they could not release their backs into space, or were being closed down by a resolute home defence. It was not until the second quarter that Tring ventured into the Combe half. With growing confidence Tring’s Tom Newton made a break and had Harry Thorogood in support to go over right of the posts. Newton added the conversion. 7-5. Combe brought the game back into the Tring half and twenty-two. A catch at the line-out in the corner, a drive and skipper Joe Bonner claimed the touchdown. No conversion. 7-10. Combe’s set piece was going well, Ant Hitchcock came close in the corner, Miki Zanirato was almost put in the clear, but as the half-time approached, Combe had not added to their score. Instead, Tring had some momentum, they had an extra man too for ten minutes. Tom Newton added a penalty from in front of the posts on the stroke of half-time: 10-10.
At the re-start, it was Tring’s turn to score early, exploiting gaps in Combe’s defence. Full back Jake Olley went over in the right hand corner. Within minutes they went over again as Zak Michalski was put clear. Newton added a conversion, and suddenly Tring were well ahead 22-10, with a good thirty minutes to go. Combe began to close the gap. James Cameron slotted over a penalty, then at last Dan Hamilton was released in a bit of space and with work to do but he made it over. James Cameron’s conversion hit the upright. 22-18. Last quarter. Newton adds a penalty: 25-18. It is getting a bit nervy, and Combe are making adjustments with their substitutes to off-set injury scares. Tring kick back deep into Combe’s twenty-two. Tring’s line-out and drive, it’s close to the line, Combe offend, and the referee is quick to award the penalty try. 32-18. Last ten minutes. The re-start goes straight into touch, but Combe rumble up the right touch line. A line-out and drive for the line and Tom Clarke is over. No conversion. 32-23. Five minutes left on the clock. Scott Pursell on a burst wins a penalty in front of the posts. Miki Zanirato puts it over for 32-26. Tring hold their nerve, and time has run out for Combe, who at least have two bonus points in the bag.
On reflection a cracking good game to start the new campaign. Plenty to learn from and build on. It is good to see some old faces back with Combe, as well as new blood and youngsters. It is going to be a long, long season.
Next week Combe are at home to old local rivals Sidcup, also new to the league this season. There is a Supporters’ Lunch beforehand (see web site for details – book NOW). A large crowd is expected. Kick-off 3.00pm. Get in early!
Westcombe Park XV: J. Livett; D. Hamilton, A. Hitchcock, S. Pursell, B. Saffery; J. Cameron, M. Zanirato; J. Simmons, J. Bonner, J. Forsyth, T. Clarke, T. Christopher, D. Fox, L. Covington, A. Campbell.
Bench: T. Simmons, T. Calohard, J. Kenward.
Match reporter - Bruce Mackenzie.