Westcombe Park RFC 14-27 Shelford RFC
Combe's difficult start to the season continues
Combe have sadly lost three well liked members in the last few weeks and the passing of Gerry Grace, Peter Price and Joe Stevenson was marked by a minute's silence before kick-off.
Combe started with the wind advantage but it was the visitors that showed the initial attacking intent with the ball being retained through several phases in the homeside's territory. Westcombe Park's defence was displaying similar stout qualities to those in evidence last week at Tunbridge Wells and, with their first share of possession, Combe nearly scored in the corner following a deft kick through. Advantage was being played and although the kick from the 30 metre mark seemed reasonably straightforward the gusting wind pushed Zanirato's kick just wide.
Flankers Covington and Lindfield had been mightily engaged in defensive duties and, to the concern of WPRFC supporters both needed replaced before the first quarter was over. Combe's backrow needed some considerable reshaping.
Shelford were making serious inroads into Combe territory chiefly through some rampaging efforts from danger man McIver. Combe prevented one surge with a high tackle spotted by a referee who managed the game with a calm efficiency. The kick went over with 22 minutes on the clock to give Shelford the lead.
Both sides seemed overly aware of their lowly league positions and the fear of making errors contributed to stuttering efforts to move the ball with passes going astray or to ground. With 27 minutes gone this all changed with clever pass off the back of the hand putting Shelford over Combe's try line. With the kick missed WPRFC were now 8 points in arrears.
It was to take until the 30th minute for Combe to spend any meaningful time in Shelford's 22. The homeside's passing was somewhat telegraphed allowing the defence to snuff out Combe's thrusts and despite Hackett and O'Sullivan valiantly try to inject some impetus the half petered out.
Against the wind in the second half, the visitors immediately kicked to gain a good territorial reward. With only a minute of the half gone, Shelford extended their lead with a converted try after some nifty footwork from the visitors' backs. WPRFC 0-15 SRFC.
WPRFC were struggling to maintain any degree of continuity in their attacks and any territory gained was as the result of strength-sapping effort. Combe supporters' hearts dropped further on the 55 minute mark when Shelford moved 20 points clear after the ball had been spun through several pairs of hands to out manoeuvre the home defence to create space and cross the line.
Finally there was something for the Combe fans to celebrate and to allay growing fears that they would see a scoreless Combe at home for the first time in a long time. Shelford were down to 14 players after a team YC was handed out by referee O'Donnell after a series of technical offences in the red zone. Combe right winger Hamilton received the ball in space and set off with a searing beak to electrify the crowd, finishing under the posts to give Zanirato an easy conversion.
The game was now entering its closing phases. A bullocking run from prop Saunders followed by a converted O'Sullivan try induced some of the overly optimistic Combe faithful to contemplate an unlikely victory. These faint hopes and the chance of a losing bonus point were squashed just on the final whistle when Shelford launched one more attack at a tiring Combe defence to score under the posts to leave the final score Westcombe Park 14-27 Shelford.
An encouraging away win well deserved by Shelford and the prospect of a tough couple of training sessions for the Combe troops.
Westcombe Park RFC: Bateup, Livett, Saffery, Bonner D, Hamilton, Cameron, Zanirato, Simmons, Bonner J, Forsyth, Clarke, Calohard,
Covington, Lindfield, O'Sullivan
Replacements: Saunders, Hackett, Dowding
Combe man of the match; James Simmons
Referee N. O'Donnell
Referee N. O'Donnell