South close out ‘Combe in closing minutes
Southend 28-25 Westcombe Park
Southend edged a tight bottom of the table clash with a successful penalty in the dying embers of hard fought match. Combe still left with a couple of bonus points but the disappointment etched in the players faces as they trudged from the pitch was clear to see.
It had started brightly for WPRFC with 3 points gleaned after a scrum penalty conceded by South. The home team responded positively getting a heap of front foot ball. So much was their territorial advantage that the local seagulls could occupy South's 22 with a modicum of peace. It took a while for this pressure to tell. Combe could only stem the assault with a couple of tackles deemed high with the second resulting in a yellow card and an easily kickable penalty which brought the scores level on 22 minutes.
It took until the 27th minute for Combe to make any inroads into South's half and, although the visitors first effort was halted with a turnover, Combe won the subsequent line out against the throw and a strong surge from Forsyth was followed by a sprint from wing Saffery for the first of his two scores. South continued to dominate the close exchanges always getting that vital extra nudge at the tackle. Strong midfield running at a reorganised Combe backline kept the pressure on the visitors and, on the 33 minute mark, Combe could only stop progress with an illegal entry at the ruck. The ensuing penalty brought South to within a couple of points.
As is all too often the case with Combe followers, deja vue struck once again with a try conceded on the brink of the interval. A promising move in South's half was cleanly intercepted, the try scored and the lead handed back to the home side. A tense half came to a close with South deserving their narrow advantage.
SRFC 11-8 WPRFC
The visitors were the first to press after the break. A slick line out move faltered with a forward pass but Combe managed to win the ball back, move it through several pairs of hands to present Saffery with his second of the match in the corner. Combe were hampered having lost the kicking skills of Zanirato early in the first half and the conversion slid wide.
With 50 minutes on the clock South took advantage of some loose Combe tackling just outside the 22 to score under the posts to regain the lead at 18-13. The see-saw scoring continued as Combe drew level just before the end of the 3rd quarter when a powerful forward drive nearly demolished the uprights, the ball coming loose but skillfully flicked up from the toe of his boot into his hands, Bradley Bateup dive over and claimed the score but the whole pack could claim large amounts of credit.
Combe were always dangerous if they could get into South's half, but that was a big if given the homeside's tenacity. Combe broke from defence with a 50 meters mazey run from new full back Roberts but the move broke down with an indiscretion at the breakdown. South hit back with a more rewarding attack of their own and a slick offload opened the gap for a try giving them the advantage once more at 25-18 with the final quarter to come.
Combe hadn't let their head drops. Two immnense drives from just within South's 22 brought the scores level once more. Forsyth claiming this one to match his fellow prop Saunders. Not only were scores level but WPRFC had secured the try bonus point.
Nerves were jangling for both sets of supporters but the chief pressure continued to come from South; a kick through went dead but only just, a penalty missed. Combe were hanging on but eventually were caught offside at the ruck and the ensuing penalty was calmly slotted. There was one final effort from Combe but the line out was a wee bit scrappy and, at the ruck, Combe transgressed allowing South to kick the penalty dead to end the match.
Combe have the week to regroup, lick wounds and repair battered bodies before the next match at Sidcup. Injuries are taking a serious toll undermining any forward steps. South will take heart from the victory and will hope to use it as a springboard for the second half of the season.
Full time: Southend Saxons RFC 28-25 Westcombe Park RFC
WPRFC: Porter, Bonner J.,Forsyth, Callohard, Christopher, Clarke, Quinton, O'Sullivan, Zanirato, Robinson, Young, Bonner D., Bateup, Saffery, Roberts
Replacements: Saunders, Delderfield, Birch
Match reporter: John Vallely