Combe give it a go in Guernsey
By Mark Ley
Guernsey Raiders 38-27 Westcombe Park
This was always going to be a challenge. Guernsey are league leaders and closing in on promotion, Combe are near the opposite end of the table in a struggle to avoid the drop. Combe have had some good results of late but realistically this was unlikely to be the opportunity to upset the form book. Combe had some minor team changes to make, but when the line-out failed to operate, the set-piece came under pressure, and their influential play-maker was forced off early on, it was going to be uphill all the way. But, although behind at half-time Combe battled to the end, indeed matched the hosts try for try in the second half to show the home crowd and the few Combe supporters on the trip that Combe could play rugby too. Good conditions.
Guernsey were quick out of the traps. Full-back Anthony Armstrong looked dangerous with the ball on the counter, but it was tight-head Layton Batiste over in the corner after five minutes for the first score. Combe’s Lewis Harte had a good run down his wing, the ball was spun back left only for Rob White to be felled and forced off injured. Combe’s penalty, kick to the corner, lost line-out, chance gone, turning point. Combe had to re-group. Dan Hamilton made good ground and Combe won a penalty front of posts, for James Cameron to get some points on the board. 5-3, twenty minutes gone. The rest of the half was Guernsey’s or rather Armstrong’s. He went over in the corner taking an ‘out the back’ pass and was over again from a No. 8 pick-up and attack down the blindside. Owen Thomas knocked over just one conversion to open up a 17-3 lead. Nathan Thomas was also making inroads, and the home side were conceding penalties under pressure. James Cameron knocked over one in front of the posts. 17-6 with the half drawing to a close. Combe were having a go despite limited possession. Guernsey were guilty of handling errors and poor passing, not as composed or settled as they might have been.
Guernsey soon earned their try-bonus point after the re-start when scrum-half Kyle Brown went over short range from a line-out. Try converted, 24-6. Guernsey spilled in attack again, Nathan Thomas had another charge. Combe were close, very close. George Milligan, Tom Clarke, Jamie Forsyth are all giving it a go but it is the home side who score, taking a quick tap penalty and catching Combe on the hop. Try converted, 31-6. Last quarter, and Combe have not given up. Nathan Thomas from half-way almost made it but he had support from Bradley Saffery who found Lewis Harte on hand to cross and towards the posts for James Cameron to convert. 31-13. Guernsey would score again though with a fortuitous rebound-charge down, Blair Campbell the beneficiary, Thomas converted. 38-13. Combe are not done for, even though we are in the last five minutes. Jamie Forsyth forces his way over in the corner. James Cameron converts. 38-20. Save the best ‘til last. James Simmons and Jamie Forsyth show off their ‘out the back’ passing skills, then Dan Hamilton from his own half sets off on a final foray, to half way, ten-metre line, twenty-two. His run is impeded by attempted tackles but these are shrugged off or burst through. It’s not a straight run to the line, most if not all of the home side try to hinder his progress, but strength and sheer determination sees him eventually cross the line and to the posts. James Cameron converts with a drop goal right on the final whistle. 38-27. No points for Combe but they had certainly given it a go.
The next two fixtures, both at Goddington Dene are crucial. First up, 14th April, is Southend who are already doomed, then Tring visit on 21st April. Needless to say, maximum numbers in support essential for both games.
Westcombe Park XV: B. Saffery; D. Hamilton, N. Thomas, D. Bonner, L. Harte; R. White, J. Cameron; J. Simmons, K. Onwuka, J. Forsyth, T. Clarke, L. Delderfield, G. Milligan, T. Sullivan, C. Springer.
Bench: D. Eames, D. Pohlen, S. Pursell.
Match reporter: Bruce Mackenzie.