Westcombe Park 37 - Towcestrians 26
Combe have testing time at Towcester
In the re-scheduled visit away to Towcester, Combe secured a bonus point win, but made heavy weather of it. Combe’s pack dominated the set-piece, and should have been streets ahead, but with the home backs always looking lively, and willing and able to counter, Combe leaked scores which kept Towcester still in the game and worryingly close at the finish.
The weather was fine, a breeze down the slope, just as it was on the first visit last month before the heavens opened. This time no interruptions. Combe faced the breeze and slope for the first half, and within five minutes were on the scoreboard. After approach work by the back three and Charlie O’Sullivan, Bradley Bateup went over by the posts for a try converted by Miki Zanirato. Miki Zanirato added a penalty after David Bonner was almost through. Charlie O’Sullivan is popping up everywhere. He is put in the clear after slick hands from all the front rowers, just short of the line, but Bradley Bateup is on hand first, then James Lindfield who claims the score by the posts. Miki Zanirato converts. 0-17, twenty-five minutes gone and Combe are looking in control. But they drop their guard. Towcester winger Dario Germain is put in the clear, over in the corner and round to the posts for a converted try. Miki Zanirato kicks another penalty from in front of the posts. Another penalty in front of the posts and Combe take the scrum option, as every scrum so far, it seems, results in another penalty award. Charlie O’Sullivan tries a pick up from No. 8 first of all, then at the second scrum Towcester collapse and Combe win the penalty try. At 7-27 Combe should be comfortable, but with a man short and the home side still willing, Towcester slip down the right touchline, and in the follow up No. 8 Callum Threlfall forces his way over for a converted try right on the stroke of half time. 14-27.
Hold on. Combe have faced the wind, gone up the slope, are winning every scrum and had built a seventeen point lead, but at the interval would be just two scores ahead. Towcester knew they were still in the game and soon after the re-start went in for a third try thanks to Threlfall’s off-load. The conversion attempt by James Falvey hit the upright. Now it was 19-27. Combe continued to win penalty awards at the scrums. Bradley Bateup would put in booming kicks for position and Miki Zanirato added another penalty. But Combe were losing players. Tom Simmons was down and off as was Thibaud Calohard. Combe could still apply the pressure. Bradley Saffery and David Bonner made the inroads, and Combe were in the right hand corner. A couple of thrusts and a canny set up by Jamie Forsyth for a forward drive allowed Ryan Hackett to benefit and claim the score. Miki Zanirato converted. 19-37, we are in the last quarter. A string of penalties to Combe close to the posts brought nil return. Perhaps a pivotal point. With injuries to Towcester’s front row, scrums from now on would be uncontested and so Combe would lose their advantage and attacking platform. They were also a man short again, which neither helped. Towcester could be back in the game. Indeed a run up the middle by skipper Craig Holten was eventually stopped, winger Germain was close in the corner but held up, then with re-cycled ball Sam Sturley was on hand and over for a bonus point try converted by Falvey. We are playing injury time, of which there is a lot. With guaranteed possession from their scrum close to Combe’s line Towcester have one last thrust but in their eagerness concede a penalty much to Combe’s relief. Combe come away with a bonus point win, the hosts claim their first league point of the season.
Next week we are back to the fixture schedule. Combe are down the road away to league new- comers Tunbridge Wells. The next home game for Combe is 28th October when Shelford visit. Kick-off 3.00pm.
Westcombe Park XV: S. Pursell; M. Dowding, B.Saffery, D. Bonner, L. Jackson; B. Bateup, M. Zanirato; J. Stanford, J. Bonner, J. Forsyth, T. Clarke, T. Calohard, R. Hackett, J. Lindfield, C. O’Sullivan.
Bench: T. Simmons, L. Covington, J. Kenward.
Match reporter - Bruce Mackenzie.