A classic game of two halves
By Mark Ley
Westcombe Park 38-14 Hove
It was just as well that Combe put in a commanding performance in the first half to build a substantive lead as visitors Hove came back very strongly immediately after the break with attacking rugby which belied their lowly league position. Westcombe Park rode the two try comeback with a try of their own and the victory sees the Goddington Dene side at 5th place in the League, 6 points behind early leaders Brighton.
Hove started strongly, seeing most of the territory and possession in the opening 5 minutes and put together a 15 phase set of plays which ended with a knock on. Combe made the most of their first real bit of ball. First man of the match flanker David Pohlen made the first of his powerful runs, fed hooker A D Foster who efficiently recycled the ball for the experienced midfield of Simpson and Davies to release centre Paul Bosch to score the try. Matt Harrison playing scrum half this week slotted the first of his four conversions.
The scrum was proving a close contest and Combe the front row of James McKeowen, A D Foster and Tom Simmons were doing well against an experienced Hove unit. The home side were having the better of play with first Foster breaking clear at an undefended ruck and then winger Lewis Harte being bundled into touch at the corner after Pohlen had made substantial inroads.
Combe extended their lead after 22 minutes when Foster broke yet again and made an outrageous pass out the back of his hand for Pohlen to score. Harrison extended the lead to 14-0 with the conversion. Just under 10 minutes later WPRFC went 19 points up when centre Niki Davies went clear, dummied the defence and found the supporting Foster who scored.
The bonus point try was scored by prop McKeown after a serious incursion from Luke Delderfied who combined with Simpson to free McKeown for the score which Harrison converted. Scrum Half Harrison got on the scoresheet on the brink of halftime. A powerful Combe maul was trundling towards the try-line when he grabbed to ball to exploit a gap in the defensive line. Harrison then converted his own try to give Combe a comforting half-time lead of 33-0.
Combe started the second half brightly but, when Hove snuffed out an early attack, they showed more incision than when they had the ball earlier. Crisp passing out-manoeuvred the home side's defence and the try was scored under the posts to make the conversion a formality. 33-7 to Combe.
Combe were continuing to feel the heat of the Hove attack but were defending stoutly. The home side then coughed up 3 penalties in quick succession as Hove battered the try line and inevitably went down to 14 men as a yellow card was shown. Hove took full advantage of the extra man,broke the line and were in for their second converted try.
Westcombe Park needed to quell the mini storm and duly did so on the 53rd minute mark when Matt Swan and Lewis Harte combined on the left to pressurise the Hove defence who buckled to allow James Simmons to score. Harrison converted for what proved the last points of the match.
For the second week running, the intensity both sides had shown understandably dropped when there was a serious knee injury to Combe's Claude Springer which entailed a lengthy stoppage. As the Combe man was stretchered off the visiting players sportingly acknowledged his departure.Claude is currently awaiting the results of an MRI scan and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Another good win for Combe with both forwards and backs contributing mightily. Next week Combe travel to Cobham hoping to continue the winning streak.
Westcombe Park RFC: McKeown, Foster, Simmons T, Novell, Delderfield, Pass, O'Sullivan, Pohlen, Harrison, Simpson, Swan, Bosch, Davies, Harte, Sansbury
Replacements: Simmons J, Milligan, Springer
Man of the Match: Dave Pohlen
Match Report:John Vallely