With 26 unanswered points on the board and a gusting wind in their favour as the second half started, the expectation was for the Goddington Dene side to add to their haul. This expectation came to naught due to a combination of a feisty performance up front by the visitors and a strangely hesitant Combe. Combe couldn't get their hands on any clean ball due to disruption and pressure from the visiting pack. On the few occasions they did have the ball the attacks fizzled out allowing Thurrock to keep encamped for lengthy periods in the Combe half.
It had started so well for Combe with an early maul thrust being halted by Thurrock and the ball boomed deep into home territory on the back of the strong wind. On 7 minutes WPRFC opened the scoring when winger Dom Lespierre got the ball in his own half and swerved and weaved all of 70 metres to dot down under the posts. Stand off Matt Harrison kicked the conversion.
Hooker John Kopra was up to his usual tricks cannonballing his way through opponents to keep Combe on the front foot. The homeside's scrum was on top, Thurrock coughed up a front row penalty but Combe couldn't capitalise from the ensuing 5m lineout. The 20 minute mark was approaching when Combe built a number of phases deep inside the Thurrock half. The ball was released to Combe openside Sean Beckett who powered over the line for try number two which Harrison converted.
It only took a couple of minutes for the next score. The Thurrock re-start was too long and, from the ensuing scrum, the ball was passed wide left for pacy Aaron Esiri to race outside the cover defence to score Combe's third. The conversion was missed. Ten minutes later Esiri nearly marked his second try but was help up short. the ball was quickly recycled and, before the Thurrock defence could get organised, number 8 Piers Johnson charged over for the bonus point try. Harrison kicked the conversion and that was it as far as Combe were concerned on the scoring front. 26-0 at halftime.
Thurrock came out for the second half with fire in their bellies. It took only 3 minutes before Thurrock's increased pressure in the tight told, with Combe being caught offside in their 22. Thurrock took a quick tap and went over wide right for their opening score. The conversion was missed. 10 minutes later the visitors added another when a Thurrock penalty was kicked for a lineout on the 5m line. A well worked catch and drive followed and the Essex side had 10 points on the board.
There were still 30 minutes to play and, although Thurrock had most of the possession and territory, they couldn't add to the score. Combe weren't able build any momentum as Thurrock upped their physicality and stopped any attempt to shift the ball wide. It was telling that it wasn't until late in the half that Combe had any meaningful possession in the Thurrock danger zone.
Added time seemed to stretch ever longer and, as tempers frayed in the closing minutes, the game boiled over with a WPRFC player getting a red card.
All in all an very frustrating afternoon for Combe fans with an injury to John Kopra adding to the mood. Credit to Thurrock players and coaches for turning the game on its head in the second period, giving all they had and winning the half 10-0.
Next week Combe visit Chichester looking to avenge a last minute defeat in the last game of last season.
Match Report: John Vallely