Topsham U14s vs Paignton and Totnes Barbarians
By Katie James
In stark contrast to the Topsham U14 squad Paignton and Totnes amalgamated at the beginning of this season to become the Paignton and Totnes Barbarians (PT). They were a spirited and determined team who made up for a lack of cohesion, as one might expect
Though wet the surface was firm and well suited to the Topsham game. During the course of the match a diagonal breeze picked up which came to play a prominent part in the match. We played with the wind in the first half and it was used superbly by Ben Helewell at outside half who kicked both accurately and intelligently.
Step forward the mighty 16; due to player availability there was an experimental edge to this team which saw numerous players out of their normal Topsham positions, notably one of the smallest back rows to have played at this level (Hamish Fraser, Oli Stewart, and Austin Crow) – what was lost in size was made up for in speed, agility and determination, contrary to popular belief; size doesn’t always matter. Of particular note were Oli and Austin; both new to the position and both outstanding. Topsham settled quickly to their own game; the shape and tempo were excellent and it was a matter of minutes before Toby Collins (playing in the centre) was released down the left wing to score under the posts, converted by Ben Helewell – Topsham out of the blocks. We have now had two quick starts back to back; a good habit and one we should keep.
The first half continued in a similar vein lineouts and set pieces proved to be a real attacking base. In the scrum our power was massive; we had a well established front five who managed three against the head in the first half – stand up Sam Reuben; it’s not often the opposition has the put in and you expect to attack. Before the match we discussed the need for close support in the contact especially on the “slow ball”. This was applied during the game and worked fantastically, not only in terms of ball retention but also the speed at which the players recycled it at the breakdown winning time for the backs, giving them space. In the backs handling was accurate and quick which stretched the opposition across the pitch it’s defence often unable to cover in time. As the half played on so Topsham’s authority became more apparent and with it discipline started to wane, PT by this stage 3 tries down fought their way up the pitch and scored a good forward try near the Topsham posts. The Topsham players became aware of their loss of shape and much to their credit brought the game back on track and finished the half with a well worked try.
The second half, into the wind, was much lower scoring (only twice did we cross the PT line). However, there was some outstanding rugby of which the highlight was a turnover under our posts, followed by superbly linked phases of play and movement of the ball, only for the move to fail with us missing a simple 2 on 1 but 10 metres from the PT line (perhaps a little white line fever). When Topsham did retained their shape this was their better half.
Lineout. Our lineout was solid and controlled and directed; 2 tries coming from rolling mauls – must be the coaching.
Scrumaging. A very mobile front row, in the form of Henry Simms, George Guy and Sam Reuben combined with the considerable engine room of Jake Martin and Hamish Bell at second row provided a platform in the set pieces for which PT had no answer.
Handling. The warm up focused on ball handling and this was taken onto the pitch and in the main was excellent. The only times our handling failed was when we lost discipline and shape.
Defence. Once again there was no questioning the commitment in the tackle area of any player. Perhaps there is room for a little technical work but once again we demonstrated a huge commitment for each other. Considering the two centres had not played together in the mid field before the drift worked well. It was also great to see the two wings Harry Williams and Tom Puddiphatt supporting at the breakdown either to win the ball or slow it down.
Support play. As mentioned this was discussed before the match and moved up a gear as the game progressed, we need to develop this.
Overall. The score board is not a fair representation of the match. PT were a well motivated and physical side with a number of good players; all scores by Topsham were earned. Some excellent lessons were learned today and need to be developed as we move forward. Another good win – well Done!
Austin Crow (2)
Ben Helewell Conversions (2)