Withycombe 37, Plymouth Barbarians 0

Withycombe headed into the Christmas break by despatching a poor Plymouth Barbarians side at Raleigh Park on Saturday.

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It was far from plain sailing, though, as both teams struggled to overcome the extremely wet conditions early on. Jack Pugsley gave Withy an early 3-0 lead with a simple penalty goal, but the score would remain unchanged until the 21st minute when he struck another. Although Withycombe were not scoring, they faced little threat from Barbarians, and handling errors and indiscipline prevented them from posting more points. Neil Williams finally made a significant foray over the gain line on 29 minutes before offloading, some clumsy handling followed, but John Parkin picked the ball from his shoelaces to skip under the posts, Pugsley adding the extras.

More scrappy play followed before a frenzied end to the half saw Withycombe inch closer to the bonus point. Pugsley turned villain as he threw an interception to give Plym their only real chance of scoring, before making a late tackle as the ball was chipped ahead. Withy, lucky not to have Pugsley in the sin bin, stole the ensuing lineout, Tom Steer clearing the lines with an intelligent kick. Mike Symons fielded the return kick and Withycombe’s scrum halves this time shared a 50-metre run in as Symons fed John Parkin who sauntered over for his second try. Pugsley converted to the tune of the halftime whistle, and Withycombe were 20-0 up despite rarely entering second gear.

One more score would sink any dwindling Barbarians chances, and five minutes into the second half it came. Man of the match John Parkin cutting a fantastic line to bamboozle the Plym defence before sacrificing a sure hat trick try to feed his centre partner Ben Mardle with a deft inside switch, Mardle crashing over by the posts untouched. A Pugs conversion made it 27-0. Withycombe secured the bonus point on 57 minutes with arguably their best try of the day. Danny Sansom caught a low pass before feeding Neil Williams who left Paddy Shaw with two on one, timing his pass perfectly for Tom Steer to dive over in clubhouse corner. The remainder of the game was uneventful, atrocious conditions perhaps saving Barbarians from a more embarrassing score; the continued Withycombe onslaught at the set piece showed as two Plymouth players saw yellow. Barbarians would not give up though, as evidenced when Danny Sansom was chased down with a minute to go and only 40 metres of grass between him and the try line.

The effort was to prove ultimately fruitless as Jack Pugsley ended the game with a try of his own, taking his personal tally to 17.

Withycombe break for Christmas now, the next league fixture at Raleigh Park is on January 12 when they host Saltash, although the traditional Boxing Day game should prove good value as usual; kick off is at 11am and the bar is open all day!

Merry Christmas to all from everyone connected with Withycombe RFC.

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