Thursday, February 27, 2014
Exeter Saracens 7, Withycombe 47
Freddie Fraser signed off for Withycombe with a hard-fought win that was not as straightforward as the score line would suggest, writes Mike Richards.
With Fraser moving onto bigger things at Taunton, Withycombe managed to blood another two debutants, although Richard Hodges, beset by transport issues, had to make his first appearance from the bench as penance for turning up after kick-off, allowing Tim Wills and the evergreen Al Loaring, to step into the breach.
The ballast that provided in the scrum was immediately apparent, as Withycombe were comfortably on top, disrupting Sarries’ own ball and making chances for themselves on their own feed. Unfortunately, with the exception of a well-taken try on 12 minutes, their efforts went mostly unrewarded in the first half, to Phil Sluman’s audible frustration at times.
Sam Conway snatched that only first-half score, after the ‘Richards one-two’ was used to devastating effect with Dave putting brother Mike through a hole just about big enough to accommodate him, before offloading back to Dave, with the supporting Sluman hauled down just before the line. Quick ball put Conway over in the corner for his fifth try of the season.
With Saracens narrowly escaping the concession of either a pushover or penalty try from a series of close-quarter Withycombe scrums, it looked as though the great escape may be on when the teams turned round at only 5-0.
Withycombe again had the run of the play as the second half started. With the wind at the back now, and with Sarries’ centre partnership of Mat Hilton and Ben Croft under very close surveillance from Fraser and Aaron Conway, the pressure started to build. Mike Richards notched another try on 44 minutes, with Sam Conway adding a second on 52 as he rounded his man and raced underneath the posts. Saracens skipper Mat Hilton did make the most of a huge overlap with 20 minutes to go to bring the score back to 19-7, but Withycombe replied almost immediately, with number-eight Dan James finally scoring the pushover try after workmanlike Withy pushed the home pack over their own line for the third time that day.
After that, the home resistance evaporated somewhat as Jack Faulkner unleashed himself. With the visiting backs playing fast and loose, Faulkner’s pace and agility got him a brace of tries, one either side of a lacklustre Mike Richards five-pointer. Jack Pugsley nailed all the second-half conversions as Withy won in style.
On Saturday Newquay Hornets visit Raleigh Park. Skipper Dave Richards says: This is potentially a banana-skin fixture. Hopefully the firmer ground will let us get our exciting backs into the game, but Newquay like to play as well so we’ll have to put in a full shift.”