Parnell try brace as Withy win muddy Devon derby

PUBLISHED: 09:32 25 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:32 25 January 2018

Withycombe at home to Honiton. Ref exsp 04-18TI 6737. Picture: Terry Ife

Withycombe at home to Honiton. Ref exsp 04-18TI 6737. Picture: Terry Ife


Withycombe exacted sweet revenge for their single point defeat in the East Devon derby at Honiton earlier in the season when they won the return at a muddy Raleigh Park 22-17.

Withycombe made a flying start and just two minutes into the contest were swarming all over the Honiton 22.

Max Cooke carried the ball on a couple of occasions into contact and with the second movement he got the ball out to Tom Parnell, and the winger slid over the line in the clubhouse corner. Sam Conway made a good fist of a tough conversion, but, on a day that was always going to be difficult for kicking, the attempt did not bisect the uprights.

Honiton were onto the Raleigh Park scoreboard for the first time thanks to a 10th minute Johnny Selway penalty and then the visitors, who had the benefit of slope and wind in the first half, had former National One player Nathan Hannay to thank for a powerful carry that ended with a Withy scrum, turned over by the away side, and it was Hannay who found space to score his side’s first try, which was converted, and Withy were behind 10-5.

By the thirty-minute mark, the Raleigh Park surface was now clearly more suited to mud wrestling than free-running rugby and much of the play was restricted to the mud in the middle third of the pitch.

Just before the break, Honiton’s Lewis Groves sliced through the Withycombe defence and went over untouched for another converted score to give the Lacemen a healthy 17-5 half-time lead.

At the start of the second half, now with slope and elements in their favour, Withy again started on the front foot. They set the tone for a dominant second half show when, from a line out, Caleb Sampson linked with Liam Cullen prior to Rob Griffin powering over and a Sam Conway conversion closed the gap between the teams to just five points.

The game again began a period of midfield attrition in what was now a ‘sea of mud’! With a ball as slippery as the proverbial bar of soap at the bottom of a bath, the game became a real ‘slog in the mud’.

It was Withy fly-half and former Honiton player Glen Channing who began to initiate a change in play with some terrific kicking that pinned Honiton back time and again, while the shifts from Alex Taylor, Connor Gilby and Connor O’Shaughnessy helped to keep Withy very much on the front foot and in the ascendency.

It was some Sam Conway brilliance that opened things up with 10 minutes remaining. Conway weaved his way through a number of challenges before setting up Carl Saunders for a straightforward touch down, but the conversion was missed and that left the game beautifully poised at 17-all with the clock ticking down!

From the restart, Channing kicked deep down into Hontion territory. As the Lacemen ran it back up the field, the ball was turned over and found its way to Tom Parnell, who showed everyone a muddy set of studs as he charged to the line and dived over after a magnificent 40-metre run.

Once ahead on the score board, and driven on by a terrific vocal home support, Withy closed ranks to see the game out in style and record a seventh success of the season.

On Saturday (January 27), Withycombe 1st XV travel to Tavistock while the Withy 2nds welcome Exeter Engineers to Raleigh Park in what will surely be another great weekend of rugby.

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