Withy bag themselves an early festive gift with 11th straight win thanks to a Richards try hat-trick
PUBLISHED: 09:35 19 December 2019
Withycombe will spend Christmas as the clear leaders in Devon One for, after a 26-14 win away at OPMs, the Raleigh Park men hold a 10 point lead over second placed Tamar Saracens.
An 11th straight league success was achieved thanks to yet another imperious second half clean sheet performance.
It was the home team who made a bright start and it quickly became clear to another fine turnout of travelling Withy support that match number 11 of the league term was going to be a tough one!
The home side played with real gusto and it brought the worst out in Withy who served up an uncharacteristic 'mistake laden' first half show. OPMs opened the scoring with a converted try on 25 minutes from full back Fred Smart.
Withy responded well, but, just before the interval, home scrum half Henry Matthews off-loaded to winger Paul Bright and he crossed the whitewash and, with a successful Sam Matts conversion, Withy trooped off at the break trailing 14-0.
The opening exchanges of the second half saw possession and territorial advantage shared, but, 14 minutes in, Withy got their comeback started with a trademark driving maul that ended with Mike Richards crossing the line.
Lifted by the score, Withy were soon on the front foot and a break followed by a solo run from Neil Williams took play deep into the home 22 where Withy had a scrum on the five-metre line. With fatigue apparent in the home ranks, the scrum was reset four times! It proved fifth time lucky for the scrum was driven forward at pace and Mike Richards went over for his second try and a successful conversion from Glenn Channing reduced the margin between the teams to two points.
It stayed that way and, inside the final five minutes another driving maul was held up and, from another Withy scrum on the five-metre line, a deliberate knock-on was penalised with a penalty try to see Withy into the lead for the first time in the contest.
There was still time for further drama for, when Rory Collings completed a superb interception he set off on a run that was ended by a last ditch tackle only for the ball to be gathered by Mike Richards who crossed for his hat-trick try to secure Withy a bonus point success.
The well oiled sporting cliché', 'a game of two halves' certainly applied to this game!
That's it in terms of league rugby for 2019 with Withy next in Devon One action away at Old Technicians in Plymouth on January 4.
There's action before that with the annual Boxing Day game at Raleigh Park - keep an eye out for our online preview of that game.