Well, that felt good didn’t it, finally a win after so many lost games but not only the win but the performance as well was very satisfying indeed. Barnstaple’s tackling was excellent, team cohesion and support play was great with hardly any fumbles plus as a bonus very few penalties, an all-round performance by the whole team finally getting all the pieces to slot in together for a very well deserved win 23-14.
The game started well for both sides as they probed each other for gaps in their respective defences but as we approached the 15-minute mark it was the Chiefs who were slowly exerting more influence on the game and the first try went to the Chiefs when Johny Carter receiving the ball in space charged at the two defenders in front of him and went straight through the middle of them breaking through the tackle to go over for his sixth try of the season. Within a few minutes Barnes hit back having fielded a kick in their 22 they ran it back through the middle of the Chiefs defence to set up a very quickly taken try that with the conversion gave Barnes the lead 5-7.
The rest of the half belonged to Barnstaple though as the again pressed the visitors and with the help of the pack who were gaining dominance over Barnes earning several scrum penalties continued to march up the pitch. Kyran McManus almost went over as the ball went wide but an excellent try saving tackle held him up and then another penalty for the Chiefs as their pressure began to take its toll on the visitors was scored by Jake Murphy to retake the lead. Finally before the end of the half Ryan Lee extended that lead as he took the pass and backed himself on the outside to score a fabulous try diving into the corner as the Chiefs went in at half time 13-7 and the supporters whispering under their breaths so not to jinx it, could this be the one, another half like that and we have got this.
Well, many probably wished they hadn’t thought such thoughts as memories of Old Albanians came flooding back when the Chiefs having played the better in that game in the first half choked in the second and lost the game, as within five minutes of the restart Barnes went in from a tap penalty from the five-yard line under the posts to give them back the lead 13-14. This time tough Barnstaple’s composure was so much better as if they had belief and mounted a strong challenge that immediate reaped its rewards as Jake Murphy’s clever chip over the defensive line was reclaimed by Connor Swan under pressure to run in unopposed for his first try for the Chiefs and Barnstaple’s third which with the conversion gave the Chiefs a 20-14 lead.
Barnstaple continued to push for that elusive fourth try and another penalty gave Jake Murphy the chance midway though the half to put the Chiefs two scores ahead at 23-14. By now it was going well and to help secure the game Winston James and Will Topps were brought on for their first game in a number of weeks following injury but somehow this seemed to disrupt proceedings as several line-outs went astray and seemed to give the impetus back to Barnes as they now pressed hard to try and fight their way back into this game. The Chiefs defence though stood tall as it has done for most of the season and repelled the attacks and with further scores the Chiefs finished the game to huge applause from the Barnstaple faithful.
Like I said at the start it wasn’t just the win but the performance that was so satisfying and was really just reward for a team that has played well in periods during their previous games but just never got all the parts working together as cohesively as they did in this one. Is it a team that has finally found itself well that’s is very hard to say and very speculative at this stage but it is another step in this squads’ continuing improvement and if anything, that surely is the most important piece to take from this game? Of course, there is going to be stronger opponents than Barnes who themselves played their part in what was a very enjoyable game of rugby to watch, next week for instance the Chiefs visit Henley who are a tough side, however it does show this young squad are capable of winning at this level and winning well and that all bodes well for next season.
There were no other games on Saturday as both the Colts who are resting and training for their final in three weeks’ time, and Athletic who are playing here at Pottington Road next Saturday against Crediton 2nd XV kick off 2.30pm, had the weekend off.
Well done to the Chiefs and I’ll catch up with you all on Friday evening
For the full set of photos visit Barnstaple Rugby Facebook Page