Depleted Saints take a losing bonus point
ST AUSTELL slipped to their second defeat of the season against an exuberant Clevedon who thoroughly deserved to take the spoils.
For the third week running the Saints had to shuffle their resources to accommodate a lengthy injury list and player unavailability.
Unfortunately, the Cornishmen were unable to replicate the intensity of last week's performance against Cleve allowing the home side to ruthlessly exploit the lack of cohesion to lead 20-8 at the break.
Although the Saints improved significantly in the second period they were unable to convert the pressure exerted into enough points to truly trouble the hosts.
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The consolation of a losing bonus point would have to suffice as even that seemed unlikely at half time.
On a beautiful sunny day in Somerset, the fired up home pack put the Saints under the cosh from the start. Desperate defence held out until the seventh minute until No8 Dave Rawle trundled over to put the hosts ahead.
Minutes later centre Mike Taylor extended the lead with a penalty before Matt Shepherd gave the Saints some respite by getting three points on the board following a rare Saints foray into Clevedon territory.
Clevedon continued to dominate but the Saints were holding firm until they were left red faced following a neat dummy from fly half Tom Thie.
The home skipper, who had an excellent game, was given the freedom of Coleridge Vale by a flat footed defence to cruise under the posts for a converted try.
The Saints finally mustered themselves to apply some pressure through a series of lineout catch and drives.
Twice the hosts were penalised for collapsing the maul but it was third time lucky when debutant Andrew Inch fired through a gap on the blindside.
It was a great moment for the 17-year-old flanker drafted in following some great performances for the Colts.
A fine prospect and 'Inchy' will no doubt be challenging for a regular berth in the Saints pack in the near future.
Any hopes that this would signal a prolonged comeback by the Saints were soon dispelled when some lacklustre tackling in midfield allowed the home side to regain the momentum in the visitors' 22.
Scrum half Andy Ashwin was shown yellow after his attempts to disrupt Clevedon scrum ball was deemed illegal.
The punishment was magnified when that man Thie spotted the Saints were outnumbered on the blindside to put centre Ashley Vailes in for a try to put Clevedon 20-8 in front at the break.
The Saints started the second half with greater focus and purpose to put Clevedon under sustained pressure.
A succession of penalties eventually led to a yellow card for home prop J Steadman but despite the numerical advantage the Saints were unable to cross the try line.
A slick counter attack saw Clevedon move the ball nearly 40m for winger Simon Johns to go over in the corner in the home side's first attack of the half.
The unconverted try was a cruel blow to the Saints who now 25-8 down had a mountain to climb.
Good work by tireless No8 Adam Kellow created the space for Shepherd to zip in from 30m to give the Saints some hope.
The game ebbed and flowed with the visitors largely in the ascendency without getting the vital edge to add the points.
Another yellow for persistent offending by Clevedon allowed the Saints to reel in the score to 25-18 when Shepherd grabbed his second try and set up a frenetic finale.
Saints pounded away and stretched the home side several times but were unable to fashion a clear cut opportunity.
The game finished in a pile of bodies on the Clevedon try line, all eyes were on referee Ian Hillier with both sides hoping the penalty award would be in their favour.
To Clevedon's delight Saints were penalised for not releasing the ball and fittingly captain Thie kicked the ball dead to confirm a deserved win for the home side.
There is definitely no need for any panic in Saints' ranks but the defeat underlines how any off day will be ruthlessly punished in a very competitive league.
The Saints will be looking to return to winning ways when they welcome Coney Hill to Tregorrick (2.30pm). The Gloucester-based side will also be bringing their seconds to play the Sinners to make a wonderful rugby occasion.