Rugby: St Austell back to top after victory over Bridgwater & Albion
ST AUSTELL secured an emphatic six try victory to go back to the top of the Tribute South West One West league in an incident packed game.
Such was the dominance of the Saints, particularly in a one-sided second half, that it was only the visitors' commitment to aggressive and disruptive defence that prevented a bigger score to the home side.
The Saints started confidently, but failed to register a score before being rocked by two tries in five minutes to find themselves 12-0 down.
The home side steadied themselves to go on to score 41 unanswered points with three tries in each half.
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The game kicked off in near perfect conditions, remarkable given the raging storm that had torn through Cornwall in the previous 24 hours.
Despite playing into a stiff breeze the Saints monopolised the ball to launch a series of attacks to test the visitors' resolve.
The Saints pack established an early edge and was producing a stream of quick ball for the backs. Bridge defended with tenacity forcing the home side into errors at key moments to prevent a score.
The game turned on its head as the 20 minute mark approached, a pressure relieving kick from full back Roger Drabble made its wind assisted journey deep into the Saints half.
The ball was gathered by the retreating home full back Dan Pearce who punted the ball high into the air towards the halfway line.
Bridge hooker Matt Hastie misjudged the flight of the kick and players from both sides stopped as the ball rolled forward several metres.
Hastie was the first to realise the whistle had not gone and fly hacked the ball onwards before it was forced into touch just 5m from the home try line.
The resulting catch and drive edged forward before collapsing on the line, referee Zeb Bell did not hesitate in awarding a penalty try and issuing a yellow card to flanker Paul Winterbottom.
The shell shocked Saints were hit again within minutes when a well worked lineout ruse created a gap for flanker Ollie Dunn to gallop down the tramlines to score in the corner to make it 12-0.
The Saints hit back on the half hour with a near replica of the visitors' first try. A rolling maul from a 10m line out paused on the Bridge line when visiting scrum half Sam Knights darted in from an offside position to stop the ball.
The result was a penalty try and ten minutes in the bin for the errant Number 9 and ten out of ten for consistency for the referee.
The Saints now had the bit between their teeth and No8 Adam Kellow finished off a series of searing forward drives to pull the Saints level.
With half time looming the Saints worked the ball through the hands to put winger Ben Chenoweth in for a well worked try.
Skipper Matt Shepherd's conversion brought the half to a close with the home side now 19-12 in front.
The Saints started the second half in charge and it needed a high tackle to stop a break from centre Alex Welland ending in a try. Shepherd slotted the penalty to extend the home side's lead to 22-12.
This was soon followed by the move of the match with forwards and backs interchanging as the Saints moved menacingly forward.
With defenders tied in, the ball was sped wide only for a knock on to prevent a certain score.
Not to be out done the Saints drove Bridge off their own scrum, the ball passed through hands at pace for winger Ashley Taylor to finish off in style with Shepherd converting from the touchline.
Taylor then paid his own personal tribute to the Winter Olympics when he set off on a 70m slalom run from inside his own half. The Cornwall U20 speedster weaved across the pitch leaving a stream of would be defenders in his wake. Taylor secured gold in the corner and fully deserved his standing ovation from the large Tregorrick crowd. Hooker Miles Davey finished off good approach play with a converted try to put the Saints 41-12.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes it became increasingly fractious with a series of spates interspersed with lectures by the referee to the captains and protagonists.
With five minutes remaining Winterbottom was shown his second yellow, and then red, for a late tackle on Hastie.
There was almost a sense of inevitability surrounding the next red card when Bridge's Bryan Webb was sent off for a punch.
The flanker had cut an increasingly forlorn and frustrated figure in the closing stages as he became embroiled in a series of confrontations with Saints players, the crowd, the home bench and most bizarrely of all peacekeeping team-mates.
Thankfully the game ended without further incident with the Cornishmen earning a well-deserved victory.
The Saints now face two tough away trips at clubs breathing down their necks that will really test their promotion credentials.
This Saturday they travel to Weston-super-Mare to take on third place Hornets. The week after they travel West for the eagerly-awaited Cornish derby at Camborne.