St Austell Saints ready for top of table clash after joy at Truro
Truro 23, St Austell 38
ST AUSTELL finally laid the Truro hoodoo to rest with an emphatic win at St Clements Hill on Saturday.
The win keeps the Saints' momentum going into tomorrow's top of the table clash with second place Bideford (Tregorrick Park, 2.30pm).
Truro have traditionally held the local bragging rights so St Austell supporters would have welcomed any sort of win last weekend.
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The fact that victory was achieved with five tries and a bonus point made it all the sweeter. Derby matches between these two sides tend to be feisty affairs so it was no surprise that the game was tightly controlled by the man in the middle.
However, the strict management of the contact area led to a staccato game littered with stoppages, long lectures to the protagonists and five yellow cards.
This severely hampered the visitors' ability to sustain any rhythm or pace but suited Truro's more pensive forward orientated approach.
It was not until the last 25 minutes that the Saints finally came to terms with the situation and let loose to run in three tries to seal a memorable win.
In what was to be a pattern for the first half, Truro took the route one approach by continually launching their big men in attempt to batter their way through.
The Saints held firm but were already starting to feel the icy blast of the referee's whistle, so it was no surprise when Truro full back Justyn Irons slotted a penalty after 15 minutes.
Saints responded well only for a promising attack to be stopped in its tracks by a high tackle from second row Lee Pengilly, who received a yellow card.
St Austell were not to be denied, and a flowing back-line move allowed centre James Earp to burst through to score, with Shepherd adding the conversion.
Truro were the beneficiaries of the Saints' continual struggle to adjust to the interpretation around the contact area, and a litany of penalties allowed the home side to move purposely upfield.
The referee's patience finally snapped and it was prop Mark Martin who saw yellow. This gave the home side the edge to drive tight head Chris Gilbert over the line for an unconverted try.
The Saints hit back immediately with lock Sean Haley winning the restart, providing half backs Shepherd and skipper Andy Ashwin with the platform to pull the strings that created the opening for winger Sam Rhodes to score a well worked try.
Shepherd converted and kicked another penalty to make the half time score 17-8.
The second half started and the Saints were no sooner back to a full complement when they were down to 14 men with flanker Paul Winterbottom the next to have an enforced respite from the fray. Irons chipped away at the lead with a penalty before Saints were reduced to 13 players, when centre Ian Venner was harshly adjudged to have high tackled.
Truro made the visitors pay, using turnover ball in midfield to unleash hard running winger Luke Trescothick to score out wide. Irons' conversion nudged Truro 18-17 ahead.
From the restart Saints attacked with purpose and were awarded a penalty 30m from the line.
Suddenly all eyes went to the other side of the field at the prone figure of Sam Rhodes. It was soon clear it was a serious back injury and although the paramedics came within ten minutes it was a further 40 minutes before an ambulance arrived.
Thankfully, Sam was discharged from hospital overnight and although he will require further treatment to damaged discs it was not as serious as first feared.
The Saints would like to thank Truro RFC for their help and support, a real credit to the spirit and ethos of rugby.
When the game resumed a penalty was awarded to Saints, who finally demonstrated why they are league leaders to deliver a try that was a masterclass of tactics, teamwork, technique and execution.
A kick to touch, clean line out, driven forward before being spun wide with backs running lines of attack that mesmerised the home defence to allow winger Alex Welland to fly in under the posts. Shepherd's conversion put the Saints 24-18 ahead.
Then Haley stole lineout ball to provide the perfect counter attack for Earp to score his second try, Shepherd converting.
A strong run and clever offload from No8 Steve Howarth created the space for Winterbottom to tear into the home 22.
A beautifully timed pass to the supporting Sam Tank allowed the mercurial full back to dive over for his ninth try of the season.
The game finished in bizarre circumstances, with most of the crowd thinking the final whistle had gone only to realise that Ashwin had been sin binned.
In the confusion that followed Trescothick nonchalantly strode over for his second try.
There were great celebrations for Saints players and supporters alike as victory finally erased the memories of last October's unedifying defeat and the similar scenes from the hosts.
St Austell: Rowe; Grigg; Martin; Pearce; Haley; Jeffs; Winterbottom; Howarth; Shepherd; Ashwin (Captain); Rhodes; Earp; Venner; Welland; Tank. Replacements (All used) Nelson; Colvin-Stunell; McCoan.
St Austell: Tries – Earp (23, 71); Rhodes (37); Welland (58); Tank (77); Cons – Shepherd (5); Pens – Shepherd (1).
Truro: Tries – Gilbert (33); Trescothick (56, 80); Cons – Irons (1); Pens – Irons (2).
Yellow cards: St Austell: Martin (32); Winterbottom (47); Venner (51); Ashwin (80).
Truro: Pengilly (22).
Referee: Clinton Mill (Devon RRS).
Saints Man of the Match: Andy Ashwin.