Exmouth: Withycombe RFC show 'huge improvement' against Cullompton despite loss
By Will Goddard
10th Jan 2022 | Rugby
Final score: Cullompton 10-7 Withycombe RFC
With the rain coming down and the gusty wind blowing downfield, the game was always going to be tricky. Withy started well as they showed themselves to be the stronger of the two teams in the early exchanges of the game. This wasn't to say that Cullompton, who went onto the game in third place in the table, weren't looking dangerous themselves; a few breaks down the pitch with the regular use of the chipped kick made them some ground, but each of the early attempts were easily dealt with by Withy.
With the opening quarter coming to an end, Withies enjoyed a prolonged period in the visitor's 22', and although the rain had begun to slow down, the sticky conditions underfoot prevented any real chances to make large territorial gains. This being said, the boys continued to battle in the Cully red zone, but with some effective defending, the visitors prevented any scores.
With the pressure building and emotions running high, the referee issued out a yellow card to each side, with Withies' Danny Sansom and Cully's Jacob Unwin being given a ten-minute rest at the side of the pitch.
With both sides a man down, Cullompton had their first turn at issuing some persistent pressure, gaining some possession and territory. Withy dealt with the initial wave, winning the turnover but a mistake shortly after the scrum proved costly for them as the ball was knocked forwards into Cully hands, the ball was quickly passed out and the visitors ran the short distance to the line and score under the posts for the opening points of the game, somewhat against the general run of play.
With some points on the board, Cully played with a little more confidence, equalling out the play a little and although they began to look more threatening, Withy held their own and put together some great phases of rugby in both attack and defence against a side who were dominating each phase when we last met back in September.
When half time approached, the teams swapped ends with the visitors just the one score ahead at 0-7.
With the slope and the wind now in their favour, Withy started well and had a few phases in the Cully half, however, determined to build on their lead, the visitors slowly began to build up more pressure and slowly play up the field. The green and black defence continued to deny any tries, however when a gap was opened, some scrambled defence resulted in a kickable penalty in front of the posts, giving Flyhalf Harvey Sanders a simple opportunity to increase the lead to ten points with an hour on the clock.
With this score and the slippery conditions causing several errors, both sides kept the vast majority of the play to the middle third of the park. This wasn't to say the game wasn't exciting as there was plenty of exciting play for the supporters, although I'm sure it was pretty tiring for those involved on the pitch!
With time slipping away, Withies knew they needed to take the upper hand once again – this is exactly what happened when a expertly judged penalty kick to touch by Tom Cooke meant the boys had a great opportunity with a line out on the Cullompton 5m line. The ball was taken well and with the maul forming, Withies were awarded another penalty; this time, scrum was the call and it turned out to be the right one – with the driving scrum just inches from the line, the momentum was brought to a halt illegally by Cully, with this the referee headed under the posts to award Withycombe the penalty try.
With just two minutes on the clock, Withies weren't planning on giving up and pushed forward from the restart and almost immediately playing out the final phases deep in the visitor's 22'. Withies were awarded two more quick penalties, both of which taken quickly from the 5m line. However, the visitors managed to hold off the final flurry of Withy attack, winning the turnover penalty and kicking the ball dead to win the game. Final score Withycombe 7, Cullompton 10.
On this occasion, a losing bonus point for Withy, but one that was thoroughly deserved and hard earned and has even seen Withy climb two placed up the league to seventh. Each player was outstanding in keeping the game tight and exciting for all those braving the weather to come and watch.
Going into the second half of the season, the target set by the team and coaches is to improve on each performance – an achievement they've certainly managed this week, improving enormously against the game up at Stafford Park in round three of the competition.
Next week, the boys make the journey over the Tamar Bridge and back into Cornwall to face Saltash where they can look to continue the improvements and look for their first double win of the season. Kick off from Moorlands Lane will be at 2:30pm.