Posted: 19.08.19 at 12:43 by Jeremy Rice - Honiton RFC
Friday night saw Honiton play their first game of the 2019-20 season which was a warm up/trial game against SW1 outfit North Petherton.
Despite playing well Honiton lost to the SW1 team 24-19.
For Honiton this was obviously a stern test as despite Honiton’s promotion to the Western Counties League this opposition actually ply their rugby a division above that, in South West one.
For those going along to support expectations weren’t that great as there were several players missing from the Honiton ranks and the conditions were less that favourable having had torrential rain all day and frankly, most felt Honiton were on a hiding to nothing.
I’m pleased to report it was anything but a hiding to nothing and bar a last play try by the home side, Honiton were in the game throughout and could clearly have taken the spoils on the day.
Honiton started brightly and looked dangerous and probably shocked their host with their attacking intent. Skipper Harry Wright opened up the scoring with a well taken try after some sustained pressure and when Will Goulden got bundled over by his forwards and Tom Steer added the extras Honiton were 12 points to the good and were looking very impressive with their intent.
Both sides did make several changes as is the way in trial games but given Honiton’s squad was fairly small, injuries meant some of Honiton’s changes were out of necessity rather than choice.
Having had the use of the gale in the first half the home side got themselves back into the game in the third quarter and with two tries scored from forward pressure they drew level.
Despite this Honiton still attacked and played some very positive rugby and Honiton got their third try of the day when Tom Steer scored a great individual try which he converted to put Honiton back out in front at 12-19.
The last quarter, it’s fair to say, saw Honiton hanging on a bit and the Somerset side drew level with 10 minutes left with a dominant scrum. Honiton battled on and to all watching it was a case of hanging on for the draw but in the last play of the game a ball swung wide saw the home side score the winning try and they narrowly took the spoils by 24-19 and they must have been relieved to have won.
Despite the loss it was a pretty impressive performance by the Ton and it was a great game to watch. The homes sides strength and depth probably did for Honiton and their large pack saw them become dominant in the scrummage department, especially in the final quarter when Honiton were down to the bare bones.
For Honiton everyone played out of their skins. Tom Steer at fly half controlled the game well and his out of hand kicking in the first half was spot on. He also kept the backs attacking and with Tomo, Coutes, Cavey, Webber, Hawks, Tyers and Smith there is no doubt as with last year this is a key strength for the Ton and with young Sam Heathcott joining the ranks and looking good on the night, competition for places will hot up. Cookie and Angus Meadows shared the nine job for the evening so competition for that shirt will be ongoing.
Huge credit to both Veteran locks Nick Guilbert and Louie Lane who both had to put in an 80 minute shift and they both still did the biz against some monster opposition. Wright and Groves both had stormers and a big hand must go to Groves who was outstanding throughout and he coped admirably with skipper duties when Wright left the field at the break.
Goulden, Price and Baily carried on form from last year and looked impressive especially in the carrying department but with Finn Parrott looking keen to play front row this season he looked more than capable of joining their ranks and with a bit of work on fitness he will be a welcome addition to the squad.
With absentees in the back row Ben Logan came out of front row duties for the day and in his first game back for a year after a serious injury he was impressive and for me, he was the Ton’s man of the match. A big hand must also go to Footie who was press-ganged into duties and somehow promptly tackled the largest bloke on the field and received a cut eye for his efforts.
So all in all, it was a good night for the Ton and forwards coach Charlie Wright and manager Brendon Findlay must have been happy with the evening’s work and reports back to Alex Brooks, the head coach, must have been positive. His absence on the night was due to the small matter of his wedding preparations for the next day.
Concerns as is always the way for the Ton, is the size of the squad and their strength in depth and injuries on the night meant Honiton did struggle when they started to hit but they have been a tight unit and with the same resources as in previous years they should hold their own at the higher level.
Next up is a trial game away to North Tawton on Saturday, August 31, why not come along and watch?