Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text WILTS GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
RUGBY: Devizes 23 Towcestrians 29
DEVIZES' historic first season in South West One East began with a battling performance, but eventual defeat at home on Saturday.
The Saddlebacks, last season's Southern Counties South champions, shipped four tries in front of a large home crowd at London Road, but finished the match the stronger, earning the losing bonus point that was the least their efforts deserved.
The Northamptonshire visitors were a well-drilled and powerful outfit, their forward strength at one stage looking likely to give them a healthy victory.
But the fitness work that has been a key component of Devizes' preparations during the summer came to the fore late on as Tom Collins' men piled forward and, but for a couple of lapses in execution, could have seen them celebrating victory.
The home side will reflect on a number of defensive lapses that handed the initiative - and crucially - points to their opponents at key moments during the match but the laser-guided kicking and all-round game management of fly-half Andy Thompson left them with plenty of positives.
After an even opoening quarter of an hour, Towcestrians grabbed the lead when several waves of attack paved the way for centre David Devlin-Jones to plough over, full-back James Falvey converting.
Thompson though sent a 45-metre penalty sailing through the uprights with something to spare immediately upon the restart before booting a closer-range shot five minutes later.
The home side had a narrow escape just before the half hour when Towcestrians lock George Symonds appeared to have touched down amid a pile of bodies, but the referee was unsighted and Thompson landed an identical kick to his first before adding a drop goal to take his side 12-7 ahead.
Falvey responded to cut the deficit back to two points before half time but, two minutes after the restart, Devizes went through the phases and Thompson went back into the pocket to drop another goal.
Four minutes later, Towcestrians drew level as the home side slipped off tackles in midfield and, after being awarded a penalty, visiting scrum-half Gus Hopewell took a quick tap and weaved in and out of defenders to go over for an unconverted score.
That rocked the Saddlebacks, who then had to withstand a good 20 minutes of pressure.
But, as a Towcestrians maul was driven forwards 30 metres, the home side brought it down and lock Damon Murphy was sin-binned.
The away side took full advantage, piling on the pressure at a scrum and forcing the award of a penalty try, for which Falvey added the extras.
Devizes refused to wilt though and more good pressure allowed Thompson to land his fourth penalty to cut the deficit to four.
Into the final 10 minutes, it was the Saddlebacks doing the attacking, but a knock-on inside their opponents' 22 was to prove crucial.
Towcestrians cleared their lines and Devlin-Jones surged through some weak tackling to set up the position from which flanker Eugene Baxter touched down, Falvey converting.
In the dying moments, Devizes got the try their efforts deserved as scrum-half Collins' clever box kick allowed substitute wing Luke Rapson to beat the defence to the touchdown.
Thompson appeared to have landed the conversion with the final kick of the match, only for the referee to rule out the effort despite it being awarded by the two touch judges.
REACTION TO THE SADDLEBACKS' FIRST SOUTH WEST ONE EAST MATCH IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD
Comments are closed on this article.