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RUGBY: Saddle sore, but the signs are promising
SADDLEBACKS’ skipper Tom Collins praised the performance of fly-half Andy Thompson but insisted the whole squad could take positives out of their opening-day defeat.
Devizes’ historic first season at level six began with a promising performance but eventual defeat as Northamptonshire visitors Towcestrians claimed a bonus-point win.
The home side, last season's Southern Counties South champions, finished the match the stronger, earning the losing bonus point that was the least their efforts deserved.
At the heart of their efforts was Thompson, who was only denied a faultless place kicking display by a curious refereeing decision to rule out his final conversion attempt, despite it being awarded by both touch judges.
The number 10’s game management and tactical kicking were also spot-on, complementing a courageous forward display led by the back row of James Gaiger, Craig Bryant and Hugo O’Neill, making his first XV debut Collins said: “Andy has come on so much in the last three or four years.
“It showed in how well he played and he’s always keen to improve. But I think the boys were fairly happy with the performance, if not the result.
“There were a few sore bodies afterwards but there was a lot of good effort put in.’’ The home side will reflect on a number of defensive lapses that handed the initiative – and crucially – points to their opponents.
Towcestrians grabbed the lead when centre David Devlin-Jones ploughed over, full-back James Falvey converting.
But Thompson though sent a 45-metre penalty sailing through the uprights before booting a closer-range shot five minutes later.
Another monster penalty and drop goal took his side 12-7 ahead.
Falvey cut the deficit to two points before half time but, two minutes after the restart, Thompson dropped another goal.
Towcestrians drew level as the home side slipped off tackles in midfield and scrum-half Gus Hopewell weaved in and out of defenders to go over.
The Saddlebacks then had to withstand a good 20 minutes of pressure, losing lock Damon Murphy to the sin bin.
The away side took advantage at a scrum. forcing the award of a penalty try, which Falvey converted.
Thompson landed his fourth penalty and Devizes pummelled their opponents’ 22, only for a quick break and weak tackling to allow Devlin-Jones’ break to set up a try for flanker Eugene Baxter, Falvey converting.
Devizes finally got the try their efforts deserved as scrum-half Collins’ box kick allowed substitute wing Luke Rapson to touch down, Thompson’s conversion shot being bizarrely ruled out.
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