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Saddlebacks Slump

Ray Taylor  Sunday, October 07, 2001  16:40 GMT

Devizes Saddlebacks were comprehensively beaten by a workmanlike and occasionally inspired Bournemouth team who dominated set piece possession and exploited uncharacteristic weaknesses in the Saddlebacks defence. If Bournemouth hadn't missed 5 conversion kicks the margin of defeat would have been wider.

Several injuries and subsequent positional changes meant that Devizes came into the game with an untried XV. In spite of the personal example of skipper, James Gaiger, and his constant pleas to the team, Devizes did not respond very positively when under pressure. Disputing the referee's decisions led to sinbinning and numerous penalties, which Devizes could ill afford, as they were denied most of the first phase possession throughout the game.

The pattern of the game was established in the first 10 minutes, when Devizes conceded a penalty to give Bournemouth a line out near the Devizes 22m line. Winning this easily, the Bournemouth pack drove for the line, broke through a fragile defence and scored wide out. Bournemouth won another ball against the head then pressurised Devizes, to gain a penalty and a further 3 points. In the first I5 minutes, Devizes did not win one set piece ball, whilst conceding 6 penalties. Feeding on scraps of possession, it was difficult for the Saddlebacks halfbacks, Tom Collins and Nathan Davies, to develop any rhythm or continuity in the threequarter line. Whereas, with constant possession, Bournemouth scored at regular intervals. From another wheeled scrum, the Bournemouth flyhalf accelerated and jinked his way to score, extending the lead to 13 - 0. A rare Devizes attack ended in the almost inevitable penalty, which Bournemouth used to clear their line. Andy Webb narrowly missed a penalty. Devizes then attempted a short penalty move from their own 22m. Bournemouth regained possession from a mistake, brushed aside weak tackles and scored, to establish an 18 - 0 lead. Then Devizes gave away four penalties in quick succession, enabling Bournemouth to repeat their first try with a drive from a lineout easily won. Just on half time Devizes, at last, got on the scoreboard when Andy Webb kicked a penalty.

Without a decent share of possession, it was difficult to see how the Saddlebacks were going to play catch up rugby. Supporters were given some hope when Tom Collins worked a switch play from a short penalty, giving Gavin Curnow a scoring opportunity, to close the gap to 23 - 10, a "two scores" difference. Perversely, just when a revival seemed possible, Chris Maundrell was sinbinned; and Bournemouth quickly stretched their lead to 26 points, with a successful kick from the penalty. Devizes were then reduced to 13 men, when Colin Barross was sinbinned in an increasingly niggly game. Bournemouth were quick to exploit this situation, with a further 5 points from yet another simple lineout drive. Then they treated a large crowd to the most spectacular try of the game.

The ball was moved swiftly left along the threequarter line, only for the left winger to step inside and begin a long curving run that completely outstretched the Devizes defence and ended in a converted try, wide out on the right. Shortly after, the Bournemouth scrumhalf wriggled past a tired defence, so 38 - 1O.

Unfortunately the Bournemouth right winger suffered a serious injury in a touchline tackle and play was suspended for 19 minutes, while he received attention and transfer to hospital. We wish him a full recovery.

In the last period of play, Gareth Jones replaced Nathan Davies at fly half. Devizes managed to finish the game on a high when they disrupted a Bournemouth attack, kicked ahead and retrieved possession for Gareth Davies to set Andy Webb free with a long pass, cutting out 2 Bournemouth defenders. The conversion narrowed the deficit to 38 - 17 at full time.

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