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Melksham 2XV - 5 : Devizes 2XV - 26

Ian Diddams  Monday, October 01, 2001  07:46 GMT

Devizes 2XV opened their Bath Combination League season with this away fixture against Melksham 2XV, played at George Ward School, Melksham. Despite the Bath Combination Leagues being a new venture for Devizes, Melksham are an old foe and their style is well known. Before the match, the Devizes 2XV skipper, Paul Dyton, outlined the game plan required to combat these opponents and it is a testimony to the fitness and the training levels of this second team that they fulfilled the tactics almost to perfection. Matt Hamblin's injury last week against Wimborne saw Colin Baross move up to the second row to accompany Mike Tipple, with Jamie Martin getting a start as result, rather than the bench position he held against Wimborne.

Despite an excellent warm up, Melksham used the wind and took an early advantage territorially with it, pinning Devizes back in their own half, often quite deeply. This first twenty minutes was unrelenting as Melksham made the better of some, at times, quite pedantic and harsh refereeing calls that affected both sides in turn. Melksham were rewarded for their pressure with a couple of penalties easily within range but missed them both. Eventually, Devizes managed to break into Melksham's own half following good play from Charlie Rudler, whose pace saw him break through a defensive gap, and then Tim Kamei, whose physical presence ensured the ground won wasn't squandered. Devizes enjoyed the lion's share of the remaining 20 minutes of the first half territorially, and created several chances, most noticeably following good driving play, leaving them with a huge blindside overlap to exploit. Scrum half Mike Litchwark was illegally prevented from moving the ball blind by a Melksham forward. However, the referee awarded only a penalty for the infringement, rather than the potential penalty try. It was the unfortunate Drew Johnson's turn to miss the kickable penalty from this misdemeanour, plus another a few minutes later. But Devizes finally made use of their territory and pressure, when centre Darren Penny brushed off several weak and ineffective tackles to score under the posts, Johnson making sure of the conversion. Half time arrived shortly afterwards with Devizes thus 7 - 0 up.

It was imperative that Devizes maintained their grip on the game at this juncture, with the wind that had aided Melksham in the first half fading considerably. But it was Melksham that took the early second half spoils, with a very well worked try using the whole of their full back line to score a try out wide on the left, which was unconverted, bringing the score to 7 - 5. Undaunted, Devizes accepted the challenge and took hold of the remainder of the game. The forwards created an ever-improving platform for Litchwark - and later Crosby, his substitute - although their rucking still needs to progress past the ball rather than stop at it. Again loss of possession in contact was a problem for Devizes, as it was against Wimborne last week. Doug Bryant also continued his good form at fly-half, although he could possibly add a little in receiving the ball whilst already moving, rather than being static. Yet his distribution was creating some devastating moves from his three-quarters. Drew Johnson missed further penalties but, that not withstanding, Devizes' superior fitness was telling with twenty minutes to go. Mark Gingham scored from a dazzling run to create a slight breathing gap and Colin Baross scored out wide, supporting James Booth, who should have had acres of space to score in, had the pass to him not arrived via the moon, this following excellent close quarter work from the forwards that had created the required overlap and space. A final try, by Mark Gingham, was converted by James Booth (who had by now taken over the kicking duties) and rounded off the scoring, to see Devizes 2XV take this opening league fixture in grand style. The forwards led from the front, sapping their opponents strength in the tight and with a lineout that is improving week by week, while the backs are as slick as any second team line for many years.

After the game captain, Paul Dyton, said "Naturally I am elated with such a fine performance. Once again the team weathered a period where they were under pressure, then reversed their fortunes and finished with plenty in the tank". Team Manager, Tony Smith , said "I am faced with the best selection problem - who to leave out of an increasingly strong line up".
We await the selectors' solution to the intriguing permutations posed by the play of Colin Baross, who leapt like a salmon at number 2 all afternoon, as well as supporting out wide as a back row to score.

Next week the 2XV take on Bournemouth in a friendly at The Police Ground, Devizes.

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