Bude 26 – South Molton 12
South Molton 12
A LATE penalty try sealed Bude’s tenth successive league victory as they came from behind to beat a stubborn South Molton side 26-12 at Bencoolen Meadow.
The visitors, who won promotion from Tribute Devon One last term, have enjoyed an excellent season to sit comfortably in mid-table, defended stoutly and led 12-7 at the break.
However the home side gradually increased the tempo and a brace from player/coach Angus Hodges followed by a late penalty try sealed the bonus point.
Hodges named an unchanged side for the first time this season although Simon Jeffery and Luke Dunkin returned to the bench in place of Rory Mead and James Comber.
With conditions difficult for running rugby due to the wind and rain, the game was always going to be an arm wrestle and so it proved as Bude dominated the opening ten minutes but failed to break down the well organised visitors.
And they were made to pay soon after. After being turned over on halfway, the ball was worked to full-back James Campbell who stepped inside and ran right through a gap by the ruck to score from 50 metres completely unopposed.
The sign of a good team is to respond quickly and it was through their talismanic number eight Joe Wilson that they scored.
After a series of pick and gos from 25 metres out got them close to the line, Wilson crashed over from five metres. Skipper Olly Denford converted.
Just after the half hour, the North Devon side reclaimed the lead as second-row Brendan Darley again exploited space at a ruck to dot down from 20 metres. This time captain Callum Stone converted and it stayed at 12-7 until the break.
Bude knew they were in a real contest but restored parity on 49 minutes with Hodges leading from the front.
After a penalty was kicked to the corner, a driving maul was set up some ten metres out and Hodges had the easiest of tasks to score. Denford slotted an excellent conversion.
From there on, Bude realised that the All Blacks would struggle to deal with the maul and targeted it.
However the visitors dominated leading up to the hour with Joel Troke being sent to the sin-bin for a repeated offence at the breakdown. But bizarrely South Molton decided to keep going for the corner from penalties instead of going for goal.
They were made to pay with less than 20 minutes as Hodges grabbed his second of the afternoon.
After Denford and Will Pharo cleared the ball, the visiting winger was forced to kick the ball into touch without picking it up on his ten metre line following Pharo’s excellent chase.
Bude then set up another maul which was grounded 15 metres out. Hodges picked it up at the base before stepping inside a static prop and then beating Campbell to touch down.
With five minutes to go Bude grabbed their bonus point try as another ferocious driving maul was illegally brought to ground and referee Steve Smith awarded a penalty try.
Hodges’ afternoon ended on a slightly sour note as he was sin-binned for an alleged deliberate knock-on but it didn’t matter as Bude reached the halfway stage with a remarkable 12 wins from 13 games.
Reflecting on the game, Hodges admitted it had been one of their hardest games so far.
He said: “Overall it was a very tough day and one of the hardest games we’ve had at home. We knew because of them coming up and doing well already they’d be tough and good up front and with the weather the way it was, it played into their hands.
“Although that being said, we’ve always played well in those conditions in dogged games in the wet as that’s our sort of jam. We had faith in our ability to win.
“At half-time I was confident. Apart from the tries they were not that threatening but they were strong up front. But I thought that if we kept the ball we’d score so it was similar to last week (at Plymstock Albion Oaks) that once we scored once we’d get into a better flow.
“But in the end we did what we needed to do in the conditions, which were the first bad conditions of the season. Although it wasn’t free-flowing we’ve got five points at the end of the day so overall I’m pretty happy.”
Bude are back on the road on Saturday when they head to another promoted side, Topsham.
The Exeter-based club are seventh with six wins and seven defeats but Hodges expects to go into the three-week Christmas break with a win.
He said: “We’re confident but with it being an away game we’ve got some really difficult away fixtures in the second half of the season, and given our previous track record we need to not only get the win but perform as well.”
Denford, R Hodges, Sharp, Hilliam-Cooke, Horwell, S Yates, Mounce; Black, Bolt, Allin, Kingdon, Troke, A Hodges, F Fry, Wilson
Replacements: Jeffery, Dunkin, Pharo
Tries: Wilson, A Hodges 2, penalty try
Convs: Denford 2
Bude’s man-of-the-match: Joe Wilson