By Paul Hayes


Barnstaple 31 St Austell 17

ST AUSTELL pushed second-placed Barnstaple all the way in a game dominated by the referee’s whistle. 

A penalty count of 34 evenly split evenly between the two sides meant it was a stop-start affair on the banks of the River Taw. 

The Saints backline were at their menacing best whenever the game was allowed to flow but in truth it was the hosts that benefited the most from the penalties. 

It allowed Barum to kick deep into Cornish territory to use their deploy their powerful catch and drive to deliver four of their five tries. 

The visitors overcame an early setback to score a well-worked try that featured a delightful offload from fly-half Chris Aswhin, enabling winger Max Bullen to scorch in under the posts with 30 minutes gone (5-7). 

Sustained forward pressure following a lineout put the home side back in front at 12-7, but the Saints response was instant. Cornwall Under 20s hooker Pete Harris dented the Barum defence and swift hands allowed young prop Matt Boothby to power over. Matt Shepherd’s conversion gave the visitors a well deserved 12-14 lead at half-time.

The Saints dominated the third quarter of the game but would live to regret not taking their opportunities against a resolute Barum defence. Dan Tyrrell was nearly through only to be taken down in the shadow of the posts. Jamie Stanlake forced his way through but was denied by some scrambling defence that held him up. 

In the end the Saints only had a single Matt Shepherd penalty to show for their efforts (12-17) as the heavens let loose a heavy hailstorm on the hour mark. 

An offside on halfway led to a Barum lineout deep in the Saints 22. The driving maul rumbled over and the home side were back in front with their first significant visit to Saints territory of the second half (19-17). 

The contest was now finely balanced but once the visitors were adjudged to be not rolling away the outcome felt inevitable.

Barnstaple slickly repeated the routine with a kick to touch and another powerful drive to bag the decisive try (26-17). 

With the clock approaching the red, the Saints were now forced to chase the game and a risky pass was intercepted by winger William Topps to exploit the empty space behind to put some gloss on the scoreboard. 

The final score of 31-17 did not reflect the Saints performance who pushed their illustrious hosts all the way. 

The players who stepped up from the Sinners gleefully took their opportunity and would have learnt a lot from the experience. 

The long injury list has meant that more players have been blooded at Level Five which will only help to raise the strength of depth across the senior squad.

There is another two-week break before the Saints welcome Brixham to Tregorrick for the final game of the league season on Saturday, April 6 (3pm).

On the opening day the two sides met at Astley Park and played out a thrilling 34-34 draw. Something similar would be appreciated.

ST AUSTELL: Matt Shepherd, Max Bullen, Sam Parsons (capt), Ben Plummer, Dan Tyrell, Chris Ashwin, CJ Boyce; Matt Boothby, Pete Harris, Scott Pearce, Joe Maunder, Tony Knight, Henry Hutchinson, Cam Taylor, Kayden Michael. Replacements: Jamie Stanlake, Charlie Nicholson, River Nowell.

Tries: Bullen, Boothby; Convs: Shepherd (2); Pens: Shepherd.

Saints Star Man: Matt Boothby – The Cornwall Under 20s prop has held his own against bigger and more experienced opponents throughout the season. Another good performance featuring some tenacious tackling and rumbustious carries, was rewarded with a try.