Monday, 12 November 2012

Report: Bournemouth RFC 30-27 Taunton RFC - National 2 South

Dan Pollard

BOURNEMOUTH were forced to battle right to the end as tenacious Taunton failed to read the script and very nearly tore it into shreds in the closing stages.

Seemingly in cruise control against 14 men, David Dunn’s Lions almost threw away a third straight victory at Chapel Gate in the last ten minutes as the Titans clawed their way back from a 30-8 deficit to secure two bonus points.

The visitors ended the match with a higher try count than Dunn’s charges and only a controversial high tackle by Dan Connolly on Aron Struminski in injury time prevented a late collapse with the Titans wing wizard set to add a decisive fifth try.

Taunton were incensed, especially as a high tackle had seen their skipper Jemba Bull dismissed outright before the hour mark.

But on reflection it was difficult to argue that Bournemouth didn’t deserve their victory, and with some more accuracy in key areas, a slice of luck and some more favourable refereeing decisions earlier in the game, they could have been out of sight.

Key to another important home win was the performance of Dan Pollard, who not only succeeded with 100% of his six kicks, registering half of the Lions’ points total, but the stand-in fly half’s tackling at vital moments was timed to perfection and released the pressure when Bournemouth found themselves on the back foot.

Pollard kicked an early penalty, but with pace out wide and good handling in the opening exchanges, Taunton were a threat from the outset and a sustained spell of pressure ended with  Greg Charlton’s try on 10 minutes after choosing to drive for the line instead of kick from a favourable position.

Bournemouth were rattled and slightly late into a few tackles before grabbing a vital try with their first incisive move of the match. Charlie Grace found Pollard who set Connolly free down the left to score with plenty of room to spare.

And after landing the conversion, Lions’ number 10 sent the ball sailing between the posts with a tricky looking penalty earned by Ben Featherstone’s tenacity to give the hosts a 13-5 lead after 22 minutes.

Bournemouth could have added to their score, but Alan Manning was denied by some desperate defending while a loose pass from Paul O’Brien with the try line in sight left a few heads in hands.

A second try wasn’t far away through as Gavin Hart flung the ball out to Ben Stewart who marched over the line with options still available to his left. But Bournemouth still had to dig deep to maintain their half time advantage, Pollard managing to wrestle Struminski to the floor after Taunton man had evaded two challenges.

A match that had ebbed and flowed was suddenly dominated by the hosts after the restart as Lions threatened to run riot. Sam Hardcastle will still be wondering how he didn’t score after bursting onto his own kick, outjumping man mountain Chris Bentley and darting towards the line before dropping the ball at the vital moment. The crowd were still celebrating while the unfortunate error dawned on the Lions lynchpin.

As Bournemouth took control, Bull was sent off for a cynical tackle and the match appeared to be sewn up when Featherstone eased in for the third try.

Matters got worse for the visitors as replacement Sam Prior was sent to cool off for ten minutes on the hour mark, but against 13 men Lions elected to kick three more points, taking the match to 30-8 instead of pushing for a fourth try and bonus point.

Whether that decision provided Taunton with incentive, or whether it was Lions’ saving grace is subject to opinion, but two men light, the Titans found their resolve.

It was still going to take a moment of magic to light the blue touch paper and it was duly provided by livewire Struminski, running all of 35 yards down the left and cutting back inside to power his way through.

The returning Prior set up Sam Richardson to unsettle the hosts even further with four minutes left on the clock before the nerves really started jangle when Gary Kingdom intercepted an uncharacteristic sloppy pass from Pollard and ran in the easiest try of his career.

And with the gazelle like Struminski leaving three players in his wake as the clock passed 80, it seemed as though Taunton would complete the mother of all comebacks, but all of a sudden Connolly’s arm appeared, hooking his opponent to the floor with a move that Big Daddy would have been proud of in his heyday. 

It was the definition of taking one for the team. Calls for a penalty try came from visiting players and fans alike and Connolly looked mightily relieved as referee Keith Lewis merely signalled for a penalty.

It proved to be the final talking point of an entertaining afternoon as the Lions eventually recovered to dig deep. After taking such a big lead, they simply had to.

*Bournemouth Director of Rugby David Dunn shared his thoughts with the Bournemouth Echo at full time, feeling that the referee’s decisions balanced out over the game. Click here for the full interview.

BOURNEMOUTH: Trow, O'Brien, Connolly, Chilsett, Stewart, Pollard, Hardcastle, Featherstone (Carrel 59), Manning, Firetto (Peart 71), Seward (Wilford 71), Forrest, Grace, Cawley, Hart. Unused replacements: Higgins, Pearce.

TAUNTON: Kingdom, Hartley, Wilcockson, Bull, Struminski, Yapp, Conway, Morgan, Beddard (Prior 54), K Davies (Howells 67), Charlton, Bentley, P Davies (Gatford 54), Lee, Richardson. Replacements also featured: Turner, Plummer.


Bournemouth: Tries – Connolly 18, Stewart 37, Featherstone 55.
Penalties – Pollard 7, 23, 62.
Conversions – Pollard 19, 37, 56.

Taunton: Tries – Charlton 10, Struminski 70, Richardson, 76, Kingdom 79.
Penalty – Kingdom 28.
Conversions – Kingdom 71, 80.

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