Western Counties West
Torquay Athletic 28, Wellington 52
THE penultimate match of the season proved to be a rousing affair with the Chiefs running in eight tries to four with the most notable statistic being the first five Wellington scores all coming from young wing Neville Pitman, writes Nick Robins.
Indeed, there were a couple more chances he just wasn’t quite able to grab but such a haul, particularly in a first team game, has not been achieved too many times by one player at any level.
It was clear from the outset the visitors would be better served by keeping the ball moving and using their ability out behind to keep the home side at bay.
They proceeded to execute this strategy through the lively John Myers on the wing but subsequent infringements at the breakdown lost them the position.
It wasn’t until a pass was dropped by the home threes that they were able to pounce. Centre Andrew Bellamy got to the loose ball first and hacked it forward from the halfway line with Pitman outstripping the turning home backs he was able to collect and go over. Fly half Matt Parsons stroked the first of six conversions through the posts with ease.
Pitman got his second care of a turnover ball which was fed to full-back Ben Gamlin whose deft chip was again collected by the winger who just made it to the line for a converted try.
Despite more incisive play by the Red and Blacks, the home side reduced the lead when their best player and captain, Alex Jeffery, finished off a catch-and-drive from a lineout, also getting the conversion.
Wellington hit back almost immediately when second row Anthony Gill stole a loose ball from a lineout and combined with Bellamy and Gamlin to carry on the break. They moved possession quickly across the field to Pitman who pinned his ears back and stretched to the corner for his hat-trick to set up a 19-7 lead at the half.
He quickly got a fourth shortly after the restart with a snaking run from near the halfway line to ensure the visitors got at least a bonus point, although the likelihood of Torquay getting back on terms seemed pretty slim.
The home side had other ideas, however, as Jeffery got a second try and conversion as the visitors’ concentration faltered. They reduced the arrears further when centre Joe Briggs got another with Jeffery converting to put them just five points behind.
Torquay now began to try a little too hard and a long looping pass did not go cleanly to hand and Bellamy once more responded quickest to collect and set Pitman up for his fifth of the match.
It was time for the rest of the visiting three-quarters to start to make inroads into their hosts and next up was Gamlin who danced his way over past an increasingly demoralised defence with Parsons converting from wide out on the right hand touchline.
Brewer was next to score with just 10 minutes remaining when he ran in from close range for another converted try.
Not to be outdone, Jeffery showed his class as he continued to drive the pack in front of him and, once more, Wellington succumbed to a catch-and-drive with the home scrum half also claiming his hat-trick and adding the conversion.
Gamlin had the final say, though, when he sliced through from the right for the final five-pointer to end this thoroughly entertaining match.
It may have been an end-of-season affair but the large crowd certainly got their money’s worth of free-flowing end-to-end stuff.
The win emphatically ensured the Chiefs will retain their Western Counties status next season with their last match at Kingsbridge to spare.
One footnote is that the Firsts had to play in the Under-13s shirts as these were picked up by mistake when the bus left for the match.
This certainly caused some difficulties in getting them on especially for the larger forwards but certainly did not seem to hinder their play. Goodness only knows how the Under-13s got on in the first team shirts!
WELLINGTON 1st XV travel to Kingsbridge for their last Western Counties West game of the season on Saturday.
The Seconds entertain their Bridgwater Counterparts in a Somerset 1 fixture on Thursday evening (kick-off 7.30 pm) due to their visitors going on tour for the Easter weekend.
They then have a match on Easter Monday at Bath side Old Sulians as they catch up their previously postponed matches.