Withycombe 15 Falmouth Eagles 7
With Exeter University and Tiverton all but guaranteed promotion from the Cornwall and Devon league a new battle is developing as three teams, Crediton, Falmouth Eagles and Withycombe, separated by only three points, fight for third place.
On Saturday, fourth clashed with fifth at Raleigh Park in a rearranged fixture as the Eagles took on Withycombe.
And once again the Eagles battled against the elements and a strong Withycombe pack in a hotly contested match which they eventually lost 15-7.
The Eagles, buoyed by their two recent victories against struggling sides Veor and Newquay, came to Withycombe knowing a tough game lay ahead of them, and it got even tougher after Phil Angove and Graham Whitmore’s side fell behind in the first five minutes.
Withycombe won a lineout five metres out, and thanks to good pressure from their forwards created some space which allowed Mike Richards to ground the ball without too much opposition from the Falmouth pack.
The way that Withycombe so easily pushed over the line may have set the alarm bells ringing for Angove and the traveling Falmouth support, who will have hoped that the early Withycombe dominance in the pack was a blip the Eagles would recover from.
And for a time they did. The Eagles fought back and had a period of pressure for the next fifteen minutes, kicking to the corners and looking to drive their way to the try line.
The drives however did not have their regular effect as the Withycombe pack held them up and refused to budge.
The Withycombe 22 began to deteriorate making it even harder for the Eagles to get a good footing and drive on, and the pressure finally petered out into nothing as Withycombe won a lineout.
From there Withy made their way up the pitch and won a scrum five metres out.
The Falmouth pack dug deep against what appeared to be a slightly superior pack, but with the scrum going nowhere Withycombe simply passed the ball through their backs across the width of the pitch to Sam Conway, who dived over for their second try of the game to put them 10-0 up.
The Eagles came back fighting, but couldn't find a break through as the playing surface around the Withycombe 22 deteriorated, making it difficult for the visiting pack to gain traction.
The Eagles hadn't been poor during the first half. They had battled hard, got themselves into promising positions, and created a handful of opportunities. But unfortunately they had been unable to take any of them and as such went in at half time empty handed, and trailing by ten points.
After the break Falmouth came out fighting, and again dominated the first five minutes of the half, winning themselves a penalty, which Justyn Irons kicked for the corner and got the Eagles three meters from the line.
The lineout was taken well and Falmouth once again drove for the line but the Withy forwards held strong, forcing the Eagles to knock on with literally inches to go.
The ball was cleared but again Falmouth kept the pressure on and for almost 20 minutes went through the phases towards the Withycombe line, only lacking that touch of quality to unlock the home defence.
Indeed, it was Falmouth's best chance that also proved to be the nail in their coffin.
Another Falmouth attack had started well and the ball was played wide by the Eagles, who made good progress into the Withycombe 22.
Captain Tony Whittle looked for a pass to winger Josh Symons, but his delivery was wayward and the Eagles' best opportunity went begging.
Sure enough Withycombe capitalized on the mistake and broke, rushing the ball upfield and allowing Adam Morris to score.
And suddenly the Eagles were a daunting two converted tries and penalty behind.
But to their credit Falmouth didn't give up, and they continued to put pressure on the Withycombe line finally, and deservedly, breaking through.
From a five-metre scrum they attacked the line, slowly using their forwards and moving it wide every time the ball was held up, until Ashley Searle burst through to ground Falmouth's first points of the game. Irons kicked the conversion.
The Eagles' tails were up, but Withycombe picked up their game and kept the visitors stuck in the middle of the field, not allowing them to dominate.
Withycombe tried to launch attacks of their own as they hunted for their fourth try and that vital bonus point, but credit must go to Falmouth whose defence held strong for the last fifteen minutes of the game.
By keeping Withycombe out towards the end they have kept themselves within touching distance in the league table.
On the day the best team won, but the Eagles however should not be disheartened.
Saturday’s game has shown how tight it is between the three teams battling for third place. It's shaping up to be a tight but exciting end to the season for the Eagles, who face struggling OPMS at home on Saturday.