MATT Horton’s late penalty ensured a crucial comeback victory for Falmouth RFC in a dramatic end to their Tribute Western Counties West clash at home to relegation rivals Honiton.

The visitors enjoyed an early lead with Ollie Cave’s penalty and Kyle Blackmore’s unconverted try, before Joe Martin put the Eagles on the board before the break with an unconverted try of his own.

Cave restored Honiton’s eight-point lead midway through the second half but could not make it ten with the kick, and that proved crucial with Ashley Searle’s unconverted try closing the gap before Horton’s penalty levelled the scores, with the Falmouth fly-half then making the most important kick of all to complete the comeback in the dying moments.

The win sees the Eagles move 11 points clear of Cullompton in the first relegation spot, with the Devon side’s game at home to Penryn failing to beat the weather.

Honiton, who came up to Western Counties alongside last season’s Cornwall/Devon League champions Penryn, are battling to avoid an instant return to the lower division, and they started the better side at the Recreation Ground, with centre Ollie Cave kicking the Devonians into a third-minute lead.

The Eagles immediately enjoyed one of their best spells of the first half, but their promising spell of possession five metres from the line ended when Horton knocked on.

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Falmouth kept their opponents, who were just one place and two points behind them prior to kick-off, at arm’s length for a short while, but when a quick break led to a penalty just short of the ten-metre line, with Cave’s valiant effort landing just wide of the left post.

Not to be disheartened, Honiton gained possession from the restart and, after a few phases, saw the ball go the width of the pitch via Cave, whose pass found Blackmore to score out wide. A difficult conversion, made more difficult by the strong wind, was narrowly missed by Cave.

But the Eagles only had to wait a few minutes before grabbing a try of their own. An attacking lineout-turned-driving maul stopped on the Honiton line, a scrum was given to the hosts, and a pick and go from Martin got the hosts on the board. The wind was worse at this end, with Horton’s mid-range conversion being swallowed by the elements and spat out in front of the posts.

A good chance for the visitors to add another try was crucially turned over as the half neared its conclusion, with an even better chance going begging in the final action of the first 40 minutes.

A Honiton attack saw fly-half Alex Brookes run past two blue shirts before pass to prop Matt Baily outside, who was held up just before the line. The away side worked their way back inside but conceded a penalty, with Horton booting the ball out of play following the resultant scrum.

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A quiet start to the second half, which saw play halted for two minutes while Baily was treated on the pitch, sprang into life when a visiting man just missed Brookes’ pass inside pass as he smashed through the defence. Falmouth intercepted and mounted a quick break through hooker AJ Geach, but the move was quickly snuffed out.

The crowd were taking cover from an intense hailstorm a few minutes later and emerged from shelter on 55 minutes to the sight of Cave bursting through the Eagles defence and dotting down out wide. A tough kick sailed just wide.

Falmouth responded by giving Will Becconsall his home debut, and the youngster’s fine kick led to a lineout deep in the Honiton 22. Another one led to a penalty, which was promptly wasted as the visitors easily claimed the attacking lineout.

The Eagles spent ten minutes with 14 men after Geach was sent to the sin bin on the hour but were celebrating their second try eight minutes later. Honiton touched down in their in-goal area to hand the hosts a five-metre scrum, and the Eagles seized the opportunity, with Searle applying the downward pressure after four phases to reduce the deficit to three.

Horton missed the chance to make it a one-point game with the conversion but was on hand to level the game up with a penalty kick from mid-range with little over five minutes on the clock.

It was Honiton’s turn to have a man in the bin shortly after, with winger Will Tyres having an early end to his afternoon.

The Eagles made the most of this and, after some sustained pressure, were celebrating when replacement Piers Garway-Templeman went over, only for play to be pulled back for a scrum, from which full-back Kieran Rodda sprinted to the corner but was denied by a try-saving tackle.

Falmouth retained the ball from the resulting lineout and their continued siege was rewarded with a penalty. Horton opted to kick at goal and was successful with his effort to put his side 16-13 ahead with time almost up.

There was still enough time for Honiton to go on and rescue it, but their attack from the restart led to an Eagles penalty, with Horton kicking it into touch to secure a superb victory.

Falmouth: K Rodda, D Hubble, T Job, R Coote, N Carne, M Horton, S Thomas; A Searle, A Geach, D Burroughs, J Martin, T Vincent, R Cooper, T Spiller, T Simmons. Reps: L Webster, P Garway-Templeman, W Becconsall.

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