Camborne 13 St Austell 13
ST AUSTELL and Camborne played out an entertaining draw in this pulsating top of the table clash on Saturday.
Two talented and committed sides gave their all to keep a large and vociferous derby day crowd enthralled from start to finish.
Taken in isolation, both sides would probably be content with the result but in the context of the promotion race it remains to be seen if the dropped points ultimately damage either sides' Tribute South West One West title ambitions.
St Austell, Director of Rugby Steve Murley though was reasonably happy with the outcome.
He said: . "I am happy to come away with a draw, having come back from 13-3 down at half-time.
"We came away with a losing bonus point at Hornets last week, not having played particularly well, so we needed a performance from the boys this week. We will take the draw and hope to build from this result.
"Defences were pretty much on top, but both sides tried to move the ball and I felt there were some decent moves out there today.
"Full credit to us holding out when we were down to 14 men. I didn't see the incident that led to Adam Kellow being sin-binned, but I felt our boys really stepped up while he was off."
The home side started strongly and dominated the early exchanges, but the Saints showed signs as the first period came to a close that they could overhaul Town's 13-3 half time lead.
The second period saw the visitors' in the ascendancy, but they could not do quite enough to land the killer blow.
Both sides will look at key moments that could have won the day, but on balance a draw was a fair result. Camborne had the first use of the stiff breeze, blowing the length of the Rec and the home side quickly deployed their powerful maul.
Saints were penalised for collapsing, but scrum half David Mankee's penalty sailed wide.
Town still pressured and the breakthrough soon came when good variation off a line out created the infield platform for hooker Sam Bartle to burst the gain line.
The ball was moved quickly and full back Joe Parma touched down for an unconverted try. Camborne were now looking threatening as they launched their forwards at every opportunity.
The visitors held out until a side entry at a breakdown by the Saints allowed the home side to set up a 5m lineout. A well executed catch and drive enabled Bartle to burrow over to put the home side 10-0 up with 17 minutes gone.
The visitors hit straight back and after recovering the restart, the ball was moved quickly forcing Town to infringe.
Skipper Matt Shepherd took the three points on offer and the Saints started to look a different proposition. Twice the visitors' stretched the home defence only to be thwarted by alert covering defence.
With half time looming, the Saints nearly got their chance as centre Alex Welland surged through the midfield but the offload to omnipresent flanker Ian Venner just failed to go to hand.
Moments later Saints were penalised for holding on and Mankee's 50m wind assisted rocket extended the home side's lead to 13-3 at half time.
Saints started the second half at a high tempo and the early pressure paid dividends with an excellent switch move off a scrum.
With Camborne moving to defend the open side, Shepherd darted left to feed Ashley Taylor. The winger's perfectly timed pass to the over lapping Dan Pearce allowed the full back to complete an excellent blindside try.
Both sides knew the next score would be pivotal and the game became a tense affair, played largely between the two 22s.
The Saints edged the territory, but with both defences' offering no quarter it was not a game for the faint hearted.
The crowd roared their appreciation of the commitment and desire of the players as they searched for the breakthrough.
On the hour mark No8 Adam Kellow was given a yellow card for a late tackle. In Saints' eyes this was felt to be a harsh decision and it galvanised the visitors to even greater efforts.
Town failed to gain any advantage during the sin-bin period and it was a very determined Kellow who returned to the fray.
A series of forward drives had the home side rocking and an infringement allowed the Saints to kick to touch in the 22.
Kellow took the ball "off the top" to allow lock Steve Howorth to power through the gain line. The ball was worked through the phases before flanker Paul Winterbottom peeled away to touch down and tie the scores.
Shepherd's conversion had the chance to win the game, but the pressure kick drifted just wide.
With minutes left, the Saints pushed hard in search of a winner but Camborne defended with discipline to deny the visitors any scoring opportunity.
It was mixed emotions at the final whistle for both sides, but a wonderful game played in front of a crowd approaching 1,000.
The Saints fans were in full voice as their favourites left the field to a rousing ovation.
A vastly improved team performance after the previous week's visit to Hornets was not quite enough to deliver the win.
The backs were far sharper and the forwards more than matched the physicality of the Camborne eight.
The back row of Winterbottom, Venner and Kellow however, were outstanding, playing a huge part in keeping the Saints in the game in the first half and almost winning it in the second.
This Saturday the Saints welcome Cullompton to Tregorrick for a 2.30 kick-off.