ST AUSTELL came out on top in a keenly contested Cornish derby to complete the double over Wadebridge Camels at Molesworth Field on Saturday and move second in the table.
Both sides deserved great credit for putting on an enthralling contest in atrocious conditions.
A storm force wind and a sticky pitch meant quick clean ball was at a premium. However, the physicality of the forward exchanges ensured a pulsating spectacle to warm the hearts of the large crowd.
Camels had first use of the wind blowing the length of the pitch, but it was the visitors who dominated the opening quarter. The fired up Saints monopolised the ball and territory for long periods only to fall short on the occasions the try line loomed.
In what was to become a feature of the contest, the Camels defended resolutely to prevent the visitors turning their dominance into points.
It was not until the 22nd minute that the home side made a meaningful foray into the Saints' 22 when a lineout catch and drive threatened briefly, before a turnover enabled the visitors to clear their lines.
On 36 minutes, the Saints' patient approach paid off when they gave a master class in ball retention and discipline to take the lead. The ball moved through 16 phases pushing the Camels' defensive line further and further back.
Eventually, a gap appeared and centre Callum Wilson thundered through for an unconverted try.
Camels showed tremendous spirit to hit back at the restart with an impressive rolling maul that eventually had 13 players driving forward.
The Saints' eight appeared to have weathered the Camels' induced storm only to be penalised for entering from the side. Up stepped James Grubb to slot over the penalty to make it 5-3 at the break.
Saints started the second half in total command, only to spurn two early opportunities to stamp their authority on the game. Just when the Camels thought they had cleared the danger a penalty on halfway allowed Saints skipper Matt Shepherd to fire a 60m cross field howitzer to put the visitors back into the home 22.
A classic lineout catch and drive followed and the Saints pack became an unstoppable force as it trundled the 15 metres over the home try line. Flanker Ian Venner topped off another fine individual performance to score his 11th try of the season to put the visitors 10-3 ahead. Almost immediately, Saints threatened again only to be penalised for holding on, however, frustration in the Camels' ranks led to the kick being reversed to give Shepherd an easy three points.
The Saints continued to press, but just could not force their way through or around the Camels defensive screen.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes the home side produced their best rugby of the afternoon. Driving play into the wind by the Camels' forwards started to make inroads into Saints' territory to stretch the visitors' defence.
With the 80 minutes up the home side showed excellent continuity to create the space for Will Pengelly to join the attack out wide.
The full back still had work to do and burst through two tackles before diving in at the corner for an unconverted try. The final whistle confirmed an important away win for the Saints and a well-deserved losing bonus point for the Camels.
Referee Kevin Williams had a fine display with the whistle helping the game to flow ensuring an exciting game in difficult conditions for players and spectators alike.
The Camels' ground staff and volunteers did a sterling job to ensure the game did not fall victim to the elements. It was the Saints' first away game since November and only their third match since December 14.
St Austell are at home to Bridgwater & Albion RFC on Saturday (2.30) while the Camels are on the road with a game against mid-table Chard.