PRATT ADMITS START IS ALL IMPORTANT AGAINST WIMBLEDON
SECOND-HALF DEFIANCE COUNTS FOR LITTLE AS CANTERBURY SLIP TO NINTH DEFEAT OF NATIONAL 2 SOUTH SEASON
Canterbury head of rugby Andy Pratt says his side need to hit the ground running when they host second bottom Wimbledon on Saturday. The city side have lost five of their last six matches, leaving them 10th in National 2 South. Pratt wants his side to get an early hold in the match on Saturday but says Wimbledon’s league position won’t make his players complacent. He said: “We won’t take anything for granted. They’ve had a couple of big results and I’m sure they will target this match. “We need to have a good start. It’s about starting those first five or 10 minutes well and establishing ourselves. We, perhaps, didn’t do that against Barnstaple. “We are still picking ourselves up from a long run without a win. Getting that start right is important.” Pratt’s side had travelled to Barnstaple in the hope of building on their home win against Old Redcliffians the previous week but lost 24-7. The conditions made for a tough match but Pratt was not looking for any excuses. He said: “The conditions were not ideal but we also made errors. It was not just about size, they had the skill as well.”
Canterbury never came to terms with a Devon mud bath as they sank to their ninth defeat of the season in National 2 South, writes David Haigh.
They were outplayed by a more direct Barnstaple side who mastered a testing surface with effective ball carrying and surer handling.
If there was any consolation for the city side it came from their second-half defiance which restricted the home side to one try and denied them an extra bonus point.
Led by dynamic No.8 Jarrard Hayler, the Barnstaple forwards controlled possession after the break, causing problems as they came on to the ball at pace and pinned the city side in their own half.
Canterbury, often static and lacking the essential physicality, looked ill-equipped for a surface that deteriorated rapidly.
They were only six points behind at the halfway point but their lack of bite in attack was already showing.
Barnstaple took an eight-point lead in the first quarter through that rare sight these days, a drop goal from Gwyn Parks and a try by Luke Berry.
That came after Aaron Cooper was yellow carded for a high tackle and the wingman got a second grab at the ball as a cross kick bounced in the in-goal area.
When the city side established attacking positions they could make little of them but on the half hour mark Dan Smart’s clever anticipation earned his side’s first and only points.
The fly- half intercepted a pass to canter over between the posts and leave himself simple conversion. In conditions where points were always hard to come by, Barnstaple then made the two scores that mattered.
In the final minute of the first half, the city club’s defence was too narrow, the Devon men found a gap and full-back Jordan Petherbridge finished off with the try.
Three minutes after the break, Canterbury gave away a penalty which Parks converted with a good kick from 44 metres out.
After that they were rarely seen as an attacking force as Barnstaple put on the squeeze and the pressure brought another, far more straightforward penalty for Parks.
They were still held back by a solid city defence but when Hayler broke from a wheeled scrum to send Will Topps over for their third try, it really was game over.
Canterbury continued to defend bravely, their spirit epitomised by Harry Sayers brilliant try-saving tackle which denied Barnstaple a bonus point but they had little else to offer. Canterbury: A.moss, A.miller (repl H.sayers), J.murray, C.kingsman (repl O.best), B.howard, D.smart, K.braithwaite, A.cooper (repl J.green), T.rogers (rel J.otto), S.kenny, J.rigby, D.bailey (repl A.woodward), M.cantwell.
A late cry-off by Ealing left Canterbury Pilgrims with a blank Saturday.
Ealilng have conceded the points but the city side slip to third in Zoo Shield Division 2 on points difference. They are schedueld to meet Wimbledon 2nds at home this week.
With all other Canterbury sides having a rest weekend from league action, only the first team played on Saturday.
Whitstable were without a fixture in Shepherd Neame Kent 2 last weekend but they resume their promotion challenge at home to Faversham on Saturday (2pm).
The Blues surrendered the leadership when they lost at Foots Cray last time out but player-coach Mal Graves hopes returning to action with a derby will help ‘focus the players’ minds.’
He said: “Games against Faversham are usually competitive and I don’t expect this weekend will be any different.”
Canterbury’s Harry Sayers tries to break through at Barnstaple on Saturday
Canterbury double up in their efforts to halt Barnstaple on Saturday
Canterbury’s Harry Sayers upends a Barnstaple oppponent during Saturday’s defeat, and left, demonstrates his pace in this touchline break