SALTASH Essayons recovered from going three tries behind to beat Teignbridge Trojans 36-32 at Moorlands Lane on Saturday and claim their first win of the 2021 rugby league season.
In a strange game, Saltash found themselves 16-0 down after 33 minutes before going 30-16 ahead mid-way through the second half, only for Teignbridge to fight-back, despite having a man sent off, and set up a thrilling ending.
But the Essayons were able to hold out and claim the victory, which was a perfect way to bounce back from their opening day 72-14 defeat to a strong Tarka Storm the previous week.
That match against Tarka had been a big learning curve for Saltash’s players, many of whom are new to rugby league this season. But Tarka showed their strength by also beating Teignmouth 78-8.
The crowd at Moorlands Lane on Saturday were certainly entertained. But the big talking point was a second half fight between two Teignbridge players which resulted in one getting a red card and one a yellow.
When the referee took action he told the offending players that he had never seen anything like it before – and that sentiment probably applied to most people at the ground.
It was not just an argument between two team-mates it was proper punches, with team-mates desperately trying to step in and separate them.
Sports fan might remember Blackburn Rovers team-mates David Batty and Graeme Le Saux fighting and Newcastle United players Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer also turning on each other, but Saturday’s fight made those bust-ups seem timid.
It started after Saltash scored 24 unanswered points and frustration in the opposition ranks just boiled over. But the visitors did put it behind them and, in a strange way, it galvanised them.
The first quarter of the game gave no indication of the entertainment that was going to follow.
Saltash, playing down the slope, had plenty of pressure but could not turn it into points, while the Trojans struggled to get into any real attacking positions.
But on 20 minutes, Teignbridge took a 6-0 lead against the run of play.
The Essayons had two good chances after that but did not take them and the visitors scored two tries in two minutes to take a 16-0 lead.
However, three minutes before the break, Saltash gave themselves hope with a try by Ryan Simmonds.
And it got better for them when they added a second on the stoke of half-time through Josh Bennett to close the gap to eight points at the interval.
Saltash started the second period in stunning style with Will Kean scoring from kick-off and Ryan Cruickshank brilliantly converting.
Another try quickly followed when Dan Payne went over on the last play of the set.
With Saltash now eight points ahead, Teignmouth’s players turned on each other.
Essayons took advantage of the two extra men to score a six try through Devon Bennett-Murray.
The visitors got one back before Simmonds added his second to put Saltash 34-22 ahead with less than 10 minutes to play.
But two tries in five minutes put Teignmouth only four points behind with one minute to go. Saltash messed up the re-start and the Trojans got possession on the halfway, but, fortunately for the hosts, Teignmouth were penalised for crossing and the referee blew up for full-time.
Nigel East got two tries for the Trojans, who also had Oli Robinson, Josh Screech, Ben Tharme and Luke Samridge touching down.
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