RUGBY: Saddlebacks weather the storm

This Is Wiltshire: James Gaiger was a try scorer for Devizes James Gaiger was a try scorer for Devizes

DEVIZES skipper Tom Collins admits he thought Saturday’s match in Oxfordshire was on the verge of being abandoned.

The Saddlebacks bounced back from their disappointing defeat at Witney as Luke Rapson’s try secured victory.

With the match finely poised, high winds and torrential rain lashed down in the second half.

Collins said: “I’ve never known conditions like it.

“The footballers playing on a pitch next to us all ran off – we couldn’t see a thing and it was awful.

“If I’m honest, I thought the game was going to get called off, but I’m chuffed that we came through.

“I won’t say performance-wise that it was one of our best, but it was one of the toughest games we’ve ever played in conditions-wise.’’

Having lost on the last three occasions to their opponents, Devizes started with a bang, helped by a strong wind blowing diagonally across the pitch as fly-half Rory Brown kicked an early penalty.

Grove hit back and scored the first try when a long punt upfield took a wicked bounce that deceived Rapson and scrum half Joe Chivers was sent in for the score.

Devizes’ scrummage began to wear the hosts down and Craig Bryant and Mark Warburton combined to send James Last over for his second try of the season.

With Chivers in the sin-bin, Grove regained the lead when wing Guy Nicholl crossed the line.

Brown landed another penalty before half time and Devizes went into that break with the lead as the scrum pushed Grove back and James Gaiger picked up to bundle over.

The second half started poorly for the visitors, Bryant being sent to the sin-bin and, with the weather worsening, second row Damon Murphy followed him to reduce the Saddlebacks to 13 men.

Grove inevitably smashed over after an overlap through full back Huw Lewis, Roger Sevier adding the conversion to take his side into the lead by a point.

Back came Devizes, centre Mark Carter spilling the slippery ball after an interception and Collins and then Lewis Paget being adjudged to have been held up over the line but the referee lost patience with Grove’s offending and Chivers received his second yellow card to send them down to 14 permanently.

Finally, Devizes got the breakthrough as the ball was played through hands to Rapson to go over in the corner and the visitors kept the pressure up for the last few minutes to close out victory.

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