Watching Taunton Titans is becoming an experience similar to that of being squeezed through an emotional wringer leaving you drained and mangled when it’s all over and last Saturday’s game against top league opponents, Canterbury, was no exception.
The five hour journey was going to prove difficult to get out of their legs and in truth they played through the first half of the game as if they were playing in those old fashioned diving suits – they fumbled the ball so many times they made possession easy for the home side and they seemed leaden footed and were unable to prise open the Canterbury defence even when it was down a man through a yellow card.
The city side were on the board within five minutes with an unconverted try and after eleven minutes they moved into a 12-0 lead with the Titans offering little in terms of tackle in defence and you were left pondering on the eventual outcome if that was to be the pattern.
That all came as a nasty jolt to the Taunton boys and they seemed to up a gear and then in the thirtieth minute, with Canterbury’s play-maker sent to the bin on a yellow card, the home side struck a further blow, hammering down the slope in full cry to score under the Titans’ posts. In consequence the referee’s whistle brought some respite to what had been a torrid half and the session closed out with Canterbury leading 19-0 and leaving a fearful feeling of foreboding of what might be in store in the second half.
It’s a secret what coach Tony Yapp might have put in the Titans’ half time cup of tea but a totally different Taunton side emerged for the second half, going down the deceptive slope and looking much more assured and within two minutes, through Taunton’s hooker Chris Francis (my man of the match) they scored a try close in for Kingdom to convert. Canterbury struck back shortly afterwards with a converted try when they exploited a gap on the wing left by the unfortunate Ollie Rice who was writhing on the ground with an injury which forced him to leave the field and that was probably the only time the home side threatened the Titans’ line in the second session.
So with the score sitting at 26-7 the Titans finally put on the after-burners and shut out Canterbury for the rest of the game. They scored tries through Alex Spurdle, Alfie Petch and another through Chris Francis, two of which were converted and so with two minutes to go the Titans, having fought back to bring the score to 26-24, were presented with a penalty in very kickable position which, had it been successful, would have brought an unlikely, and for Canterbury, heart-breaking result, but the pressure proved too great for the normally reliable Gary Kingdom and so, as they say, the final whistle went. Canterbury had just edged it and in truth that felt just about right (just!).
This coming Saturday the Titans return home to their own patch and take on the enigmatic London Irish Wild Geese (kick off 3 pm) who are languishing down the bottom of the league but who are more than capable of springing a surprise. The game will be preceded by a carvery lunch to be attended by over 90 former players who will no doubt reminisce long and hard over past glorious exploits.