On Saturday 19th November the Wild Geese played Taunton Titans at Hazelwood, in National League 2 South, and were given a salutary lesson in how to play rugby from every perspective. Taunton ran out clear winners by 49 points to 24, though the Wild Geese deserve some credit for picking up yet another bonus point, which may prove invaluable at the end of the season. The Titans were by far the best side that your correspondent has seen at Hazelwood this season and it is small wonder that they were league-leaders earlier on. They played an all-court game, using the width of the pitch with good, swift handling, interspersed with occasional power drives though the midfield and judicious kicking.
[blockquote]Report from John S Hunter[/blockquote]
The Wild Geese were faced with pressure from the kick-off, with Taunton scoring a penalty goal within 2 minutes. On their first visit to the Taunton 22, the Wild Geese conceded a penalty, which Taunton duly dispatched to our 22. From the line-out a penalty was conceded, which Taunton kicked to double their score after 5 minutes. The Wild Geese then appeared to have settled down and good cross-field play ended with George left-wing Owen touching down for a try after 10 minutes; full-back Pete Hodgkinson hit the post with his attempted conversion to leave the visitors leading 6-5. The rest of the half saw a succession of Taunton attacks on the home try line. They almost scored in the 18th and 20th minute, but good (or desperate!) Wild Geese defence saved the day. A massive turning point came when the Wild Geese Captain and open-side flanker Scott Moore was yellow-carded in the 24th minute. One minute later Taunton scored an excellent try, which was converted. On 30 minutes they scored another fine try, incorporating quick ball and good, hard running; it was also converted. They added a try 2 minutes later, after a good run by their left-wing to make the score 25-5. Moore then returned, having watched 19 points being conceded in his 10 minutes off the field of play. His return did little to stop the one-way flow as Taunton scored a try under the posts in the 35th minute, which was converted, to increase the score to 32-5; half-time arrived with no further scoring.
The second half opened with a ray of light for the Wild Geese, when a Taunton player was yellow-carded. A brilliant run by Owen left him just short of a try but had the effect of Taunton losing another player to a yellow card. Another good run by Owen resulted in a try by right-wing Matt Killeen after 15 minutes, converted by Hodgkinson, to make the score-line 12-32. Very sloppy play by the Wild Geese allowed Taunton to increase their lead with a try in the 18th minute, but the Wild Geese hit back with a try by Owen, converted by him, to make the score 19-37 on the 25th minute. Taunton scored another converted try after 30th minutes to make it 44-19 to them. Then the Wild Geese conjured up their best bit of play of the game: good line-out ball, a good drive, and good running, allowing replacement three-quarter Tom Richards to score a try with 5 minutes left to play. Taunton inevitably had the last word with a deft cross-field kick leading to a touchdown, to leave the final score at 49-24 to them.
The good news is that the Wild Geese secured a bonus point from this match; the bad news is that they were really no match for the formidable and skilful Taunton outfit. They conceded 19 points while being reduced to 14 men in the first half, yet only scored 7 when Taunton were reduced to 14, then 13, men in the second. Misplaced kicks, including penalties for touch, our own line-outs being lost too easily – all contributed to the poorest performance of the season from the Wild Geese, by common consent. The next week will be a test for their resolve to get back to normal for their very important trip to Barnstaple.