TO the roar of the delighted home crowd Taunton all but secured their National League Two status on Saturday (March 31) after recording a thrilling 32-29 bonus point win over Shelford at a bustling Hyde Park.
Having failed to capitalise the previous week against basement club Westcombe Park, it was time for Taunton to roll their sleeves up and do the business.
Conditions were perfect and another large crowd turned out in force to once again cheer their team for all their worth.
A positive early period for Taunton saw them open the scoring with a Tony Yapp penalty.
Shelford counter attacked immediately, bagging an unconverted try before adding three penalties through the boot of fly half Harry Owen.
Taunton had to be thankful for a fine piece of individual brilliance from scrum-half Mike Pope for staying in touch at half time.
His 50-yard dart down the blind side left the Shelford defence stunned as he crossed for a scintilating individual try.
Yapp added the conversion to make the score 10-14 at half-time with Taunton right back in contention.
Helped by their score late in the first-half, Taunton returned to the field full of fight.
Another fine Pope break, supported by Reuben Haile, saw the ball reach full back Gary Kingdon who raced around the flank to score wide out on the left. Yapp’s conversion was narrowly wide but Taunton had a single point lead at 15-14.
Taunton’s resurgence continued and as the visitors tired the abrasive Haile added another with his powerful running. The winger shrugged off flailing defenders to go in under the posts, claiming his 25th try of the season with Yapp adding the conversion for 22-14.
Shelford were by no means out of the game and stormed back to add another unconverted try of their own through second row Rupert Ranson, before Yapp and Owen exchanged penalties to make the score 25-22.
Taunton then secured a try-scoring bonus point when the mercurial Yapp showed a great turn of pace to jink his way through the defence and touch down to a huge roar of delight from the home supporters.
Shelford ensured a nervous finish when they added a converted try with just seven minutes left. Taunton steeled themselves once more and absorbed Shelford’s final attacks before turning over possession for captain Sean Fox to kick the ball to touch and the celebrations duly began.
The County Stores sponsored man of the match was awarded to scrum half Mike Pope.