National 2 South

Taunton Titans 20, Barnes 19

GARY Kingdom's penalty in the dying minutes ensured Taunton Titans returned to winning ways but they did it the hard way against Barnes in a scrappy match at Hyde Park.

Leading 17-12 at the break, Taunton had all the early territory in the second half but couldn't add to their lead and Barnes hit them with a sucker punch only for Kingdom's boot to deny the strugglers a win.

AS IT HAPPENED: Titans back to winning ways... just

The reverse fixture saw Barnes win 51-38 but it was clear from the off this would not be such a try-laden affair, with early knock-ons preventing any flow to the game.

Lively scrum-half Oli Massy-Birch was the man to find the breakthrough, darting past a couple of would-be tacklers before diving over the line.

Kingdom converted to open up a 7-0 lead on 13 minutes, but Barnes hit back strongly and were soon level after a smartly worked catch and drive saw the forwards bundle over - Josh Hammett added the extras.

The Taunton side showed plenty of changes from last weekend's damaging defeat at Henley and one of the new faces, debutant Matt Jess, showed a glimpse of his quality to restore Taunton's lead.

The former Exeter Chiefs winger played on the left flank but popped up on the right to devastating effect on the half hour, bursting through to score in the corner.

Kingdom's conversion missed and Barnes were soon level in identical circumstances to their first try, a rolling maul doing the damage to make it 12-12.

Massy-Birch ensured Taunton had the final word in the first half, picking up at the base of a ruck and exploiting a gap in the blindside to score a try which went unconverted.

The Titans were dominant in the scrum after the restart and kept the visitors pinned inside their own 22 for large periods, but points were not forthcoming.

A rare fluent move including Kingdom, Jess and Fraser came to nothing and Barnes, having soaked up the pressure at one end, went ahead for the first time in the match with a fine breakway try.

Outside centre Daniel Holmes finished off the counter-attack for a try which was soft from a Titans point of view, and Hammett's conversion put the visitors 19-17 ahead.

Taunton were sloppy in the minutes that followed - passes were spilt, lineouts were not straight and penalties failed to find touch - and a second straight defeat looked likely.

That feeling became more pronounced when Kingdom's penalty from 40 metres out drifted wide, but the full-back made no mistake when given a later opportunity closer to the posts to edge Taunton back in front.

Barnes were not done and came within a whisker of snatching the win in the last play.

A flowing move got them to within two metres, but a knock-on got Taunton out of jail and secured a win met with a sigh of relief around the Commsplus Stadium.

The victory was the most important thing for the Titans after last week's defeat, but the performance levels will have to increase if they are to get anything from their trip to leaders Rams next week. 

Taunton Titans: Connor Baker, Alex Spurdle, Alfie Petch; Milo Reynolds, Cory Teague; Ben Oliphant-Thompson, Max Woodward, Sam Prior; Oli Massy-Birch, Lewis Webb; Toby East, Freddie Fraser; Matt Jess, Aron Struminski, Gary Kingdom.

Replacements: Chris Francis, Isaac Dalton, Andy Hamilton, Stu Persey, Sam Brown.