Sidmouth Chiefs edged out by title-chasing St Ives

PUBLISHED: 11:10 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:10 17 January 2018

Sidmouth 2nds away at Honiton. Ref shsp 48 17TI 3833. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth 2nds away at Honiton. Ref shsp 48 17TI 3833. Picture: Terry Ife

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Sidmouth Chiefs made St Ives work as hard as they have had to do in any match this season, before being edged out by a margin of just four points at 29-25, writes Terry O’Brien.

The Chiefs’ winning run came to an end in what was an exciting and highly entertaining game against the league leaders at the Blackmore Field. The power of the St Ives pack was the decisive factor, with four tries coming from lineout mauls.

The Chiefs started in fine style as they kicked off into the breeze and immediately regained possession.

The forwards took the ball through three phases before releasing to the backs.

A Dan Retter grubber kick was followed up by Ethan Mead, who nudged it further towards the line. Josh Bess chased to pick up and dive over for an unconverted try.

Sidmouth continued to hold the upper hand and increased their lead on the quarter hour with a fine individual effort from Ethan Mead. He followed up his own kick ahead from halfway to re-gather the ball before sprinting in under the posts for Dan Retter to convert.

When the visitors were awarded a penalty in a very kickable position, they opted, instead, to kick for position. The gamble paid off as they set up a driving maul from the resulting lineout. They were eventually stopped just short of the line, but the tighthead prop drove over from the base of the resulting ruck. The try was converted.

A fine St Ives handling move took play from their own 22 deep into the Sidmouth half, where they were awarded a penalty. Again, they kicked for a lineout near the line and set up another driving maul. A forward peeled off and drove over for an unconverted try.

The Chiefs regained the lead, when a period of pressure inside the St Ives 22 sucked in defenders to create an overlap on the right for Tom Seward to sprint in at the right corner. The try was unconverted.

In injury time, Dan Retter took a quick tap from a mark inside his own 22 to set up a handling move covering 60 metres, but the cover defence prevented a score and half-time arrived with Sidmouth leading 17-12.

Matters changed dramatically in the opening five minutes of the second half.

From the restart, an attempted clearance kick was charged down and gathered by a St Ives player. He was tackled just short of the try-line, but the tighthead prop was in support to pick up and dive over. The try was converted.

Minutes later, St Ives were awarded a penalty at a scrum, where the Sidmouth eight were under pressure.

They kicked for a lineout and this time drove the maul over the line for the hooker to touch down. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.

The Chiefs replied almost immediately. Strong running by Sione Livai, Tom Seward and Matt Farrington took play into the opposing 22, where Dan Retter put in a diagonal grubber kick for Luke Wells-Burr to follow up, gather and dive over in the left corner.

The conversion was unsuccessful, but a Dan Retter penalty minutes later gave his side a one-point lead going into the final quarter.

When Sidmouth replacement prop Jack Madge was yellow carded for collapsing a maul, St Ives kicked for a lineout in the corner.

The inevitable driving maul set up a try for the number four.

The Chiefs were soon pressing inside the St Ives 22.

They camped on the line for several minutes, but could not get over the line until the ball was released to the backs. Rory O’Brien dived over in the corner but was judged to have a foot in touch.

Eventually, time ran out with Sidmouth still on the attack.

On Saturday (January 20), the Chiefs travel to Tiverton for an East Devon derby.

At the Blackmore Field, the Quins entertain Tiverton 3rds.

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