Battled hard in Sarries’ friendly

Sidmouth 1st Xv 12pts,

Exeter Saracens 1st Xv 20pts

The Chiefs suffered a disappointing defeat in this hastily arranged friendly against Exeter Saracens. Despite a number of changes, the Sidmouth pack out-scrummaged their Western Counties rivals, writes Terry O’Brien.

However, Saracens, who were clearly intent on proving a point, were livelier in the loose and gave the Chiefs a lesson in ball retention.

Sidmouth opened the scoring with a well-worked try after just two minutes. From a lineout inside the Saracens 22, Chris Higgs made a break in the centre. The forwards took the ball on when he was stopped and, by the time it was recycled to the backs, Higgs had made his way to the right wing to finish of a handling move in the corner. The try was unconverted.

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If this good start led to any complacency, it was soon dispelled when the visitors scored twice in four minutes to take a lead they would never lose. The fly half jinked his way over near the posts after his forwards had advanced the ball to the line. The full back converted that one before the number eight touched down following a lineout catch-and -drive play.

Sam Meadham, returning after a long- term injury, had two opportunities, midway through the half, to show his form. He left three defenders in his wake on a kick return, and, minutes later, was unlucky to knock on as he tried to gather the ball on the full at pace following up a Dan Retter kick.

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Chris Higgs crossed the line for what would have been a second try following a set move by the backs. Unfortunately, the referee spotted a forward pass. Then both sides were reduced to 14 men in quick succession as each had a player sent to the sin bin. Meanwhile, Saracens increased their lead, thanks to a penalty kicked by the full back.

The Chiefs looked certain to reduce the arrears when Tom Hodge was put in the clear by a Chris Higgs break. Unfortunately, he lost control of the ball as he crossed the line, so the score remained 5-12 at halftime.

Sidmouth enjoyed territorial advantage for much of the third quarter and were rewarded with a second try by Higgs. A Dan Retter diagonal kick found James Leat in space on the left wing and his inside pass sent Higgs racing for the line. Retter added the conversion.

The Chiefs almost took the lead with a sparkling move, covering 80 metres. Tom Hodge started things off when he fielded the ball deep inside his own 22. The ball passed through several pairs of hands before Andy Matchett set off on a race for the line but was tackled into touch a few metres short.

Sidmouth played the final 10 minutes a man short when Martin Keywood was shown a yellow card.

A backrow player had to be sacrificed for a replacement prop. The visitors capitalised on their extra man to score a decisive try with five minutes to go. The fly half darted over following a ruck near the line after his forwards had advanced the ball through several quick phases.

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