Boxing Day Sidmouth match proves to be a cracker
Sidmouth 1st XV 15, President’s XV 12 Both teams overcame difficult conditions to produce a close and entertaining game in this annual Boxing Day fixture, writes Terry O’Brien.
The Chiefs emerged victorious against a strong President’s XV in slightly controversial circumstances with a late penalty despite the unwritten understanding that such opportunities will be turned down in the interests of running rugby.
Rain immediately before the kick-off made an already slippery surface into a very difficult one indeed as far as open rugby is concerned. Despite that, both teams took every opportunity to move the ball into space.
The policy paid off for the Chiefs after just three minutes when they ran back a loose kick. A good line of running by Tom Whelan drew in the available defenders and a well-timed pass sent James Powell in at the right corner. The conversion attempt rebounded from an upright.
Whelan, playing in the unaccustomed position of scrum half, turned from provider to scorer when he dummied his way over from a ruck near the line. He also added the conversion.
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The President’s XV hit back almost immediately when they drove a lineout catch-and-drive to the line where Sam Sowden picked up and drove over. Tom Hodge added the conversion.
With the Chiefs pressing hard, Tom Hodge emerged from a maul in his own 22 to burst downfield. He was deep into the Sidmouth half before he was stopped, but he had plenty of support on hand to send Giles Humphries in for an unconverted try.
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Late in the half both sides looked certain to add to their score. A President’s forward looked favourite to win the chase for a loose ball in the Sidmouth in-goal area, but he knocked on in the process. At the other end James Powell chased up a Jason Luff kick and seemed to have gathered up the rolling ball, but it slipped from his grasp as he dived for the line.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the President’s XV produced an excellent handling move to open up the defence but were recalled for a forward pass when a try looked likely.
As the half progressed, conditions deteriorated, making handling difficult, but both teams continued to show ambition. Will Finch intercepted a laboured piece of passing by the Chiefs backs, but Ben Salter got back quickly to cut of the danger.
A splendid handing move by the President’s XV took play from deep inside their own half to the Sidmouth 22, where they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. They opted to go for the try but the Sidmouth defence held out against concerted pressure. Minutes later the Chiefs were awarded a penalty in a similar position. The decision to take the kick at goal was met with howls of dissent from the crowd. Despite the disapproval, Tom Whelan kicked what turned out to be the winning points.
All teams will be taking a break this weekend before competitive rugby recommences on January 5.