Chiefs have come a long way
For the fourth time this season, Sidmouth came from behind to win a closely contested game. Twelve months ago this was just the sort of game they were losing, which resulted in a tight battle against relegation. Such are the fine margins in this very competitive league.
Unlike the previous week, this was a scrappy affair in which the Chiefs struggled for much of the game against very determined and physically committed opponents, who looked better than their bottom-of-the-table position would indicate.
The turning point, in a finely balanced game, came in the 68th minute, when Walcot had a player yellow carded, with Sidmouth under severe pressure on their own line.
Despite playing into the breeze, the home side settled first and had the Chiefs pinned inside their own half. They deservedly took the lead when the fly half kicked a penalty after seven minutes. Minutes later they earned a five metre scrum when a well placed kick had the defence scrambling. They drove the Sidmouth eight back at a rate of knots and were awarded a penalty try when a defender kicked the ball out of the scrum as it approached the line. The conversion opened up a 10 point lead.
The Chiefs at last shook off the long coach journey to create some pressure of their own. The forwards came close with a lineout catch-and-drive play and Steve Trim was brought down a few metres short after a sniping run from a ruck in front of the posts. Eventually, the Chiefs had to be content wih opening their account with a Dan Retter penalty. This was almost immediately cancelled out by a similar effort from his opposite number.
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Sidmouth hit back on the half hour thanks to another Steve Trim break. The scrum half dummied his way through at the back of a lineout 25 metres out. He found Rhys Thomas in support who finished the move off despite the attentions of two defenders. The try was unconverted.
Walcot came close to increasing their lead when they won a scrum against the head close to the Sidmouth line. The number eight crossed the whitewash, but dropped the ball as he was tackled.
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Minutes later the Chiefs lost Andrew Dare to the sin bin when the centre used his hands in a ruck following a warning from the referee.
The last action of the half was a long-range penalty attempt by Retter, which rebounded from the cross bar. So the score at the break remained 8-13.
The Chiefs needed a positive start to the second half, and they produced it with an excellent try in the second minute. They regained possession from the kick off to force a lineout just inside the Walcot 22. Quick possession was transferred to the backs where Chris Higgs came off his wing to cut through the centre.
When he was tackled, the ball was quickly recycled and moved to an overlap on the left where Tom Seward sprinted in at the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful, leaving the score tied.
Using the breeze effectively, Walcot had the slight edge territorially, as the game became bogged down between the 22s, until a penalty kick to the corner gave them a lineout five metres from the Sidmouth line. The Chiefs defended the situation successfully and eventually turned over possession.
As Dan Retter made a clearance kick, he was tackled late by the Walcot number 7, who was immediately shown a yellow card.
The Chiefs cleared up field and used the extra man to advantage. They almost took the lead when a break by Retter, supported by Chris Higgs, took play deep into the home 22. When the ball was recycled it was kicked diagonally, where Andrew Eustace was in space on the left. Unfortunately he could not gather the ball cleanly, but the attacking position was maintained. A powerful run by Andrew Dare was only stopped a couple of metres short. The Walcot number six handled in the resulting ruck and joined his fellow flanker in the sin bin. Dan Retter kicked the resulting penalty to give his side a lead, which they held until the final whistle.
?On Saturday the Chiefs entertain Avonmouth Old Boys, at the Blackmore, 3pm.
?The Quins travel to Okehampton and the 3rd Team to Tavistock for Merit Table games.
?The Colts entertain Okehampton Colts at Sidford with a 3pm kick off.