Chiefs’ hero to zero result
For ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ read ‘Home and Away’. After last week’s excellent performance against league leaders Chippenham at the Blackmore, the Chiefs’ dismal away form hit rock-bottom with this display at Moleworth Field.
The foundation for the home side’s bonus point victory was the pack, which dominated the set pieces to create a platform for their backrow to run riot. As a result the Chiefs spent much of the game defending. In the end it was thanks to some fine last-ditch tackling, assisted by some poor handling by the Wadebridge backs, which prevented a complete rout.
The Chiefs made their customary slow start, and the writing was on the wall when they were pushed off the ball at their first scrum, before losing their first lineout throw.
Wadebridge took the lead when they kicked a penalty to the corner and exposed the Chiefs’ Achilles heel, defending a lineout catch-and-drive. They will insist on competing for the ball instead of setting themselves up to counter the drive. It’s all about playing the percentages!
On this occasion the maul collapsed inches from the line, but the ball was popped up to the number 8, who drove over for a try, which was converted by the fly half.
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Despite play being almost exclusively in the Sidmouth half, Wadebridge were only able to add a penalty before the Chiefs threatened their line for the first time in the 35th minute.
A lineout peel around the back set Sam Richardson on a storming run to within 10 metres of the posts. Wadebridge were penalised at the resulting ruck and Dan Retter kicked the three points.
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There was one further bright moment before the half time whistle, when Tom Hodge split the defence as he ran back a poor clearance kick. Unfortunately, he lacked support as the cover closed in and the half ended with the score 10-3.
The Chiefs were still in the game but could not find the necessary inspiration. Instead they went further behind when the fly half kicked another penalty. They came under increasing pressure.
Chris Higgs and Nick Mills, Sidmouth’s best forward by far on the day, made important tackles before Pete Singfield was yellow carded for killing the ball in a ruck near the line. Wadebridge opted for a scrum rather than kicking for goal. Despite being a man short, the Chiefs’ pack held firm, but the number 8 picked up and drove over for a try, which was converted.
By the hour mark, Wadebridge were out of sight. The number 7 put the finishing touch to a lineout catch-and-drive as the Chiefs, once again, competed for the ball ineffectually.
The fly half completed a hat -trick of penalties to open up a 25 point gap.
Once again restored to a full complement, the Chiefs had their best spell of the game. A sparkling handling move almost produced a try, but Tom Hodge was tackled into touch just short of the line. Hodge, who had an outstanding game in attack and defence, was in the action again, when he joined another promising handling move before kicking ahead into space. The defence just managed to scramble the ball to safety.
Having weathered something of a storm, Wadebridge finished the game strongly.
However, the Chiefs did not buckle easily. Twice the powerful number 8 was held up as he drove for the line. The game was in injury time before the right winger forced his way over on the blindside of a five metre scrum to give his side a bonus point.