Chiefs in great shape against Old Reds

Retter secures victory

A purple patch early in the second half was just enough to give the Chiefs a well-earned win to knock Old Redcliffians off the top of the league, writes Terry O’Brien.

However, alongside some sparkling rugby, a stubborn defence was required, exemplified by two try-saving tackles by full back Tom Hodge.

The young Sidmouth front row again showed how much they have progressed this season with a strong display of scrummaging to provide the platform for the speedy backs and mobile back row to work from. This was just as well, as they struggled for lineout ball against taller opponents.

The visitors kicked off with the breeze at their backs and soon had the Chiefs under pressure. Recycling the ball quickly, they they played at pace as they looked to outflank the home defence. Eventually, in the eighth minute, they succeeded when the full back took play into the 22 with a fine counterattacking run. When he was finally stopped, the ball was swiftly moved to an overlap on the right, where the outside centre dived over in the corner. The full back added the conversion from the touchline.

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The Chiefs responded with a try from their first serious attack of the game. A good threequarter move took play to the Old Reds 22. Jack Pyne made further progress with a strong run before Andrew Dare forced his way over in the left corner for an unconverted try.

The Chiefs fumbled the ball from the restart, kick leading to further Old Reds pressure, which was rewarded with a successful penalty kick.

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The visitors remained in the ascendancy, playing open rugby which had the Sidmouth defence at full stretch. A try looked certain on the half hour until Tom Hodge produced a fine tackle as the winger approached the line. As halftime approached, Sam Meadham came in off his wing to make a crucial tackle which took man and ball when a three man overlap had been created. However, the pressure was rewarded with a second penalty on the stroke of half time to make the score 5-13.

With the breeze in their favour, the Chiefs were transformed after the restart. Backs and forwards combined to take play to the Old Reds’ line, but they could not force their way over.

A try eventually came when Tom Hodge joined the line following a ruck near halfway. He made ground before linking with Tom Seward. The wingman was eventually stopped 10 metres short of the line, but found Steve Trim in support to dummy his way over. The try was unconverted. The lead changed hands a few minutes later with another excellent try from a familiar source down the blindside of a scrum. Number 8 Sam Richardson broke and slipped the ball to Steve Trim. He, in turn, drew the winger before timing his pass perfectly to Seward on the wing. The full back got across to make a despairing tackle, but momentum took the wingman over in the corner. Again the try was unconverted.

With the pressure now on them, Old Reds started to make mistakes and their game lacked the fluency of the first half. However, they still managed to produce a dangerous handling move and Tom Hodge had to produce another cover tackle to keep his line intact.

Old Reds continued to press until Dan Retter produced a long clearance kick and, when the full back failed to clear the ball, Sam Richardson picked up and drove forward into the 22 where the defenders were penalised. Retter bisected the post to extend his side’s lead. He added another penalty after Hodge and Dare had combined to create the field position.

As the game approached the last 10 minutes, the Chiefs yielded the initiative with a series of penalty offences. They were fortunate not to receive a yellow card for persistent infringement, but were eventually punished when the Old Reds’ fly half took a quick tap to start a handling move finished off by the left winger diving over in the corner.

With a lead of just three points, the pressure was on when the visitors kicked for a lineout deep inside the Sidmouth 22 following another penalty offence.

Sam Richardson came to the rescue when he leapt high to steal the ball, allowing Retter to clear up field, where he kicked a penalty in injury time to secure the victory for his side.

? QUINS - After the performance the previous week against Barnstaple, Sidmouth were in a confident mood. The game, as normal, was slow to start, the visitors obviously still getting over the long car journey to North Devon. Eventually, after a spell of pressure in the Bideford 22, young Colt Charlie Davies, making his bow in senior rugby, scored the opening try and fly-half Ben Damen added the extras.

It did not take long for Damen to add to his total with a try in the corner, following good phase play. He missed the conversion.

The Sidmouth pack was solid as a rock on their ball in the scrums and caused the home side all manner of problems on their put in, at one pointdriving the opposition back at least five metres. Sidmouth did give away a few silly penalties in the home side’s 22 which cost them try scoring opportunities. Fortunately, this did not prove too much of an issue in this game, but it is definitely something that will in future.

Sidmouth scored a third before half time through Will Gater. Damen was again off target with the conversion.

The second half saw Sidmouth cross for seven tries and kick four conversions. Bideford also got their first and last score of the game early in the half after a good spell of pressure.

This seemed to stoke the fire in Sidmouth and, from that moment on, the visitors ran riot. Both Damen and Davies added second tries, there was another brace from Josh Bess and a try apiece from scrum-half Will Dunford, wing James Leat and flanker/captain Tom Butler. With no notes (due to it being hard to play while carrying a pen and paper and a poor memory due to the odd beer or two) I’m unable to embellish any more on the tries. There were moments of real quality in the second half, which will no doubt see Sidmouth soar up the Merit Table.

The pack dominated their opposition in all areas which set a solid foundation for their backline to work from.

The back row trio of Stuart Bickerstaff, Butler and Bess seemingly covered every area of the park. The half-back combination of Will and Ben (Dunford and Damen) looks very positive. Their supply to the rest of the backs was excellent, which made them a constant thorn in Bideford’s side.

Next weekend, Sidmouth will play host to Exmouth. Hopefully, a decent crowd will turn out to support the team in this local derby. If this side can stick together then I, for one, am positive, that the good start to the season will continue.

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