Chiefs make sure of another season in the South West One West with Cleve triumph
- Credit: Archant
Sidmouth 25, Cleve 15 The Chiefs secured another season in South West One West with this hard-fought win against fellow strugglers Cleve, writes Terry O’Brien.
Despite a muddy surface and persistent rain, this was a thoroughly entertaining and tense encounter between two fully committed teams. The Chiefs had to come from behind and the result was in doubt until deep into injury time. In the end, a superior kicking game, vital in the conditions, proved to be decisive. Dan Retter’s pin-point precision and Tom Whelan’s siege gun distance kept Cleve on the back foot, while man-of-the-match Whelan and wingers Sam Meadham and James Powell formed a rock solid back three.
Cleve started the game firing on all cylinders. Profiting from a couple of handling errors, they were soon pressing on the Sidmouth line. In the fourth minute they drove a lineout maul over the line for the hooker to touch down an unconverted try. They were soon back in Sidmouth territory, where the right winger crossed in the corner but was recalled for a forward pass. However, the pressure was soon rewarded, when the left winger penetrated the defence to set up a try for the number eight. The full back added the conversion.
The Chiefs replied almost immediately with a long range Tom Whelan penalty. This seemed to galvanise his side as the Chiefs went on the attack for the first time. Jack Pyne linked with scrum half Jonny Hamill to exploit the wide blindside of a scrum 30 metres out. Whelan joined the line from deep to cut through and outpace the cover for an unconverted try.
With Sidmouth continuing to hold the upper hand, Cleve lost a forward to the sin bin. The Chiefs took advantage by adding ten vital points in first half injury time. Tom Whelan kicked a second penalty before Dan Retter produced an inch-perfect diagonal kick, which Sam Meadham followed up to catch on the full and cross unopposed in the corner. Whelan added the conversion to make the halftime score 18-12.
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As the second half progressed, and conditions deteriorated, the Cleve pack gained the upper hand up front and they soon reduced the arrears with a penalty kicked by the replacement fly half. However, he failed with two easier attempts, and his side could make little impression with ball in hand against a determined Sidmouth defence.
The pivotal play of the game came with five minutes to go. Cleve kicked a penalty to the corner for an anticipated catch-and-drive attempt. Instead the Chiefs forwards stole the ball and Dan Retter cleared upfield. In injury time, another slide rule Retter kick pinned Cleve back into their 22, where the Chiefs were awarded a scrum. The ball was quickly transferred to the backs and Glenn Channing broke through the first line of defence. Two rucks later, Dan Trim powered his way over from ten metres out for the decisive score. Whelan added the conversion and the Chiefs played out the remaining few minutes comfortably.
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On Saturday the Chiefs complete their season with a trip to Clevedon. A win could see them finish in a respectable eighth place.
At the Blackmore the Quins entertain Okehampton for their final Merit Table game. The kick off is at 3pm.