Chiefs strike back for well deserved win
Despite the counter-attractions of England on Sky, and the Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park, a good crowd braved the bitter wind blowing across the Blackmore on Saturday, and were rewarded with an excellent game of rugby.
The Chiefs claimed the East Devon bragging rights, at least until March, thanks to a display in marked contrast to the previous week’s disappointment at Clevedon. But, once again, they had to fight back after conceding early points.
The Sidmouth pack were on top form to provide the platform for victory. They edged the scrums and won the important lineouts, but, most importantly, they had runners constantly crossing the gain line and forcing the Cullompton defence to back-pedal.
Sam Richardson and Jack Pyne were most prominent, but Matt Farrington, Rhys Thomas and skipper Ollie Derryman also contributed. In the thick of it all was Nick Mills at his best as a constant thorn in the side of the opposition. Meanwhile, in the backs, Ben Damen was the creative force behind Sidmouth’s best moves, which was illustrated by a great moment of skill leading to the winning score.
The Chiefs made their usual hesitant start, and Cullompton took the lead, within two minutes of kicking off, thanks to a penalty by the fly half.
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Sidmouth responded well and had the visitors under pressure inside their own 22. Unfortunately, they gave the ball away with an unproductive kick, when patience, and a few more phases, would have been a better option.
Cullompton went further ahead when a couple of missed tackles allowed the right winger to run out of his own half, and outpace the cover, to score to the left of the posts. The conversion opened up a 10 point gap.
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The Chiefs had to reorganise when Tristan Beavis had to leave the field with a head injury.
Josh Doughty came on at scrum half, with Steve Trim moving to the wing, allowing Tom Seward to slot in at outside centre. Despite the disruption, they came close to scoring when Scott Davies started a counterattack, which was carried on by Jack Pyne and Seward, who was eventually brought down a couple of metres short of the line. The pressure was maintained and rewarded by a Dan Retter penalty.
The forwards were getting into gear, and good driving pushed Cullompton back into their own half. Dan Retter kicked a penalty to the corner. The forwards set up a catch-and-drive from which Jack Pyne peeled off and drove over for an unconverted try.
The Chiefs kept up the pressure to take the lead just before half time. A Matt Farrington run took play from halfway into the Cullompton 22, where his side were awarded a penalty. Dan Retter kicked the goal to make the score 11-10.
The momentum was kept up after the restart. The forwards were driving well, and Damen’s tricky running and good ball distribution provided a constant problem for the defence.
Ten minutes into the half, the visitors lost their full back to the sin bin, and Retter kicked the resulting penalty to increase the lead.
The Chiefs could take no further advantage of the extra man, and Cullompton came back strongly once restored to a full complement. Sustained pressure in the Sidmouth 22 was eventually rewarded when the hooker drove over from a ruck on the line to put his side back in front. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
The Chiefs struck back almost immediately. Ben Damen found space on halfway and gained ground before chipping ahead over the cover defence. He ran on to catch the ball on the full before drawing the full back and passing to Tom Seward. The wing-cum-centre ran in for his eighth try of the season. The conversion was unsuccessful, but, a few minutes later, Dan Retter kicked a long range penalty for a crucial seven point lead. The Chiefs held on for a well-deserved win.
?On Saturday, the Chiefs travel to bottom-of-the-table Ivybridge hoping to keep up the momentum as the league campaign reaches its halfway point.
?At the Blackmore, the Quins entertain Ivybridge 2nds in a Merit Table game. The kick off is at 2.30pm.
?The 3rd Team also travel to play Ivybridge 3rds in a Merit Table game.