Defensive woes see Sidmouth Chiefs held at home

Sidmouth 2nds at home to Exeter Engineers at the Sidford ground. Ref shsp 06 18TI 7050. Picture: Ter

Sidmouth 2nds at home to Exeter Engineers at the Sidford ground. Ref shsp 06 18TI 7050. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth and Falmouth shared 78 points in a high-scoring affair at the Blackmore, writes Terry O’Brien.

On current form, this is a match the Chiefs would have expected to win and should have won given that they held the lead from the sixth until the 87th minute!

They failed to win because, for the first game since the autumn, their defence was found lacking, particularly around the scrum and in midfield.

The score line was the result of a game littered with errors and two sides with the ability to capitalise on them.

Falmouth deserved the three points, which might save them from relegation, because it mattered to them.

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They battled to the final whistle, though, in the end, it was only the thickness of an upright which saved them from defeat.

Falmouth took the lead in the first minute with a penalty kicked by the fly half. Although the visitors continued to have the better in terms of territorial advantage, it was the Chiefs who built up a comfortable lead in the first quarter. Rory O’Brien intercepted a loose pass on his own 22 and sprinted clear to touch down under the posts for Dan Retter to convert.

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O’Brien scored again, when a miss-kicked clearance attempt went straight to him and he beat two opponents on his way to line. Again, Dan Retter converted, this time from the touchline.

Falmouth showed what a dangerous side they can be with a fine handling move, which was only brought to a halt a few metres short of the line.

On their second visit to the Falmouth 22, the Chiefs increased their lead with a quick tap penalty and slick handling to send Ethan Mead sprinting over in the left corner. Dan Retter converted from a tight angle.

A few minutes later Falmouth reduced the arrears when the number eight peeled off a lineout maul to drive over for a try converted by the fly half.

Sidmouth secured a bonus point with a fourth try, when a good handling move sent Ethan Mead on another sprint for the line. This time he was brought down a few metres short, but Johnny Hamill picked up and dived over from the base of the resulting ruck. The try was unconverted.

Falmouth finished the half strongly and, following a period of pressure near the Sidmouth line, Nick Mills was yellow carded for an infringement in a ruck. The visitors made use of the extra man to score a second try, when the scrum half darted over from a ruck near the line. The conversion made the half-time score 26-17.

Both fly halves kicked penalties in a largely shapeless third quarter before the dramatic finale.

The Chiefs extended their lead and seemed to take control when Zac Bess finished off a handling move initiated from a scrum. The successful conversion opened up a 16-point lead.

Falmouth had other ideas and closed the gap when the outside centre found space to cut through and touch down near the posts for the fly half to convert. The Cornishmen followed that with the try of the match, when the number eight broke from a scrum inside his own 22 to initiate a handling move in which the ball passed through many hands from left to right and back before the move was completed in the left corner. The conversion was unsuccessful.

A Dan Retter penalty gave the Chiefs a seven-point cushion with three minutes left to play.

When the Chiefs dropped the ball on their own 22, Falmouth launched a counterattack against some flimsy defence. The move was finished off by the scrum half and the conversion levelled the score going into injury time.

The Chiefs launched a last-ditch attack and were rewarded with a penalty wide out on the right. Dan Retter’s well-struck kick rebounded the wrong side of an upright and the clearance kick was followed by the final whistle.

On Saturday the Chiefs travel to Wadebridge Camels. At the Blackmore Field the Quins take on Exmouth III XV kicking off at 3pm. The Colts travel to Bideford.

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