Barnstaple made the long trip from North Devon with a team made up entirely from the own club; unlike last season when they fielded a couple Exeter Chiefs’ players in the first encounter then failed to show for the replay.
The match started slowly both sides easing their way into the game. and the first real excitement came from the returning Ben Damen, the Australian fly half chipping his opposite number and collecting the ball, before offloading to centre Will Finch. Unfortunately, a promising move came to an end, but Sidmouth started to impose themselves and took the lead after 15 minutes. A line-out in the visitors’ 22 was cleaned up well by Stuart Bickerstaff. The flanker wriggling his way through two or three tackles before offloading to winger Dan Pollington, who ran in to touch down under the posts. The simple conversion was added by Will Dunford.
A spell of pressure from the away team accounted for all their points. The first try came after a prolonged spell camped on the Sidmouth line. The conversion was on target. Minutes later they scored again but this time the conversion was off target. During this spell Sidmouth lost fullback Tom Whelan to a dead leg. Will Gater coming on as his replacement.
The home side regrouped and went back on the attack, dominating for the remaineder of the half. Good ball retention created space for Gater to dive over just to the left of the posts. Dunford missed the conversion right on the half time whistle.
The next 40 minutes were outstanding from a Sidmouth point of view; the home side running in six tries and five conversions without reply.
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A fine touch kick by Damen took play into the Barum 22. An equally good catch and drive by the pack took play right to the Barum line. After a couple of quick rucks, Pete Singfield forced his way over. Damen slotted over the conversion with a drop goal. Damen set up Finch to score, the centre duly running in from the 22. The conversion was again successful.
Ten minutes later James Leat scored out wide on the left following swift handling from his fellow backs. The conversion was off target. Replacement flanker Wade Cooperimmediately made an impact, ducking and side stepping through tackles. Josh Bess popped over the line and the drop goal conversion was again this time on target.
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Sidmouth introduced their last two replacements Liam O’Connor and Bryn Thomas, the latter bucking the trend of positive impacts made by the replacements by lasting 10 minutes, before seeing yellow for going off his feet at two rucks in 90 seconds, moments after the side as a whole had been warned.
Sidmouth played the remainder of the game with 14, but this did not stop them scoring two more tries. A second try for Finch who was celebrating his birthday, came from a 35m break. Damen again converted. The last try was by far the best, Damen chipping the ball over on-coming defenders and collecting it. He dummied and ran in to score a fantastic solo try; which he also converted.
Sidmouth should be very proud of their effort which bodes well for the future. This weekend Sidmouth travel to North Devon to play Bideford in a friendly fixture.