Lacklustre Chiefs edged out in close contest at Tiverton

Sidmouth Chiefs at home to Wellington. Ref shsp 13-17TI 9505. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth Chiefs at home to Wellington. Ref shsp 13-17TI 9505. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A lacklustre start proved costly to the Chiefs in a close and exciting game, the result of which was more important to Tiverton, who needed the win to be sure of avoiding relegation; the Mid Devon side winning 32-30, writes Terry O’Brien.

The kick-off was delayed by an hour and a half due to the referee being caught in the traffic chaos that struck Exeter on Saturday lunchtime.

Despite going behind to a Tom Whelan penalty in the first minute, the home side were less effected and got into their stride quickest.

They replied almost immediately with a fine try, although helped by some slack defensive work. A good handling move from halfway seemed to be well covered but an inside pass from the left winger found his inside centre, who beat two men on his way to touch down under the posts. The full back added the conversion.

An exchange of penalties kept the scoreboard moving before the Tiverton number 12 was in the action again, this time as provider. He broke clean through the Sidmouth defensive line on halfway before sending the right winger clear for an unconverted try.

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A third Tom Whelan penalty kept his side in touch before Ollie Pyne was shown a yellow card for collapsing a maul near his own line.

Tiverton kicked for the corner again and this time the lineout catch-and-drive was successful and the try was converted from wide out.

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The Chiefs came to life to dominate the closing stages of the half but, despite some good approach work with back and forwards combining well, they could not cross the Tiverton line.

A fourth penalty was due reward but, when awarded another penalty in front of the posts, they opted to kick for the corner but lost the resulting lineout allowing Tiverton to clear upfield.

A fifth penalty closed the gap to seven points at half-time.

Three minutes after the restart, the Chiefs capitalised on a Tiverton handling error just inside their own half to level the scores. George Locke scooped up the loose ball and set off upfield.

He timed his pass perfectly to send Rory O’Brien sprinting in for a try converted by Tom Whelan.

Four minutes later, O’Brien crossed the whitewash for a second try. This time the position was set up by the forwards with a powerful driving maul before releasing the ball to the backs. A long cut-out pass by Tom Whelan found his full back joining the line at pace to cut through the defensive line. The try was unconverted.

O’Brien was soon in action at the other end, when Tiverton turned over possession on halfway and kicked upfield.

The full back did well to get back and cover the initial danger but Tiverton were awarded a five-metre scrum. The Sidmouth pack, which previously had been solid, were pushed back unceremoniously. When a player strayed offside to prevent the touchdown, the referee awarded a penalty try, which was converted.

A Dan Retter penalty regained the lead with eight minutes to go but two minutes later the Tiverton full back kicked the decisive goal and they played out the remaining time without alarm.

On Good Friday a Sidmouth XV take on an Ottery XV on the Blackmore Field kicking off at 3pm.

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