Perfect boost to Chiefs’ confidence

Sidmouth 1st XV 12, Oldfield Old Boys 8

The Chiefs needed to erase the memory of last week’s heavy defeat at Brixham, and this win against the side in third place was the perfect response, writes Terry O’Brien.

It was a victory founded on team spirit and bloody-minded determination. The forwards were superb in denying the talented Oldfield backs the attacking platform which has earned them 10 bonus points so far. There is still work to be done in patching up a back line badly hit by long term injuries. However, the game starts up front and the Chiefs show every sign that they have what it takes in that department.

In the opening stages, Oldfield showed just why they are at the top end of the league as they laid siege to the Sidmouth line. And their attacking intent was shown when they turned down an easy kick at goal and took a quick tap instead. They did cross the line following a diagonal kick, but the referee spotted an infringement in the process and recalled play. The pressure was eventually relieved when the Sidmouth forwards disrupted a maul, enabling Ben Turner to steal the ball, which was then cleared up field. Strong runs by the Pyne brothers took play into the opposing 22, where Sam Meadham chased his own kick ahead to touch down. But, again, the referee brought play back for a forward pass.

The threat posed by the Oldfield backs was shown when the right winger scored an excellent try from a move started inside his own half. From quick lineout ball, he came off his wing to join the line in the centre. He cut through and outpaced the cover to score wide out on the left. The conversion was unsuccessful.

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The Chiefs were quickly back on the attack and reduced the arrears with a Tom Whelan penalty. They were soon pressing again with both Callum Hill and Sam Meadham coming close to crossing the line. With two minutes of the half to go, the experiment with Phil Spencer in the centre came to an end as injury forced him to leave the field. In injury time, the visitors kicked a penalty to make the score 3-8 at the break.

After the restart, the match became bogged down in midfield as Sidmouth denied Oldfield possession, but were unable to make serious attacking inroads themselves.

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A second Tom Whelan penalty eventually broke the impasse before the game moved decisively in the Chiefs’ direction when Oldfield were reduced to 14 then, momentarily 13 men.

Two forwards were sent to the sin bin for offences in rucks, and the Chiefs capitalised when a lineout steal led to Jack Pyne and Sam Richardson combining to take play deep into the 22, where Dan Retter dropped a goal.

Almost immediately it became 14 v 14 when Matt Goss was yellow carded. However, the Chiefs increased their lead thanks to a second Retter drop goal, this time from almost on halfway.

In a nail-biting finish, Oldfield threw everything into attack. But Chiefs were determined to tackle and chase everything. They had also been bolstered by two forward replacements who made an important impact.

Josh Bess made two important lineout steals, and his presence disrupted the Oldfield throwing in. Meanwhile, Beau Henrickson made two important tackles in open play.

But the most crucial piece of defending was a diving mark made by Tom Whelan metres from his own line with opponents bearing down on him. Eventually the relief of the final whistle came.

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