Quality first half paves Chiefs’ way

Sidmouth 1st XV 23pts, Paignton 16pts

The Chiefs broke the Paignton bogey in this entertaining and highly competitive game. Having built up a comfortable lead late in the first half, they had to dig deep to hold out against well-organised and determined opponents. The win ended a seven-game losing streak since both sides entered the South West league, writes Terry O’Brien.

Paignton kicked off into the breeze and soon had the Chiefs under pressure. They dominated the opening quarter but could not break down the determined Sidmouth defence. After a 12-minute battering the Chiefs took the lead against the run of play when Tom Whelan kicked a penalty from halfway.

With the Chiefs giving away too many penalties, the visitors kept them pinned inside their own half and eventually drew level when the fly half dropped a goal.

Midway through the half, the Chiefs at last got into their stride and into the opposing 22 for the first time. In the next 10 minutes they produced a near faultless display of 15 man rugby to rack up 17 unanswered points. From a lineout Chris Higgs came from the blindside wing to take an inside pass from Tom Whelan to cut through and touch down under the posts. Whelan added the conversion.

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This was followed by a try of the highest quality started from deep inside their own half. A flowing threequarter move took play into the Paignton half, where the forwards took over to progress the ball through three quick rucks. When the ball was returned to the open, Tom Whelan side-stepped his way through the flatfooted defence to score under the posts. He added the conversion and, a few minutes later, kicked a penalty following another good attacking move.

Straight from the restart kick Paignton showed their renowned resilience. When the Chiefs were penalised, they kicked to the corner where a well-worked move around the front of the lineout produced a try by the number five.

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The Chiefs finished the half on top and almost added a third try when Jamie Wardrop and Sam Meadham combined in a counterattack to send Barney Goss sprinting for the line, but the centre was brought down a couple of metres short.

A minute into the second half Tom Whelan increased the lead to 23-8 with a penalty, which went over via the crossbar. From then on it was very much a rearguard action as the Cherries changed tactics to keep the game tight and disrupt the Sidmouth set pieces. The success of this game plan, and the breeze in their favour, kept play in the Sidmouth half for long periods.

The Chiefs kept their defensive shape and the only time the line came under serious threat they turned over possession at a ruck and cleared the danger. Midway through the half Paignton kicked a penalty before matters moved significantly in their favour. The Chiefs had already lost their main lineout jumper Phil Spencer due to injury. With 20 minutes to go another important lineout man, Ben Turner, was sent to the sin bin. It came when the Chiefs had almost scored a breakaway try with a kick and chase down in front of the clubhouse. A defender fell on the ball just short of his line and Turner was penalised as he tried to win the ball.

Paignton capitalised from their extra man when they scored a try from a line-out-catch-and-drive play. This made for a tense final ten minutes, but the Chiefs held out and finished the game on the attack.

Jamie Wardrop was Man of the Match.

On Saturday the Chiefs make the long journey to Penryn.

At the Blackmore the Quins entertain Exmouth 2nds, kicking off at 2.30pm.

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