Sidmouth Chiefs stage dramatic comeback to keep title hopes alive

PUBLISHED: 09:27 01 April 2019

Sidmouth at home to Kingsbridge. shsp 49 18TI 6047. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth at home to Kingsbridge. shsp 49 18TI 6047. Picture: Terry Ife

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Sidmouth Chiefs kept their league championship aspirations alive with a dramatic comeback at High House where three tries in the final 25 minutes enabled them to claw back a 14-point deficit to defeat hosts Kingsbridge 31-26 and so record a vital bonus point win, writes Terry O'Brien.

For the neutral spectator, this was a highly entertaining and exciting all-action encounter.

For the committed supporter it was a nerve shredding rollercoaster 80 minutes.

Sidmouth made a perfect start with a try scored inside three minutes. Luke Wells-Burr fielded a kick inside his won half and broke upfield. He found Peli Vea in support, who, in turn sent James Powell on a clear run to the line. The try was unconverted.

Kingsbridge came back strongly as they gained an edge at the breakdown and were aided by the Chiefs conceding penalties. One of these led to the home sides opening try. They kicked to the corner for a lineout and a successful catch-and-drive play. The fly half added the conversion from wide out.

The Chiefs soon regained the lead with a second James Powell try. Again, Luke Wells-Burr made the running. He came into the line from the blindside of a scrum to take an inside pass and cut through. Powell was in support to take the scoring pass. Dan Retter added the conversion.

Kingsbridge took control in the second quarter with the fly half kicking effectively for position and the forwards keeping possession well through the phases.

They regained the lead thanks to an individual try scored by the fly half, when he picked up bouncing pass from his scrum half and cut through the hesitant defence to score near the posts and add the conversion.

Another penalty kicked to the corner led to the third try. A well-worked set move from the resulting lineout gave the hooker a clear run to the line. The fly half converted, and his side continued to control matters until half time.

When the Kingsbridge hooker burst through the Sidmouth defence ten minutes into the second half to set up a second try for his fly half, Kingsbridge seemed to be taking control of the game with a 14-point lead. The Chiefs had other ideas.

As their discipline improved and they became more competitive at the breakdowns, they began to control territory. A penalty kicked to the corner enabled the Sidmouth pack to show that they too could set up an effective maul. Ollie Derryman finished off the drive and Dan Retter converted to close the gap to seven points going into the final quarter.

The bonus point try owed a little to fortune as Rory O’Brien’s grubber kicked rebounded off a defender back into his hands. With the defence wrong-footed, he cut through and inside the full back to score under the posts. Dan Retter converted to level the scores.

The decisive try owed much to the opportunism of Asa Unsworth. The young hooker charged down a kick on the opposing 22 and was first to the loose ball to set up a ruck. The ball was quickly recycled and move swiftly along the line to Luke Wells-Burr on the wing. He broke through a tackle on his way to the corner. The try was unconverted.

The final 10 minutes was a nervous affair for the Sidmouth supporters, but the Chiefs maintained control until the relief of the final whistle.

Sidmouth maintain a two-point lead at the top of the league with their destiny still in their own hands.

On Saturday (April 6), Chiefs entertain Paignton in a game with double importance.

A win will maintain their push for promotion and a bonus point will ensure home advantage in the Devon Intermediate Cup final against Crediton to be played on Easter Saturday. The kick off against Paignton is at 3pm.

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