Sidmouth RFC player availability plumbs new depths

PUBLISHED: 09:29 03 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:29 03 November 2017

Sidmouth at home to Tiverton. Ref shsp 40-17TI 1660. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth at home to Tiverton. Ref shsp 40-17TI 1660. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

Player availability had reached crisis point when the Chiefs travelled to Burham-on-Sea, where a win could have lifted them from the bottom of the league table, writes Terry O’Brien.

Instead, there were six players making their first appearance of the season. The team included the fifth hooker, fourth scrum half and sixth centre pairing in nine league games. And so, it goes on.

In the circumstances, it is not surprising that performance suffered with this game ultimately ending in a 36-17 defeat.

To the credit of those playing, they kept their heads up, stuck to the task and fully deserved a late consolation try.

The Chiefs played the first half with the benefit of a strong following wind, which Dan Retter used to advantage as he kicked his side into an early lead with a penalty from the halfway line.

Despite the wind advantage, the Chiefs spent much of the first quarter in their own half as the Burnham forwards controlled possession, carrying the ball through multiple phases. They were eventually rewarded, when a forward broke from a ruck just inside the Sidmouth 22 and found his fly half in support to touch down under the posts. He also added the conversion.

The Chiefs began to settle and came more into the game in the second quarter with some effective kicking and a couple of promising handling moves. Two more Dan Retter penalties put them into a deserved lead.

Burnham again took control following a penalty kicked for touch inside the Sidmouth 22. The Chiefs did well to defend their line for several minutes, including resisting an attempted push over from a five-metre scrum. However, when they lost a scrum against the head near the line, the fly half scored his second try from a move down the blindside. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful leaving his side with a 12-9 half-time lead.

The fly half extended the lead with a penalty two minutes after the restart before the Chiefs raised their supporters’ hopes with a sparkling handling move covering much of the length of the pitch. Their reward was a fourth Dan Retter penalty.

Unfortunately, optimism was short-lived as the Burnham forwards took control, assisted by some good kicking. Lukes Wells-Burr and Bess did their best to run the ball out of defence but could rarely get past the halfway line.

Two push-over tries touched down by the home number eight were both converted to put the game beyond the Chiefs. After the second of these, the restart kick was blown back towards the Sidmouth half by a strong gust of wind. The ball bounced into the hands of the Burnham fly half, who started a handling move finished off by a forward for a fifth try, which was converted.

Despite the setbacks, the Chiefs kept trying to play rugby and the introduction of Jevon Astley-Jones on the wing added some penetration to the attack. Even more effective was the move of Mark Unsworth to tight head prop, which altered the dynamics of the scrum. The forwards comfortably prevented another push-over attempt and even had the bigger Burnham eight on the retreat a couple of times.

As a result, the Chiefs finished the game on the attack and, after a series of rucks near the line, Dan Retter exploited a gap on the blindside to dart over for a try in injury time.

On Saturday (November 4) the Chiefs entertain Chard kicking off at 2.30pm.

The Quins travel to play Exmouth 3rds while the Colts are at Tiverton.

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