Shock defeat for Chiefs - league leaders next up
North Dorset 1st XV 20, Sidmouth 1st XV 6
The Chiefs defeated North Dorset heavily at the Blackmore in September, but any complacency about this return match should have been quickly dispelled in the opening minutes. This was a much improved North Dorset side, which grew in confidence as the Chiefs failed to match their intensity, writes Terry O’Brien.
From the kick off, North Dorset profited from the Chiefs’ handling errors and poor kicking. In contrast, the home side were more accurate and played at a high tempo, which stretched the Sidmouth defence.
In the 15th minute James Powell brought off a desperate try-saving tackle on the left winger before the fly half missed a very kickable penalty. So it was against the run of play that the Chiefs took the lead midway through the half with a Tom Whelan penalty.
The lead did not last long. Confusion in the Sidmouth ranks and a charged down kick led to the concession of another penalty. Instead of kicking for goal a quick tap was taken and smart handling sent the left winger over in the corner for an unconverted try.
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North Dorset were soon back on the attack and it was the turn of Matt Goss to produce a last-ditch tackle. However, Rhys Thomas was shown the yellow card for trying to retrieve the ball illegally.
Despite their scrum being under pressure with a full complement, the Chiefs tried to defend a five metre scrum with seven men. At the second attempt North Dorset shunted them back for a pushover try touch down by the number eight. Again the try was unconverted.
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The Chiefs had their best spell of the half in the closing minutes of the half with both Jack Pyne and new recruit Alva Senderayi making powerful inroads over the gain line. The 18-year-old from Zimbabwe was comfortably Sidmouth’s Man of th Match. The reward was a Dan Retter drop goal to make the halftime score 6-10.
Any hopes that the Chiefs might regroup after the break were quickly dashed when North Dorset ran back a loose kick and the right winger profited from some poor tackling to score under the posts. The fly half added the conversion.
A rare slick handling move put Chris Higgs in space. The wingman made it to the line but was unable to ground the ball.
By now the Chiefs had lost both props to injury and the referee had to order uncontested scrums. They also lost Dan Trim to the sin bin for handling in a ruck near his line. North Dorset kicked the resulting penalty.
Minutes later the Chiefs were again defending desperately and the home number eight was held up over the line to deny them a bonus point.
Once restored to a full XV the Chiefs began to get on top. A losing bonus point looked possible when Chris Higgs snapped up a loose ball and set off up field. He evaded the full back but slowed down sufficiently for the cover to catch him just short of the line.
Under pressure, North Dorset lost two players to the sin bin but the Chiefs could not make use of the extra men to cut the deficit in the closing minutes.