Sidmouth Chiefs break new ground with Cornish success

Sidmouth 3rds were at home to Cullompton at the weekend. Ref shsp 10-16AW 0043. Picture: Alex Walton

Sidmouth 3rds were at home to Cullompton at the weekend. Ref shsp 10-16AW 0043. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Winning three games in Cornwall in one season has been a rare accomplishment ever since the Chiefs first crossed the Tamar in 1949, the last time was 11 years ago, writes Terry O’Brien.

Therefore Saturday’s 20-15 success at Wadebridge Camels is as important as any, as it lifts the Chiefs 13 points above the relegation zone.

Another much changed team settled immediately from the kick-off. They worked the ball through multiple phases to take it 50-metres down field, showing their intent to play open rugby.

Wadebridge showed similar intent with two early breaks through the Sidmouth midfield, a worrying trend, which continued throughout the game, severly testing the cover defence.

Early play was mainly confined to the Wadebridge half and the Chiefs deservedly took the lead with a well-worked try in the 13th minute. The forward advanced the ball through a series of pick-and-drives before Dan Swain made a strong line break into the home 22. Aaron Bagwell broke from the base of a ruck and found Rory O’Brien supporting on a good line to finish the move off. The try was unconverted.

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Another line break by Haydon Down in his own half started another good handling move. Rory O’Brien made good ground supported by Tom Seward, who was eventually stopped just short of the line. Wadebridge kept their line intact but the pressure was rewarded with a Paul Richardson penalty.

Late in the half, Zac Bess took a quick tap penalty on his own 22 to start a move in which Rory O’Brien again made good ground before sending Luke Wells-Burr on a run into the opposing 22. Unfortunately, the Chiefs were penalised at a ruck and Wadebridge were able to clear upfield. Half-time arrived with the Chiefs leading 8-0.

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Two minutes into the second half, the Chiefs increased their lead with a fine try. Tom Elliott fielded a kick inside his own half and found Zac Bess in support. The full back beat three men on a sprint up the right touchline before passing inside to Rory O’Brien, who sprinted clear to touch down under the posts. Paul Richardson added the conversion.

The Wadebridge response was strong. They kicked a penalty to touch inside the Sidmouth 22 and used the lineout to set up a maul, which they drove to within 5-metres of the Sidmouth line. The Chiefs did well to withstand another lineout catch-and-drive attempt and four consecutive five metre scrums before clearing upfield.

Wadebridge were soon back on the attack, and, a fine handling move was eventually halted by a try-saving tackle by Dan Rugg. As the pressure continued, Zac Bess was shown the yellow card for a technical offence. During his absence, Wadebridge scored a try when the scrum half snapped up a loose ball at the base of a Sidmouth scrum to dive over. The conversion attempt rounded from an upright.

Restored to a full fifteen, the Chiefs regained the initative to score a try as rare to them as a hens tooth and no less satisfying for the forwards. They kicked to the corner, set up a maul from the resulting lineout and drove over for Josh Mynett to touch down for an unconverted try.

Wadebridge dominated the closing stages and scored a try when a forward drove over after a long period of pressure inside the Sidmouth 22. The fly half kicked the conversion and then, deep into injury time, kicked a penalty to gain his side a well-deserved bonus point.

If the Chiefs can raise their game to this level at the Blackmore Field, where they have three winable games remaining, they could still finish in a respectable mid-table position.

On Saturday the Chiefs take a well-earned rest, while the other three teams have home games.

At the Blackmore Field, the Quins entertain Brixham 2nds. The kick-off is at 2pm to finish in time for the England versus Wales 6 Nations match, which will be shown on the big screen in the clubhouse from 4pm.

At Sidford, the third XV entertain Exmouth thirds and the Colts play Teignmouth Colts. Both games kick off at 2pm.

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