Sidmouth Chiefs edged out by injury time Chard try

Sidmouth 2nds at home to Exeter Engineers at the Sidford ground. Ref shsp 06 18TI 7050. Picture: Ter

Sidmouth 2nds at home to Exeter Engineers at the Sidford ground. Ref shsp 06 18TI 7050. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Chiefs suffered only their second defeat since October as Chard scored a converted try in the last minute of injury time to easy their relegation worries with a bonus point win, courtesy of a 24-22 final score, writes Terry O’Brien.

Sidmouth, travelling without a few key players, were weakened further by four injuries during a hard-fought game and had to play the final 10 minutes a man short as they had used up their three replacements.

Chard kicked off into the bitterly cold diagonal wind and were soon pressing inside the Sidmouth 22. The Chiefs won a vital strike against the head at a five-metre scrum to relieve the early pressure, but Chard were soon back pressing on the line.

When they were awarded another scrum five metres out, they pushed over for a try touched down by the number eight. The conversion attempt held up in the wind.

The Chiefs began to find some cohesion through the middle of the half to create pressure of their own. Good breaks by Luke Wells-Burr and Ben Pratt took play into the home 22, where the forwards took over. After a series of rucks took play to the line, Sione Livai powered his way over for a try and Dan Retter added the conversion.

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The Chiefs failed to secure the ball from the restart kick and Chard regained possession to set up camp in the Sidmouth 22. After a series of rucks near the line, a forward forced his way over to regain the lead. The try was unconverted.

Despite having lost flankers Dan Rudd (wrist) and Henry Thomas (head) to injury, with the help of the wind, the Chiefs enjoyed territorial advantage for the closing stages of the half. When the forwards set up a driving maul from a lineout just outside the 22, the defenders were forced to retreat, and Johnny Hamill took advantage of space on the blindside to sprint over in the corner. The try was unconverted, leaving the Chiefs with a narrow 12-10 halftime lead.

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A Dan Retter penalty increased the lead early in the second half before the game became bogged down in a midfield dog-fight as the arctic conditions took their toll.

Replacement Dan Ledger joined the injury list just before Cameron Grainger was yellow carded to give Chard a one-man advantage. They used it effectively to earn a penalty try as the Chiefs prevented a scrum pushover attempt illegally. The automatic seven points gave them a two-point lead going into the final ten minutes of normal time.

No sooner had Grainger been reinstated than Rhys Thomas departed with an ankle injury. Despite the disadvantage, the Chiefs retook the lead with the try of the game. Good work by the forwards put them on the front foot and strong run by Sione Livai took play to the 22, where the ball was released to the backs. Ben Pratt exploited a gap in the centre and beat two men on his way to touch down under the posts. The conversion opened up a five-point lead with five minutes to play.

Being a man down and with a heavily rearranged pack proved too much of a disadvantage and Chard took control as the game moved into injury time. They camped on the Sidmouth line until a forward forced his way over under the posts. The conversion was followed by the final whistle.

On Saturday March 24), the Chiefs travel to promotion-chasing Devonport Services.

The Colts travel with the Chiefs seeking a win to secure a place in the final of the Devon Colts Plate competition.

At the Blackmore Field, the Quins entertain Honiton 2nds kicking off at 3pm.

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