Sidmouth Chiefs leave it late once again

Sidmouth played Devonport Services on Saturday. Ref shsp 1465-42-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Sidmouth played Devonport Services on Saturday. Ref shsp 1465-42-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

For the second week running the Chiefs survived a nail-bitting finish to record a narrow 24-22 victory over Devonport Services, writes Terry O’Brien.

This time it gave them their third league win of the season.

Despite the forwards producing a good supply of possession with a solid display in the set pieces, and excellent service from scrum half Paul Richardson, the backs showed only a few glimses of the form from previous games. The game was littered with handling errors and disappointing decision making. The loss of Rory O’Brien with an injury midway through the first half, causing a major reshuffle of the backline, provided some mitigation.

Services kicked off in dry conditions and soon had the Chiefs under pressure. The home forwards did well to resist an early lineout catch-and-drive attempt. However, the visitors eventually took the lead, when the ball squirted out of the side of a Sidmouth scrum 10 metres out. The scrum half scooped it up and sent the openside flanker in for a try, which was converted by the fly half.

With the Sidmouth forwards gaining an edge in all phases, the Chiefs enjoyed territorial advantage through the middle of the half. While they constructed several promising moves, they could not find the finishing touch until Zac Bess produced a fine individual opportunist try. After the forwards had taken the ball through a few well-controlled phases, the wingman appeared in the centre and chipped ahead into space. He followed up to regather and touch down under the posts. Dan Retter added the conversion.

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The Chiefs continued to keep play in the Devonport half without threatening to score until the final minutes of the half. Rabbie Hansford drove to the 22, where he set up a ruck. The visitors were penalised and Dan Retter kicked the goal to give his side a 10-7 lead at the break.

Sidmouth started the second half strongly with forwards and backs combining well to create a strong attacking position. Despite the good approach work, when Luke Wells-Burr received the ball on the right wing, he seemed to be well covered. However, he feinted to go inside before accelerating around his opposite number and outpacing the cover to score in the corner. The try was well converted by Dan Retter.

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As for the previous week, just as Sidmouth seemed to be taking control, Services staged a strong revival. They began to match the Chiefs up front and retained possession well as they drove through the phases. The Chiefs defended well for some time but they gradually became stretched until a quick tap penalty exposed an overlap on the right for the number 6 to score a try which was well converted from wide out.

Services eventually took the lead with a well worked move by the backs following a scrum deep inside the Sidmouth 22. The full back touched down a try, which was unconverted.

Either side of these scores, the Chiefs had two dangerous breakaways. The Services full back just won the chase for the touchdown of a kick ahead following a turnover on halfway. And a knock on ended a good handling move with an overlap on the left.

With ten minutes to go, Services increased their lead with a penalty.

In response, the Chiefs produced their best piece of continuity of the game. The ubiquitous Aiden Taylor was prominent in a series of pick-and-go drives to take play deep into the visitors 22. Ollie May was stopped just short of the line before the ball was released to the backs. Tom Seward ran strongly before off-loading to James Powell, who cut inside the covering players to touch down and level the scores. Dan Retter’s conversion put his side in the lead with three minutes to go.

The Chiefs knocked on the restart kick giving Services an attacking scrum. The fly half was well tackled attempting a break but the referee awarded a penalty against Sidmouth at the breakdown. The kick rebounded the wrong side of an upright and the Chiefs played out the remaining time to secure the win.

This weekend the Chiefs take break, which will give time for a number players to recover from injuries.

At the Blackmore Field, the Colts entertain Newton Abbot Colts in a friendly.

The Quins travel to Brixham and the third team travel to play Cullompton third XV.

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