Sidmouth Chiefs leave themselves too much to do

Sidmouth chiefs at home to Devonport services. Ref shsp 2587-07-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth chiefs at home to Devonport services. Ref shsp 2587-07-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

The Chiefs have made a speciality of late comebacks this season, but on this occasion they left it too late to catch workman-like Okehampton after a very lacklustre first 50 minutes, writes Terry O’Brien.

The game was transferred to Okehampton’s second pitch after the main pitch was ruled unsafe by the referee due to extensive areas of deep ruts.

The Chiefs won the toss and opted to play up the slope and into the breeze in the first half. Having done so, they got their tactics wrong, opting to kick the ball away only to see it returned with interest. Thus they made it easy for Okehamton to maintain territorial advantage for much of the half.

Okehampton dominated the opening stages and took the lead in the tenth minutes. A quick tap penalty set up a forward drive and, when the ball was released to the backs, quick handling found the right winger on the overlap to score in the corner. The try was unconverted.

The Chiefs regained possession from the restart kick to set up their only strong attack of the half. A powerful run by Stuart Bickerstaff to the five metre line was the closest they got to a score before Okehampton cleared the ball downfield.

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Much of the remainder of the half was played in the Sidmouth half. The Chiefs defended well, while the home side showed little in the way of enterprise. Eventually their stronger scrum provided the key to unlock the defence.

Under intense pressure near the line, Jack Madge was yellow carded for an offence in a ruck. Okehampton opted for a scrum, from which the number eight drove over for a try converted by the scrum half.

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Half-time arrived with the score at 0-12, and the Chiefs were restored to 15 men, when they kicked off with the advantages now in their favour. However, a comedy of errors saw them reduced to 14 once again, and Okehampton take what would prove to be a decisive lead.

From the kick-off the catcher was caught in possession putting Okehampton under pressure at a ruck on their 22. However, the exit kick was knocked on, as was a kick from the base of the resulting scrum. Thus Okehampton now had an attacking scrum inside the Sidmouth 22. When it collapsed, Ben Halford was judged to be the culprit and was show the yellow card. Two minutes later, Okehampton won a scrum against the head and the fly half found a gap in the defence to dart over for an unconverted try.

This proved to be a wake up call for the Chiefs and Dan Retter opened their account with a long range penalty. And, no sooner had Ben Halford returned to the game, it was Okehampton’s turn to have a prop sent to the sin bin.

In his absence, Dan Retter kicked two more penalties as the Chiefs began to take command. A Tom Seward break was only stopped a couple of metres short of the line. And another Retter penalty attempt rebounded from an upright before the Chiefs eventually crossed the whitewash.

Nick Mills made a clean catch in a lineout five metres out and the forwards drove over for Jack Madge to get the touchdown. Dan Retter added the conversion to put his side within one point.

Unfortunately, two minutes later the lead became four points when Okehampton kicked a long range penalty.

The Chiefs were soon back on the attack and pressing on the Okehampton line. Another attempted lineout catch-and-drive was halted just short and, as the game entered injury time, the referee awarded a scrum in front of the posts. Before it could be set, there was a flare up among the forwards. Once peace had been restored, the referee awarded a penalty to Okehampton, allowing them the clear ther ball upfield, where they played out the remaining time.

The Dukes Man of the Match award went to George Jarman after a promising debut at number eight.

On Saturday the Chiefs take a rest with no league games to catch up.

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

The Colts entertain Torquay Colts at Sidford, also kicking off at 3pm. The third team travel to play Honiton seconds.

At 5pm, the focus will turn to England’s attempt to get their Six Nations campaign back on track, when they take on Scotland. The match will be shown on the big screen in the clubhouse.

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