Sidmouth Chiefs mount ‘Lazarus like’ comeback to land first ever win at Bridgwater

Sidmouth Chiefs win at home to Newton Abbot by 32 points to 9. Ref shsp 44 19TI 2758. Picture: Terry

Sidmouth Chiefs win at home to Newton Abbot by 32 points to 9. Ref shsp 44 19TI 2758. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

‘The greatest comeback since Lazarus’, is a hackneyed saying, but appropriate for an outstanding performance by Sidmouth Chiefs as they secured their first ever win at Bridgwater, beating the Somerset side 27-24, writes Terry O’Brien.

Sidmouth Chiefs win at home to Newton Abbot by 32 points to 9. Ref shsp 44 19TI 2758. Picture: Terry

Sidmouth Chiefs win at home to Newton Abbot by 32 points to 9. Ref shsp 44 19TI 2758. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

At 8-24 down five minutes into the second half and the home side rampant, it seemed there was no way back.

However, an increasingly dominant performance by the Sidmouth pack provided the impetus for an outstanding comeback.

The backs scored the tries, but the forwards provided the platform.

The Chiefs started brightly and much of the opening ten minutes were played in Bridgwater territory. It was against the run of play that Bridgwater opened the scoring. A speculative kick up field bounced kindly for their left winger to gather and outpace the cover for a try under the posts. The fly half added the conversion.

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With the home backline showing more cohesion than the patched-up Sidmouth unit, they grew in confidence and began to control proceedings with backs and forward combining in good handling moves and continuity.

The Sidmouth defence held firm until the half hour mark, when Bridgwater advanced the ball through many phases until a burst from the tight head prop took play to the Sidmouth line and another forward was on hand to force his way over. The fly half converted.

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Almost immediately after the restart, a flanker broke from the back of a maul and broke through three tackles on a 50-metre run to the line. The try was unconverted.

The Chiefs fought back to dominate the closing minutes of the half. After a period of pressure near the opponents' line, they were awarded a five-metre scrum.

Peli Vea broke from the back to link with Cameron Grainger, who timed his pass perfectly to send Luke Wells-Burr over in the corner for an unconverted try.

A Dan Retter penalty reduced the arrears further to 11 points in injury time.

The comeback seemed short-lived when Bridgewater scored a bonus point try five minutes into the second half.

They drove a lineout maul to the line before releasing the ball to the blindside, where the number six put the finishing touch. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.

Ten minutes later, the Chiefs showed that they could also maul effectively to establish a position near the home line.

From a five-metre scrum, Luke Wells-Burr came off his wing to cut a good angle through the defensive line to score a try converted by Dan Retter.

It seemed certain that Bridgwater would reply almost immediately when their left winger was sprinting for the line after an excellent handling move.

Sam Meadham brought off a try-saving tackle and some desperate defence kept the line intact before a knock on brought them relief.

The Chiefs were soon back on the attack, with their scrum becoming increasingly dominant. With the Chiefs camped inside the home 22, a forward was yellow carded for an offence at a ruck.

When a Dan Retter penalty attempt rebounded from both an upright and the cross bar, a Sidmouth player was first to react to set up a ruck near the line. Under pressure, another Bridgwater player was yellow carded. The Chiefs took advantage of the two extra men at a scrum in front of the posts to create an overlap for Sam Meadham to sprint over in the right corner.

With five minutes to go and Bridgwater restored to their full quota of players the game was in the balance when the Chiefs were awarded a penalty near halfway. The ball was kicked for a lineout deep inside the home 22. The pack set up a maul and drove forward until a Bridgwater forward collapsed it as it was crossing the line. The referee awarded a penalty try to give the Chiefs a bonus point and a three-point lead.

With Franck Friconnet and Peli Vea leading the way, the forwards ran down the clock to ensure a well-earned victory.

On Saturday the Chiefs play their first home game since October when Chew Valley pay their first visit to the Blackmore Field. The kick-off is at 2.30pm. The Quins travel to play Bideford 2nds. The Colts entertain Cullompton Colts at Sidford kicking off at 2.30pm.

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