Sidmouth Chiefs once again run out of time in spirited comeback

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rugbyl generic picture - Credit: Archant

For the second game running, the Chiefs produce a spirited late comeback but, once again, it was enough to earn a bonus point but the result was another defeat, as they went down 34-26 at Exeter University, writes Terry O’Brien.

Pnce again the Chiefs’ nemesis this term of a sluggish start, a high penalty count and some poor defensive work, were punished by a lively University outfit.

Injury and unavailability leading to wholesale changes in the front row department can be offered as some mitigation, with veterans Mark Unsworth and Frank Helmer being drafted out of retirement and young flanker Matt James filling in at hooker. All performed well but some settling in time was required.

An early University handling move ended with the outside centre crossing the line but unable to ground the ball. However, from the resulting five metre scrum, the number eight drove over for the opening score. The try was unconverted.

The Chiefs used a penalty to kick for the corner but failed to secure the ball from the resulting lineout. When the University were awarded a scrum inside their own 22, a good move by the backs sent the outside centre on a 60 metre run to take play deep into the Sidmouth 22. Under pressure, the Chiefs conceded three penalties in quick succession before the referee lost patience and sent Jeremy Massey-Birch to the sin bin for an offside offence.

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The pressure was soon rewarded, when the number eight ran a good angle following a ruck near the line to score his second try. The fly half added the conversion.

With the Chiefs continuing to concede penalties, the University were soon back on the attack but a vital lineout steal by Ollie Pyne enable them to clear the danger. It was now the turn of the students to incur the referee’s displeasure and Tom Whelan kicked a penalty to the corner. This time the ball was secured and a maul driven to the line. After a series of rucks, Sam Richardson drove over for a try, which was converted by Dan Retter.

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The Chiefs secured the ball from the resulting restart kick but an attempted clearance kick was charged down over the goal line by the University number six, who followed up to touch down for an unconverted try.

The Chiefs finished the half strongly. They drove another lineout maul over the line but were held up and a powerful run by by Ollie Pyne failed to produce a score before the half time whistle.

The University extended their lead early in the second half, when the number eight found an open field in front of him on the unmarked blindside of a ruck. He ran in from 50 metres to complete huis hattrick. The fly half kicked the conversion to open up a 17 point lead.

With Frank Helmer substituting to add his considerable weight to the front row, the Chiefs began to dominate the set pieces and hence enjoy territorial advantage. Sam Richardson crossed the line following a quick tap penalty move but was held up. However, he was not to be denied when he supported a Cameron Grainger break from a five metre scrum. Dan Retter added the conversion.

An Ollie Pyne break set his side on the attack again and a good handling move put Chris Higgs in space. He was tackled just short of the line but Jeremy Massey-Birch was on hand to dive over in the corner for an unconverted try.

From the restart kick, the Chiefs were penalised as they tried to run the ball out of their own 22. The University fly half kicked the three pointer. And, with ten minutes to go, they extended their lead further, when they moved the ball through several phases to create an overlap for the left winger to dart over in the corner. The fly half converted from a narrow angle.

The Sidmouth backs’ handling had been laboured for much of the afternoon, but they produced a fluent move to send Jeremy Massey-Birch on a 50 metre run into the opposing 22, where they set up camp until Frank Helmer forced his way over from close range for the bonus point fourth try. Dan Retter kicked the conversion to complete the scoring.

On Saturday (November 12) the Chiefs entertain Cullompton in the first round of the Devon Senior Cup. The kick off is at 2.30pm.

The Quins play Exmouth 2nds at Sidford, also kicking off at 2.30pm.

The Colts travel over the hill to Honiton.

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