Sidmouth Chiefs power to victory over Cullompton
Sidmouth 18, Cullompton 17 The Chiefs produced a titanic defensive performance to secure a much-needed win in this hard-fought local derby, writes Terry O’Brien.
The four points gained sees them end the year in seventh place in the table.
Drizzly rain on a slippery surface made life difficult for both teams but, despite the conditions, they produced an entertaining and exciting game of rugby in front of a good crowd.
The visitors started strongly with their forwards picking and driving the ball through several phases to take play into the Sidmouth 22, where they were soon rewarded with a penalty kicked by the outside centre.
Cullompton were soon back on the attack but, when the Chiefs turned over possession on their 22, Jason Luff burst up field before kicking ahead to put his side on the attack. A promising handling move failed to break down the defence until Jack Pyne picked up from the base of a ruck and found a gap to sprint over by the posts. Tom Whelan added the conversion.
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Cullompton kicked a second penalty before Pyne went over for a second try. The forwards drove a lineout maul to line where the powerful flanker picked up and dived over. The conversion attempt drifted just wide.
Cullompton dominated much of the second quarter but could not find a way through or around the well-organised Sidmouth defence. Eventually they had to be content with a third penalty, which was immediately cancelled out by a long range effort by Tom Whelan to make the halftime score 15-9.
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Seven minutes into the second half Sidmouth were reduced to 14 men when Glenn Channing was yellow carded for handling in a ruck near his own line. The resulting penalty was converted to narrow the gap to three points.
Cullompton used the extra man to good effect to build up pressure in the Sidmouth 22. The scrum half was held up over the line and the Chiefs pack held firm at the resulting scrum. However, a few minutes later the pressure told when the full back squeezed in at the corner on the end of a good handling move to put his side in front going into the final quarter. The try was unconverted.
A well-placed kick by James Powell gained his side a rare attacking position. Under pressure Cullompton conceded a penalty and Tom Whelan kicked his side into a one pint lead.
Much of the remaining time was spent in the Sidmouth half but they kept their defensive shape and intensity until the end, a try-saving tackle by James Perry being particularly memorable. Most importantly, they kept their discipline not to concede any kickable penalties.
The Chiefs now have a three week break from league rugby. The next game is the annual Boxing Day fixture against the President’s XV. The invitation team promises to be a strong one and the kick off at the Blackmore is at 2.30pm. Meanwhile, on Saturday the Quins entertain Exeter Saracens 2nds at the Blackmore, kick off 2.30pm.