Sidmouth Chiefs prepare against bigger, faster, stronger Albion

The Chiefs completed their warm up matches for the league season and celebrated the start of the club s 125th anniversary season with a match against Championship side Plymouth Albion.



The Chiefs completed their warm up matches for the league season and celebrated the start of the club's 125th anniversary season with a match against Championship side Plymouth Albion.

While the contest highlighted the yawning gap between full time professional rugby and the amateur game, the Chiefs will have gained some confidence from their performance, despite the scoreline.

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The crowd of over 500 lining the Blackmore were treated to an exhibition of clinical rugby by a full strength Albion side. The Chiefs put up a courageous performance, and had their moments, but could not score the try to delight their supporters.

If the Chiefs were going to keep the scoreline respectable they needed to compete well in the early stages and keep their try line intact for as long as possible. But it was not to be, as Albion regained possession straight from their own kick off and drove into the Sidmouth 22 where Mercer, on the right wing, followed up a neat kick ahead by his scrum half to score in the corner.

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From the restart kick Nathan Hannay, who was prominent throughout, followed up to regain possession for the Chiefs who pressed in the Albion 22 for two minutes without being able to break the line of defence. Eventually, an attempted kick ahead was charged down and a counterattack produced a try for scrum half Cushion, which was converted by Davis.

Six more tries followed at regular intervals, but each had to be worked for, with the Chiefs tackling keenly. However, Albion patiently worked the ball through the phases until gaps appeared. When the opportunities came their finishing was precise, with no hint of selfishness. Mercer completed his hat-trick on the stroke of halftime to make the score 46-0 at the break. Davis had added two more conversions.

A complete rout might have been expected in the second half, given the superior fitness expected in a professional side and the fact that they brought on several replacements with fresh legs. However, the Chiefs showed no signs of being overawed and started the half in an enterprising fashion with a promising handling move until another wayward kick sparked a counterattack which ended in try number nine.

The Chiefs responded with their best spell of the game which almost brought the try the Sidmouth supporters were desperate for. Some good driving play by the forwards and a darting half break by Harry Chesterton took play into the Albion 22 where a powerful runs by Nathan Hannay and Jack Pyne were stopped only a few metres short of the line.

Plymouth eventually regained control but found no easy way through the resolute Sidmouth defence. Both Andy Matchett and Harry Chesterton brought off excellent try saving tackles. But, despite their valiant efforts, Albion continued to create overlaps for the left winger Johns to score three consecutive tries, bringing his total to four.

In the 74th minute Albion scored their 10th and final try before the Chiefs showed that their spirits had not been dampened. They enjoyed territorial advantage for the last five minutes and the game ended with an excellent move by the backs which might have brought a try against a less speedy defence.

There were a number of plus points for the Chiefs in their performance. The forwards competed well against bigger opponents. The scrum held firm for much of the game and three times they prevented Albion from scoring from lineout catch-and-drive moves near the line. Their ball retention in contact was generally good and the backs showed some enterprise which would have been more productive against a less well organised defence.

l On Saturday the Chiefs open their league campaign away to newly-promoted Cullompton who are sure to be full of confidence after great success in league and cup last season.

l At the Blackmore, the Quins entertain Cullompton 2nds in a Merit Table game kicking off at 2.30pm. Meanwhile, at Sidford, the Colts also have a Merit Table game against Cullompton.

l Following the 'Quins game, at 5.30pm, there will be a special Over-35s match between ex-Sidmouth College pupils and ex- King's School pupils to celebrate the contribution both schools have made in producing players for Sidmouth Rugby Club over the years.

This match will be followed by a social evening for Past and Present players of the club to end a week of celebrations of the 125th anniversary. All players who have represented the club at any level over the years are invited to celebrate this special occasion in time-honoured fashion.

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