Sidmouth Chiefs reach halfway stage of league campaign with 11 point lead

Sidmouth at home to Kingsbridge. shsp 49 18TI 6073. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth at home to Kingsbridge. shsp 49 18TI 6073. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Chiefs have reached the halfway stage of the league competition with an eleven-point lead over nearest rivals St Austell, who suffered a single point defeat at Kingsbridge, thanks to a bonus point win against old rivals Paignton, writes Terry O’Brien.

Sidmouth at home to Kingsbridge. shsp 49 18TI 6073. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth at home to Kingsbridge. shsp 49 18TI 6073. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

At the start of the season, most teams would have feared the Sidmouth backs on dry grounds, but fancy their chances in more wintery conditions.

However, this win against Paignton was the third time the Chiefs have won in the rain and mud this campaign, and, on this occasion, a strong breeze, blowing straight down the pitch, was another factor.

Paignton kicked off with the wind at their back, but it was the Chiefs who were quickest out of the blocks. Luke Wells-Burr broke out of his own 22 to set up a handling move taking play into the home 22, where the forwards took the ball through several phases until they were awarded a penalty. Rory O’Brien kicked the three points to open the scoring.

The Paignton fly half’s accurate kicking was their best weapon and he used it to good effect with a long punt for a lineout near the Sidmouth line. The Chiefs failed to secure possession and a Paignton forward latched on to the loose ball to dive over for an unconverted try.

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Five minutes later the Chiefs regained the lead with an excellent team try. The forwards won a line-out on halfway to set up a maul, which they drove 30 metres into the Paignton 22. When the ball was released to the backs, Luke Wells- Burr joined the line to take an inside pass and cut through to set up a try for Cameron Grainger. Rory O’Brien added the conversion.

Using the wind to good advantage, Paignton enjoyed territorial advantage for much of the remainder of the half. They regained the lead with another opportunist try. A grubber kick by the fly half rebounded off a defender into the path of the left winger, who followed up to touch down in the left corner. The fly half converted to put his side in front once again and he then added a penalty to see his side into half-time with a 15-10 lead.

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The Chiefs started the second half in the best possible way, when they regained possession straight from the kick off. They progressed the ball through many phases with powerful breaks by Tom Hodge and Tom Seward making dents in the defence. The finishing touch was applied by James Powell exploiting a gap from ten metres out. Rory O’Brien converted to retake the lead and added a penalty a few minutes later.

The Chiefs were soon back on the attack, defying the conditions with good handling and support play. George Jarman was held up over the line after another strong break by Tom Hodge had created the position. From the resulting five metre scrum, James Powell was stopped just short of the line and Peli Vea was on hand to pick up and dive over for another converted try.

Paignton came back strongly in the middle of the half to give the Sidmouth defence a thorough workout. They could not find a way through but eventually cut the deficit with a penalty.

The Chiefs regained control in the closing minutes. Rory O’Brien crossed in the corner after a good handling move, but had put a foot in touch.

The bonus-point fourth try eventually came in injury time when Haydon Down was driven over by his fellow forwards after period of pressure on the line. Rory O’Brien’s conversion completed the scoring.

On Saturday, the Chiefs travel to Winscombe, who have a strong pack and a good home record.

At the Blackmore Field, the Quins entertain Tiverton 3rds in a friendly, kicking off at 2.30pm.

The following Saturday (December 22) there is no game on Blackmore, but the clubhouse will be open to show the top-of-the-table Premiership clash between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens on the big screen. The kick-off is at 3pm.

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