Sidmouth Chiefs see chance of win over table-toppers ended by last-gasp score

Honiton rugby action

Honiton rugby action - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth began their 2020 league action with a 10-10 home draw against table-topping Devonport Services, writes Terry O’Brien.

However, this match will have to go down as the one that got away!

In a hard-fought game where two uncompromising defences were the prominent feature, the Chiefs had the game in their grasp as they made a decision with less than a minute to play, they would come to regret.

The Chiefs kicked off in good overhead conditions on an energy sapping surface and gave an early notice of intent. At the first lineout, they drove a maul to the opposing 22, where they won the first scrum of the game against the head and were soon pressing on the line. However, a penalty concession allowed the visitors to clear the ball up-field.

With their first taste of possession, Devonport showed that their first option was to keep the ball in hand and attack through their backs. They did so with precision and imagination throughout right down to the last fateful second of the game.

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By contrast, the Chiefs handling was often laboured and attacking play reliant on individual rather than collective effort.

In the 10th minute Devonport took the lead with a penalty kicked by their fly-half.

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The remainder of the half was dominated by defences and littered with penalties, none of which were in kicking range.

With their forwards in charge in the set pieces, Sidmouth enjoyed more territory, while Devonport looked dangerous on the break.

Of concern to the Chiefs was the loss of Franke Friconnet with an ankle injury. However, young replacement Jed Reid showed that his scrummaging has made progress during his first season of adult rugby. The Sidmouth scrum remained in control and half-time arrived with no addition to the score.

Devonport opened the second half impressively with a multi-phase move involving backs and forwards, which the Chiefs did well to defend until their obduracy was rewarded with a penalty allowing them to raise the siege.

This was followed by further disruption to the Sidmouth team with first skipper for the day Ollie Derryman and then the influential Peli Vea leaving the field injured thus further depriving the Chiefs of important ball carriers.

However, despite potential problems, the Chiefs did not lose momentum or focus. Indeed, they took the lead four minutes later with a fine try.

A diagonal kick by Dan Retter initiated the play. Cian Warren on the left wing made the catch under pressure and as he was tackled, he was quickly supported, and the ball was progressed through a series of rucks towards the line.

Tom Hodge came onto a pass from deep to beat two men but was held up on the line. He managed to offload to Ethan Mead, who forced his way over in the corner. Dan Retter added the conversion from the touchline.

With Peli Vea returned to the fray, the Chiefs were soon back on attack and gaining control of the game. When they drove a lineout maul to the line, it was stopped illegally, and Dan Retter kicked the penalty leaving the visitors needing two scores to win with ten minutes to play.

The Chiefs remained in control until the decisive final minute of injury time, when they were awarded a penalty on the halfway line.

With four options open to them, three of which would give them relative control of the ball to play out time. Instead they chose the one which could give possession to the opposition, a kick at goal.

The kick missed and now Devonport had the ball, albeit on their own line. The ball was moved to their dangerous left winger, who made ground out of the 22.

The ball was then worked through multiple phase. Twice the momentum faltered, but they recovered until the Sidmouth defence was on its knees, outflanked and outpaced as a forward sprinted clear up the right wing for a try. The fly half's equalising conversion was followed by the final whistle.

On Saturday the Chiefs travel to Weston-super-Mare to play second placed Hornets.

The Quins travel to Brixham while, at the Blackmore Field, the Colts entertain Brixham Colts (2.30pm).

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