Sidmouth Chiefs snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at Crediton


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Sidmouth Chiefs managed to complete a season’s league double over Crediton, beating the Mid Devon men 13-7 on their own patch, thanks, in the main, to stubborn defence and a remarkable feat of continuity, which produced an injury time try to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, writes Terry O’Brien.

The heavy underfoot conditions after overnight rain favoured the home side, whose superior kicking game kept Sidmouth at long range for long periods, with scoring opportunities at a premium. Crediton, for their part, were hampered by a high penalty count against.

In the forward battle, honours were even with Crediton on top in the scrums, while Sidmouth had the better of the lineouts, where Ollie Pyne was the dominant force, as he was around the field in general. The contribution of the forwards to the winning try just about evened up matters in the loose.

The open 20 minutes was an untidy and readily unforgetable affair fought out mainly between the 22 metre lines. The first spark of open rugby came midway through the half, when Chris Higgs followed up a chip ahead to break into the open and Jeremy Massey-Birch was in support to take the move into the Crediton 22 before the cover defence overhauled him.

Sidmouth were now on the attack for the first time and might have taken the lead, when Tom Whelan side-stepped his way through a gap to set up Max Moore on a run to the line. He was tackled just short and a knock on gave Crediton a scrum from which they cleared the danger.

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On the half hour, Crediton had their first serious foray into the Sidmouth 22 as they progressed the ball through multiple phases. After a short period of pressure they were penalised at a lineout and the Chiefs cleared upfield.

A Sam Meadham break from his own half took play into the opposing 22 and, from the attacking position, the Chiefs took the lead with a Tom Whelan penalty.

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In a long period of injury time, both sides had their defences tested. First Crediton created a series of rucks near the line, which were successfully defended before the Sidmouth backs combined successful for the first time, but again the defence came out on top and half-time arrived with the score remaining 3-0.

Crediton dominated the early stages after the restart and were rewarded with a try after using a five metre scrum to set up a series of rucks near the line. Eventually the hooker burrowed his way over for the fly half to add the conversion.

Midfield trench warfare followed, with neither side able to construct a decisive move. For half an hour, the closest either side came to scoring was a Tom Whelan penalty attempt, which rebounded from an upright.

With two minutes of normal time to play, Dan Retter kicked a penalty to close the gap to one point. Now a penalty or drop goal, and not a try, would be enough to win the game.

When Crediton regained possession form the restart kick, and set up camp inside the Sidmouth 22, they were odds on to play out the remaining time safely. However, after a period of pressure, a penalty allowed the Chiefs to clear the ball to touch outside their 22.

With the game now deep into injury time, they won the lineout and started a remarkable period of play.

With the referee unable to end the match while the ball is in play, backs and forwards combined to progress the ball through many phases until they reached the Crediton 22 metre line. Asa Unsworth found space on the blindside of a ruck and timed his pass perfectly to Sam Meadham. The full back still had work to do in a narrow space along the touchline. Pace enable him to beat one man and strength got him to the line through the full backs tackle. Dan Retter’s touchline conversion was followed by the final whistle.

The win takes the Chiefs into sixth place, well clear of the relegation battle. However, in their next three games they face the top three in the promotion race.

Meanwhile, on Saturday they take a break from league rugby, when they entertain Exeter University in the second round of the Devon Senior Cup. The kick off at the Blackmore Field is at the earlier time of 2m.

The Quins take a week off, while the Colts play Exeter Saracens Colts at Sidford kicking off at 2.30pm.

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