Sidmouth Chiefs still table-topping and unbeaten after narrow win at Chard
- Credit: Archant
The injury hit Sidmouth pack emerged from what proved to be a very competitive, physical encounter, battered, but unbroken, while the opportunism of the speedy backs secured a close 27-24 bonus point victory at Chard to maintain their unbeaten record at the top of the league.
Injuries a few minutes either side of half-time put influential players, skipper Ollie Pyne and fly half Dan Retter, out of the game, leaving the Chiefs an uphill battle to hang on to an eight-point half-time lead.
A high penalty count against them saw them fighting a rear-guard action right to the end of an absorbing game.
Any thoughts of an easy afternoon were dispelled immediately following the kick-off, when a handling error gave Chard an attacking scrum inside the Sidmouth 22.
The visitors’ scrum was shunted back yards before the home number eight broke to set up a series of rucks on the Sidmouth line until a forward forced his way over for an unconverted try.
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The Chiefs response was positive as they went on the offensive straight from the restart kick.
A strong run from Peli Vea was stopped just short of the line, where a penalty was awarded at the resulting ruck. Dan Retter kicked the three points.
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A long diagonal kick by Dan Retter put the Chiefs back deep into Chard territory, where they set up a series of attacks.
Ollie Pyne crossed in the corner but was recalled for a foot in touch.
Then, a Sam Meadham break was stopped just short of the line, where a penalty enabled Chard to relieve the pressure with a clearance kick to touch.
From a lineout on halfway, Dan Retter dummied his way through a gap before passing on to Sam Meadham.
The full back made ground into the 22 before sending James Powell over for a try converted by Retter.
The Chiefs failed to control the ball from the restart kick and another powerful Chard scrummage set up a siege on the Sidmouth line until a forward forced his way over for a try converted by the fly half.
When Sam Meadham fielded a clearance kick on his own 10 metre line, he set off on a 50-metre run, which left four defenders in his wake.
His well-timed pass put Luke Wells-Burr clear for a third try, which was unconverted.
When the Chiefs turned over possession inside their own half, the ball was cleared up-field.
Rory O’Brien followed up to gather the bouncing ball and had just enough pace to reach the line. Seven minutes of injury time followed before the half time whistle blew with the Chiefs ahead 20-12.
The Chiefs kicked off with the diagonal breeze in their favour but the concession of three penalties in quick succession put Chard on the attack. A series of rucks near the Sidmouth line stretched the defence and the outside centre exploited a gap to score an unconverted try.
Chard continued to dominate territory as the Chiefs continued to concede penalties.
So, it was against the run of play that Luke Wells-Burr intercepted on his own 22 and sprinted clear to score the bonus point fourth try. Luke Bess added the conversion.
The game continued to play out for the most part in the Sidmouth half but a few adjustments to the line up saw the Sidmouth scrum more than holding its own, a factor which would influence the final outcome as a major weapon in the Chard armoury was neutralised.
The situation changed in favour of the home side when Peli Vea was yellow carded with three minutes of normal time to go and Chard in full cry seeking at least two bonus points.
They turned down kicks at goal, which would have secured them one bonus point, in the quest for a fourth try and additional bonus point.
It eventually came in the fifth minute of injury time, when a forward drove over from close range. The successful conversion was followed by the final whistle.
On Saturday (November 10), the Chiefs have a break, while the Quins entertain Crediton 2nds in a friendly at the Blackmore Field kicking off at 2.30pm.
The England versus New Zealand match will be shown on the big screen in the clubhouse kicking off at 3pm. Non-members are, as always, very welcome.