Sidmouth Chiefs strengthen title bid by proving they can ‘win in adversity’

Sidmouth at home to Kingsbridge. shsp 49 18TI 6047. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth at home to Kingsbridge. shsp 49 18TI 6047. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

If a team is going to win a league involving 26 matches, there are going to be occasions when they need to find a way of winning in adversity, writes Terry O’Brien.

Sidmouth Chiefs did just that at Molesworth Field where they defeated Wadebridge Camels 13-8, to confirm their genuine championship credentials.

With the majority of the game played in their own half, the Chiefs fought a successful rear-guard action to grind out a win against the team lying in fifth place and on a ground where they have suffered heavy defeats in the previous two seasons.

In wet and windy conditions, the first assumption would be that Wadebridge had won the battle up front.

However, the Sidmouth pack matched their opponents in all phases.

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The problem was an excessively high penalty count, preventing continuity and gifting the home side easy territorial gain.

Also, in conditions which demanded a good kicking game, they failed in both strategy and execution.

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The chiefs kicked off with the wind in their favour and early pressure earned a penalty kicked by Rory O’Brien to open the scoring in the fifth minute.

From then on, the game was punctuated by penalties conceded by the Chiefs, mainly at the breakdown.

Wadebridge rubbed their hands, kicked the ball into touch up-field and played possession rugby. Meanwhile, the Chiefs, kicking out of defence, rarely inconvenienced the Wadebridge back three.

On the half hour, the Wadebridge pack set up a maul from a lineout inside the Sidmouth 22 and advanced it to within reach of the line.

A couple of pick-and-goes later they were over the line to take the lead with an unconverted try.

The Chiefs’ reply was swift and clinical.

At last they launched a kick which turned the defence and a quick follow up by Luke Wells-Burr forced the full back into a knock-on deep inside his own 22.

From the resulting scrum, the Sidmouth centres combined to create an all-important try.

Rabbie Hansford made a half break and Tom Hodge arrived at speed to take the offload and burst through under the posts. Rory O’Brien kicked the conversion.

A half-time lead of 10-5 did not look to be enough with Wadebridge having the benefit of the wind for the next 40 minutes.

The Chiefs made a steady start to the second half and seven minutes in they produced their best play of the match.

They advanced the ball from deep inside their own half, 50 metres upfield, where they were awarded a penalty.

Rory O’Brien kicked the goal from 30 metres out to give his side a precious eight-point lead.

At least Wadebridge would now need to score twice to take the lead.

The remainder of the game was what Sir Alex Ferguson would refer to as ‘squeaky bum time’ for the Sidmouth supporters.

The Chiefs did manage to launch Ethan Mead on a couple of runs up the left wing but from too far out to trouble the cover defence.

Most of the play took place in and around the Sidmouth 22.

The tackle count was huge but the Chiefs’ defence never wavered – buckled but never broke.

In injury time, the Wadebridge scrum half kicked a penalty to gain his side a deserved bonus point.

But the Chiefs walked off the field with four valuable points and much relief.

On Saturday (February 2) the Chiefs travel to their rearranged game in hand at Winscombe. The Quins travel to play Exeter Engineers.

There is no game on the Blackmore Field, but the clubhouse will be open from 2pm where the opening matches of the Six Nations Championships will be shown on the big screen, with the Scotland versus Italy match (2.15pm) being followed by Ireland versus England (4.45pm).

On Sunday, February 10, a two-course Sunday lunch will be served at 1pm before the England v France match, which kicks off at 3pm.

To book lunch, contact Sarah on 07974 238689. Non-members are welcome.

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