Sidmouth Chiefs suffer big blow to title hopes with defeat at Bideford

Honiton rugby action

Honiton rugby action - Credit: Archant

The indifferent form being suffered by Sidmouth Chiefs of late continued as they saw their challenge for the Western Counties (W) title suffer a serious setback as they were beaten 21-7 at a Bideford side that began the day sitting in the bottom four, writes Terry O’Brien.

For the first time this season, the Chiefs failed to add to their league points and their lead at the top has been cut to just two points.

With St Austell also faltering, Crediton and Wellington are the form sides currently. The Chiefs match at Crediton on March 9, looms large and could now prove decisive.

The Chiefs were beaten in the physical battle by a Bideford side determined to drag themselves away from the relegation battle after a disastrous start to the season. That the Chiefs lost five scrums on their own put in and came second in too many collisions sums up the difference between the two sides.

Bideford made the perfect start and scored in the fourth minute.

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A penalty award enabled them to use the following breeze and kick for a lineout inside the Sidmouth 22. They set up a driving maul, which took them to within a few metres of the line, where a forward burrowed his way over. The try was converted by the full back.

Bideford were soon back in the Sidmouth half, but the Chiefs broke out in spectacular fashion to equalise ten minutes later. Peli Vea broke from a scrum and made ground before linking with the backs.

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Excellent inter-passing created room for Ethan Mead on the left wing. He successfully evaded two defenders on a sixty-metre run to the line. Rory O’Brien added the conversion.

Bideford continued to enjoy territorial advantage and eventually retook the lead with a fine handling move finished off by the scrum half after pressure had stretched the Sidmouth defence. The full back added the conversion.

The Chiefs responded by producing their best spell of the game and were unlucky not to level the scores.

They produced some good handling moves with backs and forwards combining effectively. Bideford defended well until fortune moved decisively in their favour in the closing minutes of the half.

The Sidmouth backs combined well to send Tom Hodge over under the posts, but the referee judged the final pass to have been forward.

A few minutes later, Bideford won a scrum against the head inside their own 22 and set up their winger on a run up the left. He was well supported and the moved progressed into the Sidmouth 22, where the Chiefs were forced to concede a five-metre scrum.

The Bideford scrum drove forward for the number eight to score a pushover try.

The successful conversion gave them a 21-7 halftime lead.

A Rory O’Brien penalty narrowed the deficit early in the second half, but, although the Chiefs enjoyed territorial advantage for much of the second half, they rarely threatened to score.

With a big incentive to hang on to their lead, the Bideford defence was suffocating, and the dangerous Sidmouth runners were denied space.

Bideford held out, bruised but not beaten, to lift themselves out of the relegation zone.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, are left to ponder what is needed to rekindle the spark which took them to 14 games without defeat and a healthy lead at the top of the table.

On Saturday (February 23), the Quins travel to play a friendly against Exeter Amateurs.

There is no game at the Blackmore Field, but the clubhouse will be open from 1.30pm to show the Six Nations games between France and Scotland at 2.15pm and Wales versus England at 4.45pm.

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