Sidmouth Chiefs suffer first defeat of league season in close encounter with St Austell
- Credit: Archant
Sidmouth Chiefs suffered their first league defeat of the season, going down 23-21 in a close fought game against second placed St Austell, despite controlling territory for much of the game, writes Terry O’Brien.
While Sidmouth uncharacteristically failed to turn pressure into points, the visitors showed the virtue of stubbornly staying in touch and taking your chances when they come despite playing 25 minutes with 14 men.
In perfect conditions and in front of a good crowd, St Austell kicked off and applied early pressure, but the Chiefs broke out to open the scoring with their first sniff of possession. With some slick inter-passing, they broke out of their own half. Quick recycling kept up the momentum until Tom Seward dived over on the blindside of a ruck near the line. The try was unconverted.
The Chiefs continued to enjoy territorial advantage, but were unable to turn the pressure into points.
Meanwhile St Austell reduced the arrears with a long-range penalty kicked by the full back.
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In response, strong running by Ollie Derryman and Tom Seward initiated a handling move stopped just short of the line, where the chiefs were penalised for an offence at a ruck and St Austell cleared upfield.
The Chiefs were soon back on the attack and the St Austell number eight was yellow carded for handling in a ruck near his line. Rory O’Brien converted the resulting penalty.
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From the restart kick, the Chiefs initiated a fine handling move to take play back into the opposing 22.
In a fit of hubris, which they might reflect on with regret, they opted to tap and run two very kickable penalties before adding a second try in injury time.
Luke Wells-Burr fielded a kick and started a counterattack from his own 22. The ball was progressed through several phases until Peli Vea produced a powerful run, which was stopped just short of the line.
Ollie Pyne was on hand to drive over from the base of the resulting ruck. The conversion was unsuccessful leaving the halftime score at 13-3.
Two minutes after the restart, the game took on a different complexion when the St Austell left winger intercepted a loose pass and sprinted clear to touch down under the posts. The full back added the conversion.
It looked as if the Chiefs would restore a ten-point lead when James Powell made a splendid break from half way with plenty of support, however, he opted to go alone and was tackled just short of the line.
The Chiefs were still in a strong position, but a second interception saw the scrum half sprinting upfield. Fortunately, Ethan Mead covered well to make an important tackle.
This sudden change of fortune inspired the visitors to their only sustained attack of the game, which they finished off with a crucial score. As a good handling move was being cut off by the Sidmouth cover, the left winger kicked ahead over the line and seemed to win the chase for the ball. However, the referee awarded a five-metre scrum instead of the expected try. It mattered not as the St Austell forwards set up a series of pick and drives ending in an unconverted try.
Rory O’Brien restored the lead with a penalty only for it to be cancelled out by a similar effort by the St Austell full back.When another St Austell forward was yellow carded, the Chiefs took advantage with a try by Tom Hodge on the end of a handling move after Peli Vea and Tom Seward had punched holes in the defence. The try was unconverted.
The Chiefs were pressing inside the opposing 22, when a well-known quote from Oscar Wilde came to mind as the St Austell fly half made the third interception of the afternoon and sprinted clear for what would be the match-winning score.
Despite St Austell losing a third player to the sin bin for the last five minutes, the Chiefs could not retrieve the situation.
The Chiefs remain on top of the league and will be keen to restore winning ways when they travel to Tiverton on Saturday (January 12).
Also in Saturday action are Sidmouth Quins, who meet Tiverton thirds at the Blackmore Field with kick-off at 2.30pm.