Sidmouth Chiefs suffer narrow defeat in opener
- Credit: Archant
Sidmouth opened their new league campaign with a narrow 30-28 defeat at home to Exeter University who won a thoroughly entertaining game with the last move of the game as the Chiefs tired from the wholehearted effort put in to an open game played at a high tempo throughout, writes Terry O’Brien.
The disappointment was the greater as, in the closing minutes, only the width of an upright and a few inches of ground denied them victory.
The Chiefs kicked off in perfect conditions and exerted early pressure, which was rewarded with a Dan Retter penalty from 40 metres.
From the restart kick, the students regained possession to build up pressure as they worked the ball through phases in the Sidmouth 22. The Chiefs defended well until James Powell intercepted a loose pass and sprinted the length of the field to touch down under the posts. Dan Retter added the conversion.
The University full back reduced the arrears with a penalty. With both sides defending well, play took place mainly between the 22s during the middle of the half until the University fly half made a decisive break to take play into the home 22. The ball was recycled through a few phases before being moved to an overlap for the outside centre to score in the left corner. The try was unconverted.
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As play moved from end to end, the University had a try ruled out for obstruction in the build up and the Chiefs saw a penalty attempt drift just wide of the posts. Then, in injury time, a rather laboured handling move along the Sidmouth backline found Charlie Cotton in a little bit of space inside his own half. The wingman eluded two defenders and set off downfield. As the cover closed in, he found Tom Seward in support, then Rory O’Brien provided the link to send Paul Richardson in for an unconverted try. The halftime whistle followed with the score 15-8.
Two minutes into the second half the lead was extended to 14 points when Tom Seward ran a great angle following a ruck on the 22 to cut through and score under the posts for Retter to add the conversion.
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The students hit back almost immediately, when they drove a lineout maul to the line. The Sidmouth forwards managed to halt the drive but, when the ball emerged, a forward drove over on the blindside for an unconverted try.
A Dan Retter penalty steadied things for the home side until the University produced an excellent handling move to take play into the Sidmouth 22. The Chiefs defended well for several minutes until the University pack set up another lineout maul and this time went all the way for the try.
With ten minutes to go, another excellent University handling move produced a bonus point fourth try to close the gap to just three points.
Dan Retter kicked a third penalty but a similar effort, which would have left the students needing two scores, rebounded on the wrong side of an upright. Then, with two minutes of normal time to go, Rory O’Brien hacked on a loose ball and looked favourite to win the chase. However, the ball stopped and, as he scooped it up, he was tackled a couple of feet short of the line.
With the game in injury time, the students launched a handling move from their own 22 and worked the ball through several phases against a tired defence. A desperate tackle was made in front of the posts but a player was on hand to pick up and dive over. The conversion was followed by the final whistle.
On Saturday the Chiefs travel to Tiverton, who finished in third place last season.
At the Blackmore Field, the Quins open their Devon Merit Table campaign against Tiverton 2nds kicking off at 3pm.
The re-formed third XV play their first game of the season at Sidford against Tiverton 3rds with a 3pm kick-off.
The Colts also play their first East Devon Merit Table league game at Tiverton.