Sidmouth edged out in close encounter at Okehampton

Sidmouth 3rds were at home to Cullompton at the weekend. Ref shsp 10-16AW 0034. Picture: Alex Walton

Sidmouth 3rds were at home to Cullompton at the weekend. Ref shsp 10-16AW 0034. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth were edged out by the odd point in 21, going down 11-10, when they travelled to Okehampton, writes Terry O’Brien.

Spectators at The Showfield last Saturday had to wait until the 10th minute of injury time for a moment of inspired rugby to warm them against the sharp easterly wind blowing up the pitch.

It came in the form of a Sidmouth try, which earned them a valuable bonus point against promotion contenders Okehampton.

The previous 79 minutes of normal time were largely forgettable as defences dominated and mistakes were frequent.

In the first half Okehampton failed to take full advantage of their strength in the forwards and Sidmouth didn’t use the breeze to kick for territory.

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Consequently the game became bogged down in midfield for long periods.

Okehampton opened the scoring with a penalty in the first minute, after the Chiefs had been penalised at the first ruck of the game. However, a couple of more penalty attempts failed to find the target and reward the home side’s early territorial advantage.

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Midway through the half, Okehampton increased their lead with a pushover try scored by the number eight after they took a scrum against the head near the Sidmouth line. The try was unconverted.

When an Okehampton player was yellow carded on 25 minutes for a dangerous tackle, the Chiefs eventually built up some momentum to put Okehampton under pressure. They finished the half strongly, but the nearest they came to a score was a penalty attempt, which drifted just wide of the upright. The halftime score remained 8-0 in Okehampton’s favour.

The Chiefs made a bright start to the second half, regaining possession from their kick off and taking play through serveral phases before moving the ball swiftly to the right. A strong run by Luke Wells-Burr took him over the line, but the covering defenders prevented him from grounding the ball. However, the referee awarded a penalty for an earlier offside and Zac Bess kicked the goal.

A major turning point in the game came eight minutes into the half, when the Chiefs resisted against a series of five metre scrums and eventually Josh Mynett struck the ball against the head to relieve the pressure.

A long kick into space by Aaron Bagwell, who was having another assured game at scrum half, was followed up by Dan Rugg, who tackled the full back in possession to give his side a strong attacking position. However, a penalty allowed Okehampton to clear upfield.

When Will Siddle was yellow carded midway through the half, Okehampton regained something of the initiative and increased their lead with a second penalty.

With 15 minutes to go, the referee ordered uncontested scrums after Dan Rugg became the second Sidmouth front row player to leave the field injured.

When the Chiefs were restored to a full 15, with eight minutes go, they began to gain the upperhand, keeping play mainly in the Okehampton half. And then came the splendid play, which produced an important bonus point.

The Chiefs worked the ball through a few phases down the left before Stuart Bickerstaff produced a powerful run to punch a hole in the midfield defence. He offloaded to Will Siddle, who in turn offloaded to Josh Mynett, taking the ball into the opposing 22. With the defence on the back foot, the ball was released to the backs. Swift handing gave Luke Wells-Burr a narrow overlap on the right. He went past his opposite number and outpaced the cover to dive over in the corner. Zac Bess’s fine conversion from wide out was followed by the final whistle.

The Chiefs have no game over the Easter weekend, but on Good Friday the Blackmore is the venue for the third encounter between a Sidmouth XV and an Ottery St Mary XV. The kick off is at 3pm.

On Easter Saturday the Colts travel to Paignton, where a win will keep them in contention for a place in the Devon Colts Plate final.

On Easter Sunday the Sidmouth Under 15s play Kingsbridge Under 15s in the semi-final of the Devon Under 15 Cup. The kick off at Blackmore field is 10.30am.

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