Another excellent Sidmouth show ends the long unbeaten home run of Wellington
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If you enjoy your nerves being stretched to breaking point, Wellington Athletic Ground last Saturday afternoon was just the place to be, writes Terry O’Brien.
As befits a top-of-the table clash, the Sidmouth Chiefs fixture at Wellington produced an exciting and highly competitive game, between two very good teams, one that the Chiefs came out of as 26-23 winners.
The decisive period of the game came in the middle of the second half, when the Chiefs scored two tries while Wellington had a man in the sin bin.
The Chiefs made a positive start after Wellington had kicked off. A Cameron Grainger box kick had the home side under pressure and two surging runs by Peli Vea took play into the opposing 22, where Dan Retter opened the scoring with a penalty kick.
Wellington were soon back on terms thanks to a penalty kicked by the full back, who went on to give a faultless display of place kicking. And, when Wellington won a scrum against the head to launch a strong attack, they took the lead with a second penalty.
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The Chiefs responded with an excellent move from a lineout. James Powell crossed the line but lost possession as he was tackled. However, the pressure was rewarded with a second Dan Retter penalty to level the scores.
Sidmouth’s scrum problems continued and when they were penalised for a collapse on their own 22 the home full back kicked his side into the lead once again.
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On the half hour, the Chiefs scored the first try of the game with a move from the halfway line. Tom Seward made the initial running with a break on the blindside of a ruck. The backs were in support to produce some superb inter-passing to send Tom Hodge over wide out on the right. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
A 50-metre run from Luke Wells-Burr put his side on the attack again but five minutes of pressure failed to produce a score and half-time came with Sidmouth ahead 11-9.
Straight from the restart kick, the Wellington centres combined in a move, taking play into the Sidmouth 22, where Luke Wells-Burr brought off a try-saving tackle. But it was to no avail as Wellington scored a pushover try from the resulting five metre scrum. The number eight got the final touch and the full back added the conversion.
Dan Retter narrowed the margin with his third penalty as the Chiefs fought back. Cameron Grainger broke on the blindside of a ruck to send Ethan Mead on a run into the home 22. He was stopped just short of the line, where the influential Wellington fly half was yellow carded for preventing quick release of the ball from the ruck.
Following a lineout inside the 22, Tom Hodge made a powerful run to set up a ruck over the gain line. The ball was quickly recycled and moved along the line to George Locke on the wing. He was stopped just short of the line, but Josh Bess was on hand to dive over from the base of the resulting ruck for a converted try.
The Chiefs were soon back on the attack and another strong run from Hodge broke the gain line. The forwards were on hand to advance the ball through several phases to create an overlap for Ethan Mead to sprint over in the left corner. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
Restored to a full 15, Wellington fought back strongly to score a similar try at the other end with the right winger putting the finishing touch to a long period of pressure as the Sidmouth defenders were sucked in. The conversion cut the deficit to three points.
The final 10 minutes were a tense affair, but the Chiefs held out to maintain their position at the top of the table.
On Saturday (October 27) the Chiefs entertain Bideford, who are currently in last place. The kick off at the Blackmore Field is at 3pm.
The Quins seek to maintain their 100 per cent Merit Table record, when they travel to Bideford.
* England’s Autumn rugby internationals against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are being shown on the big screen in the Sidmouth RFC clubhouse throughout November.
You can enjoy lunch before each match. Visit the Sidmouth RFC website for full details. Non-members are welcome.