Sidmouth just a dozen points off top spot after completing league double over Newent

SIdmouth RFC in action during their away match to Hornets in Weston-super-Mare. Picture: MARK

SIdmouth RFC in action during their away match to Hornets in Weston-super-Mare. Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth made it nine wins from 18 league outings as they defeated visiting Newent 20-15, writes Terry O’Brien.

SIdmouth RFC in action during their away match to Hornets in Weston-super-Mare. Picture: MARK

SIdmouth RFC in action during their away match to Hornets in Weston-super-Mare. Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

The Blackmore Field faithful were treated to another close-fought and entertaining game to illustrate the competitive and unpredictable nature of the South West One league where only 12 points separate the Chiefs in eighth position from table-topping Hornets.

The Newent team Sidmouth faced on Saturday provided a significantly different challenge than to the one comfortably beaten on their own ground in October. The Chiefs had to dig deep following the red carding of the influential Franke Friconnet in the final minute of the first half while trailing by one point. It took a try of the highest quality to secure the victory.

The visitors kicked off in blustery conditions on a heavy pitch and immediately regained possession of the ball. The Chiefs defence coped comfortably until a Luke Wells-Burr clearance kick transferred play into the Newent 22. A short period of pressure was rewarded with a penalty kicked by Dan Retter.

Luke Wells-Burr was soon in action again as he broke from his own half to the opposing 22.

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George Locke was in support and looked to score but lost possession of the ball as he dived for the line.

The position gained brought another penalty which was successfully converted.

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Newent responded almost immediately when the fly half followed up his own chip ahead to regain the ball. An ankle tap tackle by Sam Meadham prevented an immediate try but Newent retained possession and advanced the ball to the line through a series of pick-and-go moves until their number four was driven over the line. The fly half added the conversion.

The Chiefs had the better of the territorial battle for the remainder of the half but could not make much headway against a well-organised and aggressive defence.

In injury time they were awarded a penalty which they kicked for a lineout in the left corner. As the attempted catch-and-drive was halted just short of the line, there was a difference of opinion between some forwards. As a result, Franke Friconnet was sent off for throwing a punch. Half-time soon followed with Newent holding a one-point lead.

When Sidmouth lost possession on halfway two minutes after the restart, Newent snatched the opportunity to launch an attack with forwards and backs combining through several phases. The result was a second try for the number four as the Sidmouth defence ran out of numbers. The try was unconverted.

Despite being a player short, the Chiefs found another gear. Not only did they keep the opposition at bay but hit back themselves to take the lead.

After a period of pressure inside the Newent 22, the ball was moved to an overlap on the left.

Sam Meadham was tackled head high a couple of metres from the line.

The referee awarded a penalty try and showed a yellow card to the tackler. The seven points gave the Chiefs a one-point lead.

Two minutes later came what would prove to be the decisive score.

Luke Wells-Burr field a clearance kick inside his own half and set off on a run down the right. He exchanged two passes with Sam Meadham before diving over in the corner.

Dan Retter's conversion from the touchline gave his side a precious two score lead.

With 15 minutes to play, Peli Vea was shown the yellow card for a high tackle leaving the Chiefs to fight a rear-guard action with 13 players.

That they did so successfully showed a great deal of character and organisation.

The Newent captain kicked a penalty in injury time to give them an important bonus point in their battle against relegation. The final whistle quickly followed.

On Saturday (February 15)the Chiefs travel to bottom club Newton Abbot for a rare Devon derby.

On the Blackmore field the Quins entertain Tiverton 3rds kicking off at 2.30pm. The Colts travel to Teignmouth.

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