Sidmouth RFCs top 10 campaigns - 2004/05 serves up the best ‘win to lose ratio’ in the clubs history
- Credit: Archant
Continuing our on-going series of the top 10 seasons for Sidmouth RFC, as compiled by the club’s Terry O’Brien.
This week it’s ‘fifth place’ - the season of 2004/05
Onwards and upwards from the promotion to the Cornwall and Devon league in 2003, in their first season at the higher level, the Chiefs finished in a very creditable third place.
In September 2004 they were clear favourites going into the new season. Richard Grainger had returned for a third spell as coach and Nick Baker was in his third season as captain.
A maturing team was strengthened by the arrival of South African Grant Crossman, as fast a wing as any in the club’s history.
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In the forwards Tim Phipps, Frank Helmer and Neil Retter added to the strength in depth.
The first seven league games were won, underlining their favourites tag, before a defeat at Tiverton put the brakes on temporarily.
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Interspersed between these matches were the first three rounds of the National Powergen Junior Vase.
A narrow 28-27 win against Kingsbridge was followed by another close victory by 20-15 over Bideford before Falmouth were summarily dispatch 32-15.
Thirteen consecutive wins up to 19th February followed.
These included league revenge against Tiverton.
Before Christmas, further progress was made in the Powergen Vase with a comfortable 37-7 success against Gloucestershire side Bream, who had defeated Crediton in the previous round.
This earned them a trip to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire in the last 16. Wisbech took an early lead and held an 8-3 advantage going into the final stages, but the Chiefs replacements had added impetus and they were camped inside the Wisbech 22 as the game went into injury time.
A well-executed move from a scrum sent Jason Williams in for a try and Dan Retter’s conversion was followed by the final whistle signalling a 10-8 win.
The quarter final was away to London Cornish. The home side, with a strong wind at their backs, built up a 10-0 lead at halftime.
With the wind in their favour and the pack taking control, the Chiefs fought back to win 15-10 to earn a home semi-final against Sheffield Tigers.
The thirteen-game winning run came to an end in the Devon Senior Cup with an 8-32 defeat against Brixham.
The following week, promotion was assured with a crushing 101-28 win against Wadebridge Camels.
But such an easy win was not the best preparation for the Junior Vase semi-final the next week.
At the same time, Sidmouth was abuzz in anticipation of the impending semi-final, a unique event in the town’s sporting history.
The Sidmouth Herald ran a preview and shop windows publicised their support for the team.
On the day, 1,400 supporters packed into the Blackmore Field, bring back memories of the days before television and weekend consumer spending.
They were to witness one of the finest matches and most dramatic 80 minutes of sport, which nobody could have anticipated or devised.
If only the author had scripted a different ending. Each side scored five tries with the lead changing five times. Sheffield Tigers started strongly to build up an 8-0 early lead.
Then, in the space of two minutes, Dan Trim dummied his way through on the blindside of a scrum and Grant Crossman intercepted to sprint in from 60 metres for tries.
A conversion by Nick Gingell gave the Chiefs a 12-8 lead.
Tigers regained control with two converted tries before Crossman followed up a kick to score again from his own half and make the halftime score 17-22.
Tigers scored a fourth try, which was converted, putting them 12 points up going into the final quarter.
Dan Trim’s second try in support of good handling move was followed by one by Jason Williams, when he won the chase for a Nick Baker kick. Both were converted by Gingell to put the Chiefs ahead 31-29.
The lead was increased as the game went into injury time thanks to a penalty kicked by replacement fly half Dan Retter. Five minutes into added time, Tigers were awarded a penalty on halfway and kicked for a lineout near the Sidmouth line.
A peel around the front produced a try to level the scores. With the prospect of extra time looming, the Tigers fly half lined up the conversion kick one metre in from touch.
The sighs of the Sidmouth supporters were audible as the kick bisected the post to be followed by the final whistle. Sheffield Tigers went on to comfortable win the final at Twickenham and now play at level four in the league structure.
The following Saturday the league title was secured with a 28-13 victory at Tavistock with three matches still to play.
The Chiefs did not even have the consolation of a celebration in front of their own crowd.
And defeat in the final game at Wellington meant a downbeat end to an excellent season.
The playing record of 28 wins and four defeats is the best win to lose ratio in the club’s history.
However, this needs to be assessed in the context of all games being played against opponents at the same league level eight, excepting Brixham.
This is two levels lower than the current side.
In the days before leagues the opposition came from all levels including top clubs in England and Wales.