Spirited Sidmouth fight back

The Chiefs remain without a league win despite a spirited fight back against unbeaten Avonmouth Old Boys.

By Terry O'BrienAvonmouth Old Boys 1st XV 23, Sidmouth Chiefs 19 The Chiefs remain without a league win despite a spirited fight back against unbeaten Avonmouth Old Boys. In the end a lacklustre first half hour left them with too much to do but they should draw confidence from their second half performance.The sides were well matched but the Chiefs' defence was often too narrow, leaving simple overlaps which Avonmouth were quick to exploit. Also the line-out remains an area of concern and, once again, a try was conceded following a line-out loss inside their own 22. More variation is needed with a solid front of the line option essential.Avonmouth kicked off in perfect conditions. The early exchanges were even but the home side gradually developed territorial advantage due in main to their better ball retention in contact. Also some well judged kicks by their half backs were followed up, quickly stifling any attempts by the Chiefs to counterattack. The Sidmouth defence was solid but the Old Boys steadily built up a nine point lead thanks to some accurate goal kicking by their left winger.On the half hour an inside pass put the home number 6 through a gap inside the Sidmouth 22. He looked certain to score but lost the ball forward as he was tackled over the line. However, a few minutes later a misdirected line-out throw was caught by the Avonmouth tight head prop who set off for the line. He was hauled down a couple of metres short but the number eight was on hand to pick up and force his way over. The conversion from wide out was successful.This seemed to snap the Chiefs out of their lethargy and they launched a sustained attack in the home 22. When a defender was penalised for a high tackle just a metre from the line, a yellow card and penalty try might have resulted but the referee judged that a penalty was sufficient punishment. Dan Retter kicked the goal to make the halftime score 3-16.The Chiefs started the second half with much more purpose. Good driving by the forwards pinned the home side into their own half and breaks by Steve Trim and Ashley Cooper kept the defence under pressure. Eventually they conceded a penalty and Retter reduced the arrears by three points.They were soon back on the attack and, when Nathan Hannay fed Steve Trim on the blindside of a scrum 30 metres out, the scrum half dummied his way through a gap. Another dummy left the full back stranded and a clear run to the line. Retter's conversion closed the gap to just three points.Avonmouth responded immediately with the best, and ultimately decisive, move of the game. From an unpromising position on their own 22, they won a ruck and moved the ball quickly to the left. A long pass outflanked the poorly-aligned Sidmouth defence, putting the winger in space. An exchange of passes with his full back checked the cover defence and he ran in unopposed. He converted his own try to restore a 10 point lead.The Chiefs soon reasserted themselves and a fine handling move involving forwards and backs was only halted a couple of metres from the line when they were penalised at the ruck. Further pressure produced strong runs by Jack Pyne and Andy Matchett which were only halted by last ditch tackles. The pressure was eventually rewarded with a Dan Retter penalty. A few minutes later Steve Trim took a quick tap penalty. With clear space ahead he was stopped almost immediately by an Avonmouth centre well short of the required 10 metres. The offender was shown a yellow card and Retter kicked the resulting penalty but it was only three points rather than a possible seven.The Chiefs failed to benefit from the extra man and it was Avonmouth who came closest to scoring in the closing stages. A diagonal kick bounced favourably for the winger as it approached the line but, as he dived for the touchdown, Simeon Lewry just got a boot in to put the ball safely into touch.

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