The President's Plate with Sidmouth Rugby
- Credit: Terry O'Brien
In 1986 the Devon Junior Cup was reintroduced with the Devon Cup being renamed the Senior Cup, and the President’s Plate was introduced for the Senior Cup.
Sidmouth had won the Cornwall and Devon league in the 1995-96 season. This coincided with a major reorganisation of the league structure.
When leagues were introduced in 1987, clubs only played each other once in the season. There were 11 teams in the league playing five games at home and five away. For the 1996-97 season home and away fixtures were introduced.
Sidmouth were placed in the Western Counties West League at a time when the Chiefs were undergoing a major rebuilding process without a coach. Graham Bess, Geoff Retter and Bob Smith had retired, while four other influential players had either moved away or were suffering long term injuries.
With no replacement for former coach Richard Grainger, captain Russell Bess assembled a group of players to formulate a game plan.
Despite losing the first three league matches, the Chiefs recovered well to finish in a comfortable mid-table position.
The first round of the Devon Senior Cup, played at Teignmouth, resulted in a 9-13 defeat and entry into the President’s Plate.
The first round was a trip to the King George V Playing Fields in Plymouth in January to take on fellow Western Counties league opponents Old Plymouthian & Mannamedian (OPM). An exciting and entertaining game was won 22-20 to take Sidmouth into the semi-finals.
The semi-final was played on the Blackmore Field on Sunday, 23 February against Ivybridge. A comfortable 27-8 victory put them in the final against Devonport Services, who played one league above in South West One.
The final was played at the Blackmore Field in May. With league rugby causing the demise of Easter touring, there would not be the fixture congestion suffered in 1973. However, the Chiefs had lost their three games prior to the final, so the visitors arrived as favourites.
In front of a large crowd, the Chiefs produced their best performance of the season. Tries from Kevin McCabe (2), Dan Trim and Martin Ford, plus two penalties and three conversions by Andy Burrough, contributed to a resounding 32-10 victory.