Try-saving tackles earn Chiefs victory
The Chiefs will look back on three try-saving tackles which enabled them to complete the double over bottom-of-the-table Clevedon.
The Chiefs will look back on three try-saving tackles which enabled them to complete the double over bottom-of-the-table Clevedon, despite being second best for much of the second half. In the end a Dan Retter penalty in injury time was the decisive score in an entertaining game which maintained the tension right up to the final whistle. This was a much different, and much better, Clevedon side than was faced earlier in the season when the Chiefs gained their first league win. The Somerset side dominated the scrums as the game progressed, kicked more effectively and exploited the space well when the Sidmouth defence was stretched.The Chiefs started brightly, having kicked off in perfect conditions. Within two minutes they had earned a lineout five metres from the Clevedon line. However, they failed to control the ball and the concession of a couple of penalties put the visitors on the attack. The departure of Nathan Hannay with a knee injury in the 10th minute was a serious blow to an already injury-depleted team. He was replaced by Stuart Bickerstaff who was making his league debut.A few minutes later Clevedon took the lead with a penalty kicked by the full back. They were soon back on the attack and the Chiefs did well to defend a five metre lineout.The Chiefs had their best spell in the second quarter when they kept Clevedon pinned in their own half for long spells. When Jamie Wardrop followed up his own kick to regain possession of the ball, he had Will Finch in support but a Clevedon hand deflected his pass. However, the ball was retrieved and pressure maintained in the visitors' 22. A Ben Damen half break created some space and good handling put Finch in for an unconverted try.A break by Rhys Thomas on the blindside of a ruck near halfway was supported by Ashley Cooper. The wingman made ground deep into the 22 before being overwhelmed by the cover defence. However, Clevedon were penalised at the resulting ruck and Dan Retter increased the lead with a penalty.A turnover on halfway gave Clevedon a chance to counterattack with space on the left. The winger was put clear but Ashley Cooper appeared from the opposite wing to tackle him into touch a few metres out.As the half drew to a close a good handling move took Sidmouth back into the Clevedon 22 where Dan Retter attempted a drop goal which drifted just wide of the uprights to leave the halftime score at 8-3.After 10 minutes of stalemate in the second half another turnover gave the Clevedon left winger a further scoring chance but, once again, a Cooper cover tackle frustrated the attempt. A powerful run by Stuart Bickerstaff from the back of a lineout gave his side a brief respite but the visitors were soon back on the attack. The outside centre broke the defence with a good angled run to the posts but fly half Ben Damen brought him down a couple of metres short of the line. Clevedon were rewarded with a penalty to close the gap to two points. This was cancelled out on the hour by a 40 metre effort from Retter who also had a hand in Sidmouth's second try. Following a turnover on halfway, his well-judged diagonal kick was followed up by Ashley Cooper who gathered the bouncing ball to score in the corner. The try was unconverted.These productive few minutes were against the run of play as Clevedon, thanks to an increasingly dominant scrum, were winning a greater share of possession. Their attempt to drive over from a five metre lineout was held up but they pushed over the resulting scrum for the scrum half to score an unconverted try. They were soon back on the attack and a period of concerted pressure stretched the Sidmouth defence enough for the full back to exploit a gap and score to the left of the posts. He converted his own try to put his side in the lead.From the restart kick the Chiefs pressurised Clevedon into conceding a penalty, only to see the kick drift wide. Then, as the game went into injury time, they somehow fought their way back into the opposing 22 where they were awarded another penalty wide out on the left. This time Retter made no mistake to put his side one point ahead. Somehow the referee found another seven minutes of injury time, most of which was spent in the Sidmouth 22. They survived a five metre scrum and several forward drives before they forced a turnover and Jamie Wardrop's touch finder signalled the final whistle. l On Saturday the Chiefs take a rest while, at the Blackmore, the Quins entertain top of the table Barnstaple 2nds in a Merit Table game. The kick off is at 2.30pm.