Sidmouth play part in intriguing contest with high-flying Cully
10:53 17 February 2017
In what was a classic game of two halves, Sidmouth Chiefs, who led 19-3 at one stage, saw their advantage whittled away until they were left with not even a bonus point for their contribution to an entertaining and exciting game, one won by visiting Cullompton 30-22, writes Terry O’Brien.
The key to the shift in fortunes was up front in the forward battle. The Chiefs had the edge in the set pieces in the first half, which also put them on the front foot in the open. The turning point came in the 39th minute, when the Cullompton pack mauled their way over for their opening try. This gave them the impetus to take control after the break.
The opening quarter was fought out for the most part in a midfield stalemate. Cullompton were unable to make progress against a well-organised Sidmouth defence, while a high penalty count against the Chiefs prevented them from sustaining a foothold in opposition territory.
The first threatening attack came midway through the half, when the Cullompton fly half gathered his own chip ahead to set up a handling move. The cover defence closed down the initial danger but Cullompton were camped on the Sidmouth line. However, the opening score came at the other end, when Cameron Grainger intercepted on his own line and ran the length of the field to touch down in the left corner. Tom Whelan added the conversion.
A few minutes later, Cullompton opened their account with a penalty kicked by the inside centre, but the next ten minutes of the half were dominated by the Chiefs.
A scrum on the Cullompton 22 provided the springboard for a series of rucks before a Tom Whelan grubber kick was followed up by Sam Meadham to touch down for an unconverted try. A few minutes later the Chiefs were back on the attack and a good handling move was finished off by Giles Dixon in the left corner. Tom Whelan converted from wide out.
Then came the game-changing score. Cullompton kicked a penalty to the corner and set up a driving maul from the resulting lineout. The Chiefs held the drive but the number eight peeled off to power his way over to make the halftime score 19-8.
A Tom Whelan penalty early in the second half opened up a 14 point lead but that was as good as it got.
With the visitors pack gaining the ascendancy, they were soon pressing inside the Sidmouth 22. From a scrum near the line, a long pass found the left winger in space to sprint over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Midway through the half, the number eight touched down his second try at the base of a pushover from a five metre scrum. The successful conversion narrowed the deficit to just two points.
The Chiefs made three visits to the Cullompton 22 in quick succession but could not maintain a foothold. Twice they failed to secure their own lineout ball allowing Cullompton the clear the danger. Then a fine handling move had the defence at full stretch but just managing to force Rory O’Brien into touch short of the line. From the lineout, the ball was cleared upfield.
When the Chiefs lost possession in a tackle just outside their 22, the Cullompton fly half put in a long diagonal kick and the left winger won the chase to scoop up the ball and dive over. The try was converted.
A late penalty concluded the scoring and denied the Chiefs the consolation of a losing bonus point.
On Saturday the Chiefs travel to take on third placed Devonport Services.
At the Blackmore, the Quins entertain Devonport Services 2nds kicking off at 2.30pm.
The Colts travel to Torquay.