CHIEFS SLIP UP AT ST AUSTELL

ST AUSTELL 1st XV  29  v SIDMOUTH 1st XV  11

 

It seems to be two steps forward and one step back for the Chiefs this season. After three consecutive wins, they slumped to this disappointing performance and defeat at St Austell.

 

The absence of a number of key forwards, resulting in the selection of inexperienced flanker Connor Down in the second row, together with the loss of three players to injury during the game, provides some mitigation. However, it does not excuse a lacklustre first half performance, when they had the breeze in their favour but conceded three tries to none.

 

The first ten minutes saw the Chiefs shunted off their own ball in the first four scrums, enabling St Austell to dominate possession and field position. After ten minutes, Frank Helmer was sent from the replacements bench to shore up a scrum five metres from the Chiefs line. The ploy was successful in that the scrum was steadied, but shoddy defensive work enabled the home side to work a simple overlap on nthe blindside for the right winger to score an opening unconverted try.

 

On a wet surface caused by earlier rain, both sides were guilty of unforced errors resulting in a scrappy game. St Austell used a penalty to kick for a lineout inside the Sidmouth 22. A catch-and-drive play gave them the momentum to set up camp on the Sidmouth line until the outside centre found space to cutn through from close range. The fly half added the conversion.

 

The Chiefs were unable to sustain pressure inside the St Austell half and their best chance of a try came when James Powell scooped up a dropped pass and sprinted into the 22. He was eventually hauled down five metres short of the line, where St Austell were penalised at the resulting ruck. Tom Whelan kicked the three points.

 

By this time, Ollie Derryman and Joe Briggs had departed with rib and leg injuries respectively and Whelan soon joined them with a head injury. Meanwhile, Dan Retter kicked a fine penalty from wide out on the left to narrow the margin to six points. However, St Austell extended their lead in the last minute of the half with  lineout catch-and-drive try touched down by the hooker. The successful conversion made the half time score 6-19.

 

With the breeze at their backs, St Austell kept play inside the Sidmouth half for much of the second half, but they had great difficulty in breaking down a defence, which had grown in its resolve. A move started by a break in the centre was halted by some good covering work and the number eight was held up over the line following a five metre scrum.

 

As the home side seemed to be running out of ideas, Luke Wells-Burr broke out of his own 22 leaving three opponents in his wake before passing to James Powell, who launched a long kick into the opposing 22, where the full back was caught in possession. The Chiefs were awarded a scrum and used the possession to set up a backs move. Despite some indifferent handling, Sam Meadham managed to rescue the situation and provide Chris Higgs with half a chance on the left wing. He seemed to be well covered but a sidestep wrong footed the defence and he cut through to score near the posts. Dan Retter added the conversion.

 

From the restart kick, St Austell once again kept the Chiefs pinned inside their own half until the fly half kicked a penalty to give his side a more comfortable lead. With time running out, the Chiefs desperate attempts to earn a bonus point only succeeded in gifting one to St Austell with an interception for a fourth try. The successful conversion was the last decisive act of the game.