SIDMOUTH 1st XV 25pts v WADEBRIDGE CAMELS 1st XV 22pts

The Chiefs have come through a tough opening to their Tribute South West One West league campaign with nine points from two wins on the road at venues where they shipped a total of 61 points last term. They came from behind at Wadebridge to record a narrow victory thanks to some desperate defence in the closing minutes, aided by the home side’s decision to go for a win rather than settle for a draw.

The game within a game was the battle to contain the rampaging runs of the influential Wadebridge captain. The powerful number eight certainly won round one when he stormed over for a try from close range in the third minute following a lineout near the line. However he was kept firmly in check for the remainder of the game by the combined efforts of Sam Richardson and Matt Goss in a pincer movement at the base of the scrum, where he was frequently knocked over behind the gain line.

In the broader picture, the Chiefs struck back with an equalising try five minutes later. A crunching tackle by Tom Seward knocked the ball loose to produce a turnover just inside the Wadebridge half. A fine piece of inter-passing down the left wing was finished off by Dan Trim.

Wadebridge dominated much of the remainder of the half thanks to a stiff diagonal breeze in their favour. They scored eleven unanswered points in the next 25 minutes with two penalties by the fly half either side of an unconverted try by the left winger on the end of a good handling move.

Tom Whelan closed the gap with a penalty following good breaks by Matt Goss and Jack Pyne to set up the position. His opposite number replied immediately with his third successful kick before the Chiefs finished the half strongly with a concerted assault on the home line. They failed to force their way over but Whelan kicked a penalty on the stroke of halftime to make the score 11-19.

The Chiefs were slow to take advantage of the conditions, and it was several minutes into the half before they were able to exert pressure inside the Wadebridge 22. Tom Whelan was brought down a couple of metres short of the line before Matt Goss pounced on a loose ball from a scrum to dive over. Unfortunately the referee had spotted another Sidmouth player offside. Goss was close again as he followed up a kick ahead but the ball just beat him to the deadball line.

Eventually the pressure paid off thanks to two moments of inspiration from Tom Whelan. First a dummy and sidestep took him through the first line of defence following a scrum 40 metres out. With both the full back and blindside winger out of position, he outpaced the cover to score near the posts. A few minutes later Tom Seward came off his wing to burst through the middle and into the 22. When he was stopped the ball was quickly recycled and Whelan dummied his way through a disorganised defence for a second try. He converted both to open up a six point lead.

The Wadebridge fly half closed the gap to three points with a penalty in the last minute of normal time. There followed fully 13 minutes of nerve-tingling injury time, as a combination of a comedy of errors and a tiring scrum opened the door for an onslaught on the Sidmouth line. Wadebridge were awarded three very kickable penalties, but decided to go for a try and the win. They were denied by a determined defence.