South West One (W) Sidmouth 16 - Cullompton 15

Following four wins away from home, including the first two league fixtures, Sidmouth 1st XV’s first game on the Blackmore was eagerly awaited by a large crowd. After a nail-biting finale, including ten minutes of extra time, they saw Sidmouth hang on to a one point advantage for a 16 -15 victory.

Cullompton began strongly and for the first ten minutes Sidmouth scarcely laid a hand on the ball. By this time Cullompton had scored a converted try and missed two penalty attempts. Tom Whelan reduced the arrears to 3 – 7 when Sidmouth were awarded a penalty. Then from a 25 metre scrum Sidmouth moved the ball right and strong finishing by Tom Seward earned him a try in the corner which, was well converted by Whelan for a 10 – 7 lead. A second penalty for Whelan was cancelled out by a successful kick by Cullompton bringing the score to 13 – 10.

At this point Sidmouth’s flanker Phil Spencer was shown a yellow card for a technical offence resulting in a torrid last ten minutes of the first half as, with their scrum unbalanced and their line-out options reduced, they struggled to gain possession. During this time they saw Cullompton take the lead with a try in the corner which was unconverted. Half time score 13-15.

Thirteen minutes into the second half Sidmouth regained the lead when Whelan converted his third penalty. As the tension increased so did the errors for both teams. Sidmouth’s, normally reliable, midfield handling let them down on a couple of occasions but at last they strung together a good move, from a line – out, which resulted in Sam Meadham being tackled into touch just short of the try line. A strong run by Tom Hodge through the centre also stretched Cullompton’s defence but again they were denied the decisive score. As the game moved into injury time Cullompton attacked strongly pinning Sidmouth to their own try line. Twice Chris Higgs brought off try saving tackles as the Sidmouth defence held firm for the narrowest of victories.

Unavailability had forced Sidmouth to reshuffle their front row and Matt Farringdon’s stoical performance in his less favoured position of hooker earned him the Sidmouth Man of the Match award.

Next week Sidmouth travel to Paignton where they will need to be on top of their game if they are to retain their status of joint league leaders.

C Dwerryhouse