SIDMOUTH 1st XV 20pts v BERRY HILL 1st XV 15pts

The Chiefs halted their slide down the league table despite conceding a lot of possession, and three tries to two, thanks to landing four goal kicks out of four compared to the visitors none out of four. They also had to produce a very determined defensive effort as their line came under siege in the closing minutes.

Until this match, the Sidmouth forwards have more than held their own in he set pieces. However, enforced changes in the front row, compounded by the loss of hooker Cei Gardner in the tenth minute, were capitalised on by experienced opponents to dominate possession throughout. The scrum was constantly under pressure and Berry Hill won several against the head. In the lineouts, Phil Spencer put up a valiant effort, but they were always going to struggle if the throw failed to hit the target.

The Chiefs took an early lead with a Tom Whelan penalty before the departure of Gardner caused a major reshuffle of the pack. Despite the disruption, excellent positional kicking by Whelan, returning kicks with interest, together with Dan Retter and Barney Goss gave the Chiefs territorial advantage. Eventually they capitalised on this with a fine try. Quick possession from a lineout near the opposing 22 was moved swiftly along the backline to exploit space out wide. The move came to an end just short of the line but replacement flanker Rhys Thomas was on hand to apply the finishing touch. The try was converted by Whelan.

Towards the end of the half, a good period of pressure was rewarded with a Dan Retter drop goal. However there was just enough time for Berry Hill to launch their best attack of the half. They opened their account when the number eight drove over from the base of a five metre scrum. The conversion was unsuccessful making the half time score 13-5.

Soon after the restart, the Chief extended their lead when a series of rucks inside the Berry Hill 22 stretched the defence for Tristan Beavis to sprint through a gap for a try converted by Tom Whelan. In the process, Beavis sustained an injury, which forced him to limp off soon after. He was replaced by Jamie Wardrop, which necessitated a reshuffle of the backline. While the various players were adjusting their bearings, the Berry Hill backs capitalised on a strike against the head at a scrum near the Sidmouth line to create a try on the left wing.

As the half progressed, the visitors gained more control. With ten minutes to go they scored again when a forward peeled off a maul near the line to dive over in the corner. The closing stages were tense as Berry Hill camped inside the Sidmouth 22 and hammered away at the line. The defence held firm and the referee eventually called a halt to proceedings when a visitor knocked on a couple of metres short of the line.