SIDMOUTH 1st XV 19pts v CULLOMPTON 1st XV 14pts

The Chiefs claimed East Devon bragging rights for the season by completing the double in this local derby. This first South West League win at Stafford Park will be an important confidence booster, going into the New Year, following the disappointing performance against Wadebridge Camels.

Matches are always close between these two well-matched rivals, and this was no exception. Defences dominated a game in which try scoring opportunities were at a premium. The Chiefs have been guilty of losing concentration during the last quarter of closely contested games. On this occasion they kept their composure well to capitalise on the accurate goal-kicking of Tom Whelan, who slotted five kicks out of six attempts.

Sidmouth kicked off in good conditions and kept Cullompton pinned in their own half for much of the first quarter. They were eventually rewarded when Jack Pyne peeled off a maul, following a lineout catch-and-drive, to dive over. Tom Whelan added the conversion.

Cullompton began to gain some momentum as the half progressed. When the Chiefs lost possession in a tackle, Cullompton gradually built up pressure down the right before a diagonal kick found the full back in space on the left to gather and run in for an unconverted try.

At halftime the match remained evenly poised at 7-5.

Three minutes into the second half Ben Turner and a Cullompton forward were yellow carded for fighting. The penalty went Cullompton’s way and it was successfully converted to give them the lead.

A rare try scoring opportunity presented itself a few minutes later, when a kick was charged down inside the Cullompton 22. Unfortunately Sam Richardson could not gather the rebound. However, he soon made amends when he burst over the gain line to set up an attack, which was carried on by Jack Pyne and James Perry. When he was eventually stopped, a defender was penalised at the resulting ruck and Tom Whelan kicked the goal to restore the lead.

The home side soon got their noses back in front with a similar effort at the other end. In previous games this would have the point at which the Chiefs dropped their guard, but not this time. The forwards kept a tight grip up front and DanRetter’s positional kicking was supported by some determined chasing and tackling. The pressure was rewarded with penalties. Whelan regained the lead with a long range effort midway through the half. He added another to ensure a try would be needed to close the gap. Then, with ten minutes to go, another long range effort put his side two scores ahead.

Cullompton launched a sustained assault but determined defence kept the line intact, and they had to be content with a penalty to ensure a losing bonus point. The Chiefs played out the remaining few minutes safely in the Cullompton half.