Much changed Chiefs battle for bonus point against in-form Old Reds

 SIDMOUTH 1st XV 19  v   OLD REDCLIFFIANS 1st XV 24

Despite fielding a side with eight changes, including two positional, from the side which won at Thornbury, the Chiefs put up a creditable performance against in-form Old Redcliffians to earn a losing bonus point.

The early stages indicated a heavy defeat was on the cards. However, they produced a spirited rearguard action and late fight back inspired by a terrific performance by the backrow trio of Dukes Man-of-the Match Josh Bess, Jack Pyne and Jared Goodson.

Old Reds raced into the lead with 13 points in as many minutes. They had the Chiefs pinned inside their 22 straight from the kick off and after five minutes the fly half dummied his way over under the posts following a ruck near the line. He added the conversion, and followed up with two penalties as his side piled on the pressure.

With their first sight of the ball, the Sidmouth backs showed their potential with a fine move, which stretched the defence before Tom Whelan steadied the boat momentarily with a penalty.

The visitors were soon back on the attack and increased their lead with a try by the forwards from a lineout catch-and-drive play.

The Chiefs fought back with their best spell of the half. The backs and forwards combined to advance the ball 50 metres up field through a series of quick phases until Tom Whelan dummied his way over from 10 metres out. His conversion narrowed the gap to ten points before the Old Reds fly half kicked his third penalty to make the halftime score 10-21.

After the break, the Chiefs found some cohesion, and well-placed kicking by Whelan and Dan Retter kept them going forward. A drop goal by the latter and a penalty by the former gradually reduced the arrears. However, the Old Reds replacement fly half pulled back three points with a penalty midway through the half.

Chris Higgs produced a fine counterattacking run to put his side on the attack and, a few minutes later, was unlucky not to score when the ball rebounded from the base of a post as he followed up fast. He knocked on as he tried to gather an awkward bounce at shin height.

As the half progressed Old Reds enjoyed territorial advantage thanks to a powerful scrum in which they won three against the head in quick succession. Despite a period of sustained pressure, the Sidmouth defence held their discipline and their line intact. When they eventually broke the siege, Dan Retter kicked a penalty to close the gap to four points with just over a minute of normal time left.

There were several minutes of injury time played, which were spent with the Chiefs hammering away at the Old Reds line, but they could not get the winning score and had to be content with just a bonus point.