Chiefs leave it too late against Clevedon

 SIDMOUTH 1st XV 31 v CLEVEDON 1st XV 33

The Chiefs will look back on this result with disappointment, having run last season’s third placed team so close in a thrilling fight back. But in the end they left themselves too much to do after some untidy play in their own 22 and the concession of too many penalties had put Clevedon in the driving seat for the first hour.

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A much-changed pack performed superbly against more experienced rivals, gaining superiority in the scrums and parity in the lineouts. The possession gained gave the Jason Luff inspired backline plenty of attacking opportunities. Player-coach Luff was involved in all five tries in a classy performance at fly half.

The Chiefs could not have made a better start when they stole the ball from a Clevedon lineout in the second minute. Jason Luff threw out a long pass to Tom Hodge on the right wing. He sprinted up the touchline before passing inside for Chris Higgs to finish off the move. The try was unconverted.

The good work was undone straight from the restart, when poor handling inside the 22 put the visitors on the attack. The Chiefs gave away three penalties in succession before a quick tap sent the number 4 charging over for a converted try.

Two minutes later the Chiefs were back in front. When Lewis Tollerfield provided quick ball from a lineout, Jason Luff made a clean break and drew the full back to send Chris Higgs clear under the post. Matt Goss added the conversion.

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Again the lead was short-lived as more indecision in the 22 led to the concession of a penalty. Clevedon kicked to the corner, where the hooker dived over following a move around the front of the resulting lineout. The number 12 converted from wide out.

As the Chiefs conceded a succession of penalties, Clevedon took control with two more tries as the half progressed. The left winger finished off a counterattack started by the full back with a surging run down the middle. Then the number eight peeled around the back of a lineout to power his way over. Both tries were converted.

The Chiefs reduced the deficit with an excellent try just before half time. The industrious Lewis Tollerfield snapped up a loose ball on halfway and drove forward to set up a quick ruck. The ball moved to the backs where Luff made a half break before transferring the ball along the back line. Tom Seward took an inside pass to break clear and score an unconverted try, making the score 17-28 at the break.

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The Chiefs created a great opportunity in the first minute of the second half, when Luff and Seward combined to take play from one 22 to the other. But, with plenty of support on hand, a knock on ended the move. Clevedon then took control for much of the third quarter. When Tristan Beavis was yellow carded after the referee had lost patience with the accumulation of penalties, Clevedon took advantage of the extra man to put the left winger over for his second try following a quick tap penalty.

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Sidmouth produced a barnstorming last ten minutes to earn themselves two bonus points. Chris Higgs scored his hat trick when he broke through the centre to touch down under the posts after the forwards had done the hard yards to create the position. Then, in injury time, Jason Luff forced his way over from a quick tap penalty after a Sam Meadham run had taken play deep into the 22. Both tries were converted by Matt Goss.

The Dukes man-of-the-match award went to Lewis Tollerfield, who was making his debut in league rugby.