Bideford RFC 2nd XV (10) v Sidmouth RFC 2nd XV (29)

On a dry yet overcast February afternoon Sidmouth made the long journey north to Bideford. The large pitch was in good condition considering the recent weather which benefited Sidmouth; as it gave the men in green the opportunity to play an expansive offloading style of play.
It didn’t take long for the expansive style to pay dividends. Quick handling and a succession of clean effective clear-outs at the breakdown involving both forwards and backs was eventually finished off by Ryan Davies; unfortunately, the conversion by Adam Squance was unsuccessful.
Squance was soon back in the thick of the action scoring an excellent solo try. The fly-half broke clear from near halfway and succeeded in evading the attention of five would be tacklers before dotting down under the posts. The conversion was a mere formality and opened up a twelve-point lead in as many minutes for the visitors.
Sidmouth were soon back on the attack and despite missing a few half chances quickly extended their lead by a further twelve points. The third try of the game went to Asa Unsworth who dived over in the left corner following a slick handling move and a spell of intense pressure; Squance couldn’t quite convert from near the touchline. The fourth and bonus point try was scored by centre Jake Watts; this time Squance was on target with his conversion.
The opening half hour had seen Sidmouth dominate both possession and territory and score four unanswered tries. The only area where Bideford had an advantage was at the scrum; their size and power on two occasions lead to stealing the ball on Sidmouth’s put-in. Late in the half Bideford used their scrummaging superiority to good effect, a solid centre field scrum in the Sidmouth 22 provided the platform for the Bideford backs to score in the right corner; the tricky conversion was missed. This left the half-time score at 5-24.
The opening stages of the second half were rather scrappy in more ways than one. Neither side could maintain a foothold territorially or via continued possession as both sides cancelled each other out; frustrations eventually boiled over and a minor bout of fisticuffs ensued allowing Bideford to take play into the Sidmouth 22. The home side set up camp deep in Sidmouth’s half of the field and stayed there for nearly 15 minutes. The Sidmouth defence held firm under sustained pressure but could not break free; a couple of missed penalty kicks to touch and decisions to run instead of kicking clear allowed Bideford to intensify their long spell of pressure. A second bout of fisticuffs and a constantly improving performance by the home side kept Sidmouth’s defence under pressure. The relentless pressure did eventually tell as the home side doubled their score; the outside centre touching down for an unconverted try. Sidmouth had been defending for the best part of 20-25 minutes by this stage so should be proud of their efforts as many sides would likely have conceded a try much sooner than that.
The Bideford supporters were starting to believe a comeback was on the cards but Sidmouth soon put pay to that notion following the restart. Sidmouth turned the ball over at a ruck near the Bideford 22 and following a few quick rucks Aaron Down broke free and scuttled over the line; Squance missed the conversion but the try had clearly deflated the believe of those supporting Bideford. The final five minutes of the game saw Sidmouth continue their expansive offloading style of play which had worked well throughout; unfortunately, on this occasion the gaps in the tired Bideford defence couldn’t be exploited fully. The final whistle was blown with the score line at 10-29 in favour of the travelling Sidmouth contingent.
Sidmouth were very good value for their victory. An excellent first half display of clinical attacking was backed up with an equally solid defensive effort; Bideford by their own admission had to work extremely hard for their 10 points which is a credit to the Sidmouth defence. There are a few minor points regarding decision making including when to run from deep which will need addressing, especially when against stronger and fitter opposition but in general Sidmouth should be very proud of their performance.