On Saturday Wellington, with several enforced changes, travelled to the sunny Devon coast to take on a strong Sidmouth side, writes Allyn Chetland. Buoyed by the vocal encouragement of the 40 or so past players on their ‘away day’ the Red & Blacks put in a tremendous performance.
Playing down the slight slope Wellington started strongly from the kick off and pressured Sidmouth outside their 22. From the set piece the Welly eight set their stall out and drove their opponents back but somehow the home side managed to clear their lines and a misfield gave the greens promising position but Welly managed to turn over and clear.
Further Sidmouth pressure was again turned over and relieved by a good clearance kick to touch by scrum half Jenkinson.
The Sidmouth backs looked threatening with ball in hand but Welly’s defence was solid and kept forcing the greens to use the boot. From one such tactical kick full back Liam Simmons nicely cleared and the greens ran back but knocked on. The chiefs fielded the ball and looked to be exploiting the resulting space with the prospect of a score looking imminent but for some inexplicable reason the referee brought them back for a Welly put in.
Welly continually tried to keep the ball alive, occasionally rashly, but when they turned ball over in midfield they counter attacked and a good run by winger Hodgson was continued by hooker Joe Dyke who was up in support and eventually illegally stopped by Sidmouth. The penalty kick was put in the corner. The lineout throw went to Chris Kitto and the chiefs eight drove towards the line, slowly at first and then with growing momentum which the greens could not stop and Dyke dotted down for the 5pts. The conversion by Paddy Jarman hit the post and unfortunately bounced out.
Continued aggressive defence by the Welly midfield provided several turnover and counterattack opportunities all being just thwarted by the greens stretched defence. However on one of these counter attacks George Hodgson was put in the clear and juggled before he gained control but it did not touch the ground or another player but this was still judged to be a knock on. A harsh interpretation of law 12.
On 30mins more expansive play by Welly ended due to poor distribution and Sidmouth countered and pressured on the welly line. However great defence by Welly and a big regain by Ben Hayman who ran out and passed to Hodgson whose clearance kick ended up in the Sidmouth 22. Further Welly pressure resulted in another lineout 8mtrs out and another good take was followed by a slow forward rumble. The greens defence looked to be holding but Welly surged again and, although technically poor, Hayman broke from the back of the maul to power over in the corner. With the extras missed the score was 0-10 to Welly.
Wellington’s dominance at the scrum began to wane and Sidmouth actually took one from the Welly put in which Sidmouth capitalised with territory and possession. Welly were deemed to have infringed and Sidmouth elected to go for goal. The penalty attempt hit the post and from the ensuing breakdown in front the post the referee again adjudged that the chiefs infringed and awarded another penalty to Sidmouth. This time they converted and the half time whistle went with Welly leading 3-10.
After the restart there followed some adventurous exchanges by both teams but the solid midfield defence of both held firm.
On 50mins a Sidmouth lineout in the chiefs 22 which Welly stole and looked to attack up the hill but spilt the ball forward on halfway. From the scrum Sidmouth put in a fine kick to the Welly corner which was just dealt with by full back Simmons in time. From the lineout Sidmouth moved the ball wide and play broke down in front of the chiefs posts. The referee blew for a penalty to Sidmouth and, harshly, showed flanker Liam Phillips a yellow card. Sidmouth took the 3pts to make it 6-10 to Welly.
The chiefs had to dig deep and resolute defence managed to keep the greens out until Phillips returned. However, at the point of his reintroduction Sidmouth were awarded a penalty which they took quickly but were illegally impeded and Sam John was given a 10min break from events so the chiefs were immediately disadvantaged again.
Sidmouth used their extra man to effect and upped the tempo of the game which stretched the chiefs defence. On one such attack the chiefs were penalised for not rolling away and the penalty was awarded to Sidmouth, just to the left of the posts on the 22. Thankfully their effort went wide and the chiefs dropped out at the 22 to clear their lines.
There was then a passage of play in midfield where both teams were trying to re-exert their superiority. This ended with Welly putting together a great passage of play with Kitto, Dyke and Phillips to the fore ending with Welly over the Sidmouth line. However, the referee contentiously awarded a 5mtr scrum with a Sidmouth put in and from this they ran wide before a clearing kick to the Welly 22. This resulted in a period of pressure by Sidmouth and a break down the blind side in front of the clubhouse looked to have sent the winger over in the corner but thankfully he had put a foot into touch. From the lineout Welly caught and drove before kicking for touch but the ball was caught just in play on half way and Sidmouth started a counter but dropped the ball. From the scrum Sidmouth shunted Welly off of the ball and attached down the clubhouse side. At the breakdown Welly held the ball up and so had the put in from which there resulted a penalty to the chiefs with 30sec remaining. The kick made touch on the Sidmouth 10mtr line and the lineout was cleanly won by the chiefs and driven on a few meters before the ball was kicked to touch to bring an end to an enthralling encounter.
This was a wonderful team effort, the result of which probably surprised many. Although all dug deep to earn this victory the tenacity and bravery in defence was remarkable from 1 to 15 but there must be a mention for Kitto, Dyke, Phillips and Hooper all of whom had particularly good games and Dave Turney who must have the heart of ox to put in the shift that he did.
The challenge now is to take this into their must win home game against St Ives next week.