Sidmouth Quins defeated at Cullompton in closely contested game
By Mark Bishop
20th Apr 2022 | Rugby
Cullompton 2nds 41-29 Sidmouth Quins
Second team rugby is like a box of chocolates……you never know what you're going to get!
With 30 players available last week and no first team or Colts match, you would think that selection would've been a simple process. Alas, that is never the case where 2nd team rugby is concerned and with the captain's impassioned plea of "NEED BACKS" falling on deaf ears, it was with 15 forwards and 5 backs that the Quins set off for the short trip to Cullompton, to meet a side who had cancelled eight of their previous nine games due to lack of players. The metaphorical box of chocolates that greeted them came in the form of a Cullompton squad of 28! Their numbers bolstered by also not having a 1st team or Colts match and the usual Easter influx of students.
With a centre at fly-half, a flanker in the centre, a hooker on the wing and an innovative 5-0 forwards to backs split on the bench (made up to 5-1 with the arrival of last-minute recruit Ben West guesting from Withycombe and having played less than 24 hours earlier), the team selection had more than a tinge of Eddie Jones about it. However, as it turned out, the warm weather, hard ground and attritional nature of the contest made the bench laden with forwards look like a masterstroke!
Traditionally Easter rugby matches are back and forth affairs with running rugby the order of the day, and this one didn't disappoint, with the sides sharing 70 points and all three results possible until the closing minutes.
Sidmouth opened the scoring after 5 minutes when, following a lineout, Number 8 Ryan Davies (or should that be R-eye-an?!) powered over from close range for his first try for the Quins in four years. They nearly extended their lead five minutes later following a 50-metre break from Ffly-half Gabe Cortinhas, but when he was brought down by the last man, his attempted pass to Wing/Hooker Yan Mercon didn't quite go to hand.
Backs against the wall
The next 20 minutes was all Cullompton, the Quins with their backs against the wall unable to establish consistent defensive organisation and failing to clear their lines with the little possession they had, too often kicking into the hands of the Cullompton full-back and Wing who both relished the wide-open spaces afforded to them. However, it is credit to the Quins that despite the pressure, the scrambling defence was thwarting attack after attack, with centre Lewis Hole, flanker/centre James Salter and openside Henry Thomas to the fore. Hole in particular made more than one cover tackle on the dangerous Cully winger, and preventing another try by managing to hold man and ball up over the line.
Eventually the pressure did tell and Cullompton hit back with two tries. Firstly with a catch and drive move from a line-out, and then through a dubious score, when the ball was not hooked at a defensive Quins scrum and shot out of the tunnel meaning the scrum should be re-set, but with the referee unsighted, the Cullompton Number 7 picked up the loose ball a went in unopposed. 10-5 to Cullompton after 30 mins.
Sidmouth then lost influential flanker Connor Preston to an ankle injury, to be replaced by Will Thomas, and Mercon to a shoulder injury to be replaced by Ben West on the wing. West's first contribution was an excellent try saving tackle to prevent a near certain score in the corner.
Sidmouth took the lead against the run of play, when good work in the loose from Will Cockayne-Cotrell and Skipper Tom Butler gave them some impetus in midfield, Cortinhas found Hole right on the gain-line, he beat his man and rounded the full-back to score under the posts, Squance added the conversion.
Sidmouth really should have gone into half-time with the lead, but in stoppage time, they were the architects of their own downfall, when a lost line-out was compounded by some poor tackling to allow Cullompton to score in the corner, making the half-time score 17-12 to Cullompton.
A very different looking Cullompton side started the second half, but Sidmouth started well and were awarded a very kickable penalty on the Cully 22. With five points separating the teams, some of the older members of the Quins were looking towards Squance and his kicking tee for a safe three points, but Cortinhas had other ideas, taking the penalty quickly and sidestepping four men, before taking two tacklers over the line with him to tie up the scores. Ah the impetuousness of youth!
Cullompton hit back again with their replacement fly-half showing his class in creating an overlap on the right allowing their winger to score in the corner (22-17).
Sidmouth enjoying best period
But it was Sidmouth who were enjoying their best period of the game, the Thomas brothers and Davies in the back row were causing problems in the loose, and the introduction of veteran Pete Singfield into the second row adding both bulk and experience to the scrum, providing a good platform for Sidmouth to attack from. Following a sustained period of Quins pressure, Cullompton infringed, Squance kicked into the 22, Butler gathered the lineout, the thing of beauty that is a well-drilled rolling maul crashed over the line, with Hooker Asa Unsworth emerging from the pile with the ball to cap another good performance with a try. 22-22
Cullompton then opened up the biggest lead of the game with two tries in quick succession. The first, a well-worked pushover try from a lineout and the second when their centre benefitted from an absence of a TMO to score under the posts, making it 36-22 with 15 minutes to go.
But Sidmouth did not lie down, and gave themselves a chance of an unlikely win when a speculative pass bounced favourably into the arms of full-back Mark Bishop to exploit a gap in the defence. When he was pulled down just short of the line, he was able to offload out of the tackle to Hole who scored his second try. Squance added the conversion.
To add spice to the last 10 minutes, Cullompton had a man sin-binned for an infringement in the build-up to the try. With the score at 36-29 with ten minutes to go and 15 verses 14, what more do you want from Easter rugby?!
The Quins, with the momentum and the bit between their teeth, were straight back on the attack. Good breaks by replacement props Ted Osborne and Dan Payne took play into the Cully half. Davies, Scrum half Ed Polley and Russ Moore all went close to scoring, but the Cullompton defence held firm. Sidmouth had their best chance to tie the scores when Cullompton infringed at a ruck and Squance kicked into the 22. From the ensuing lineout Sidmouth formed another maul, the 10 Sidmouth forwards piled in and the green tank rolled towards the try line, but as the mass of bodies collapsed they unfortunately could not get the ball down.
There was a palpable sense of relief from Cullompton supporters and players alike, and when the fly-half's goal-line drop out was caught by the wind and ended up on the Sidmouth try-line, the danger was well and truly averted. Sidmouth were visibly deflated and the decisive score came when good interplay from the Cullompton backs and forwards coupled with tired green defence created an overlap on the left wing for their centre to score a try.
Final chance of the match
With five minutes left, another back injured on the side-lines and two flankers in the centres, Sidmouth could have given up, and it is to their credit that they created the final chance of the match. Henry Thomas forced an error on the Sidmouth 10 metre line and from the resulting scrum the Sidmouth pack pushed their counterparts back off the ball to earn a free kick, Polley found Hole who glided through a gap in the Cully defence and set off for the line for what would have been a well-deserved hat-trick. But if this was a box of chocolates, then this was Sidmouth's coffee cream, as Hole rounded the full-back the cover caught up and when his pass found Polley already being tackled as he received the ball, the chance of the last laugh went awry. The final whistle went with the final score 41-29 to Cullompton.
The overwhelming feeling in the Sidmouth side was that despite it being a great game of rugby and having several players out of position, this was one that got away. Man of the match went to Lewis Hole, who along with his two tries was impressive in attack and defence, and surely won't be in the 2ndteam for long (but we'll have him for as long as possible please!). Honourable mentions to Henry Thomas who was everywhere in the loose, Asa Unsworth with another typically combative performance, James Salter who has been trailblazing the flanker-come-centre position for years, Will Thomas who looked like he had never been away and Gabe Cortinhas who was making his first start at Fly-half and continues to make an impression in senior rugby.
Thanks as always to the backroom team of Boffer, Mike Dance, Jamie Wride and Mark Unsworth and all the travelling support.
This Saturday the Quins are on the coach to Barnstaple to end their Merit table 1 campaign with what is traditionally one of the hardest fixtures of any season. The coach leaves Drake's Avenue bus stop at 11.00am and any injured parties, supporters or those simply looking for an away day to North Devon are more than welcome to come along.