Sidmouth Quins finish home games on a high
By Philip Evans
14th Apr 2022 | Rugby
By MARK BISHOP
Sidmouth Quins 38-15 Devonport Services Pilgrims
What a difference a week makes!
After last week's disappointing result at Crediton, Sidmouth welcomed Devonport Services to the Blackmore. The Quins were keen to make up for the below-par performance from the week before, but knew that a tough task lay ahead of them, with their opponents sitting three places and 20 points higher in Devon Merit Table 1.
With the colts having finished their season, numbers were bolstered again, and skipper Tom Butler had the unenviable task of selecting 23 players from the 30-plus that were available. He settled on a mixture of youth and experience, selecting five over 35s and six colts with 22 years separating the oldest and youngest Sidmouth players!
After 10 minutes of stalemate, with both teams proving strong in attack and defence, the Devonport midfield strayed offside at a scrum and Adam Squance converted a penalty from the ten-metre line to give Sidmouth first blood. Throughout the match, the scrums were unrecognisable from the week before, with the experienced Sidmouth front row of Otway, Barratt and Ewings making life difficult for their opposite numbers throughout the game. The solid foundation provided scrum-half Archie Bagwell with a much more comfortable ride than he had at Crediton, enabling him to provide front foot ball for the backs to attack with.
Services hit back almost immediately, when Sidmouth failed to secure the kick-off and the Devonport back-row, who were like seagulls over a pasty all game, descended on Bagwell, forcing Sidmouth to concede a penalty in front of the posts. 3-3
Not to be deterred, Sidmouth were straight back on the attack and should have had a try (instead of an early entry in the fines book!) shortly afterwards. Services conceded a penalty on halfway, Glenn Channing kicked into the Devonport 22 to set up a Sidmouth lineout.
As they have done all season (and for a few before that) Neil Barratt and Tom Butler combined at the lineout, Bagwell moved the ball to Channing who spotted a gap in the defence, engaged second gear and headed for the posts.
When he was brought down by the cover defence, he found debutant Number 8 Tain Benson in support. He was tackled just short, but from the ensuing ruck, Sidmouth had an overlap on the left wing. Bagwell found veteran full-back Mark Bishop faced with the tough decision of scoring himself or passing to Squance for a simple run in, but sometimes having too much time is a bad thing, as Bishop (always one to put the team before personal glory) was caught in two minds. His attempted pass slipped out of his hands, Squance's reach and straight into touch, much to the dismay of all concerned and to the vocal amusement of the Services defence and support.
Five minutes later Devonport rubbed salt into the wound by taking the lead against the run of play when their centre intercepted a loose ball on the 10-metre line and ran in unopposed. The try was converted to make it 10-3.
With Sidmouth edging the forward battle, Butler spoiling plenty of Devonport lineout ball, Will Cockayne-Cotrell, Tain Benson and Matt Ewings consistently breaking the gain line at first receiver, and the fringe defence frequently sending their Devonport counterparts backwards with Ryan Davies and James Perchard-Richards leading the way, it was only a matter of time before the Quins crossed the whitewash. They did so after 25 minutes, when quick ball on half-way was moved wide to winger Ollie Perez, who went on a typically direct run to score in the corner despite the attention of two tacklers. The conversion was missed making the score 10-8 to Services with 10 minutes to go in the first half.
The score-line certainly didn't reflect possession and territory statistics, with Sidmouth spending long periods of time camped in the Devonport half. When Services did gain possession and tried to make ground through their dangerous centres and full-back, they were met by the solid green wall of Gabe Cortinhas and Kade Hayman in the centres, who frequently stopped their opposite numbers behind the gain-line and forced handling errors to break up the momentum.
It was following one of these periods of defensive pressure that Sidmouth took the lead with a real rugby purist's try. Good drift defence on half-way forced the Services winger to chip ahead. His kick was gathered by Bishop on the edge of the Sidmouth 22. Keen to make up for his error earlier in the half, Bishop sent a kick straight out of the Henry Slade manual deep into the Devonport half, with the ball eventually rolling into touch 10 metres from the Services line for a 50:22 to give Sidmouth the lineout. True to form, Barratt found Butler, the forwards piled in to form the organised mass of bodies that only rugby fans can truly appreciate, and the green tank trundled over the Devonport line. Tain Benson eventually emerged from the pile of bodies with the ball and the first of what will no doubt be many senior tries. Squance added the conversion to make the half-time score 15-10 to Sidmouth.
Half-time saw Channing depart after his earlier dummy and break resulted in his hamstring becoming another victim for the Blackmore sniper. Often losing a player of Channing's class and organisational ability would have derailed the Quins, and it is credit to Gabe Cortinhas who, on his first senior start, stepped into the number 10 shirt and continued where Channing had left off, leading the line with organisation and composure. The resulting reshuffle saw the introduction of centre Lewis Hole for his first senior start and Tom Woodruff at full-back.
Sidmouth received the kick-off and good interplay between forwards and backs took play deep into the Devonport half. Powerful runs by Cockayne-Cotrell and Ryan Davies set up a ruck in midfield, before quick hands by the backs created the chance for Squance to power through two defenders to touch down in the corner. He added an excellent conversion from the touchline to put Sidmouth 22-10 ahead.
Sidmouth then lost winger Perez to a head injury and he was replaced by Noah Innes-Kruger, normally a flanker, but he coped admirably while playing out of position until his game too was ended by injury. Squance added another penalty shortly afterwards.
But Services were not done and dusted, and had their best period of the game, with multiple attacks and sustained possession eventually resulting in a try for their centre after a quick tap penalty caught Sidmouth napping, the conversion was successful - 25-15 and very much game on.
Sidmouth utilised their bench and replacement prop Ted Osborne, Hooker Yan Mercon, second-row Aaron Hodge and flanker Henry Thomas entered the fray. Thomas making an immediate impact doing his own seagull on a pasty impression, and winning a penalty on the Devonport 10 metre line which Squance converted.
Mercon had an impressive cameo, taking three hooks against the head and looking dangerous with ball in hand, Osborne has made a habit of an effective 'show and go' from the base of a ruck and scrummages and carries well and Hodge, having only started playing rugby this year, is improving week by week. All three have a bright future in senior rugby ahead of them.
Sidmouth extended their lead when a move from the training ground sent Lewis Hole through a gap in the defence, when he was brought down just short of the line, he had the presence of mind to offload 'out the back -door' to Woodruff who, never one to be accused of not using his head, cushioned the ball with his face before regathering to finish in the corner.
With the win secured and only a couple of minutes left on the clock, there was time for one more flourish from the men in green. Thomas caught the kick-off and set off on a 30-metre run through a couple of would-be tacklers, like every good back-row finding themselves in wide open spaces, he just about resisted the urge to kick ahead and instead set up a ruck on halfway.
A half break by Hayman, and a good carry from Osborne took play into the Devonport 22. Bagwell passed to Cortinhas, who tricked everyone (including himself) by failing to be looking the right way at the time and letting the ball go behind him, but little did his teammates (or the Devonport defence) know, it was all part of Gabe's plan as he regathered the ball and handed off the first two defenders before showing a good turn of pace to go over for his first senior try. This capped a fine individual performance that earned him man-of-the-match just ahead of second-row Will Cockayne-Cotrell and Tain Benson. Final score 38-10 to the Quins, a great way to end the home league fixtures for the season.
This Saturday the Quins travel to Cullompton looking for a win to take them closer to a finish in the top half of the Merit Table in their first season in the top division.