Evening folks and how great is it to get back to watching the Chiefs in action, so nice to see so many of you here yesterday and even the weather behaved itself despite the apparently ferocious wind, or rather that is how Exeter Uni described it on their twitter feed, bless them city folk. Anyway the result was not what we had hoped for but the performance was encouraging to say the least especially against a team that one of our dedicated supports quipped was in essence a full time team.
The game started off promisingly for the Chiefs who recovered their kick from the off and minutes later gave Will Topps a chance of some space to run into, but it was Exeter who pressed hardest in the first 30 minutes scoring two converted tries with Barnstaple at this point doing an awful lot of defending and just a Jake Murphy converted penalty giving the visitors a 3-14 lead. By now it became obvious that Exeter had probably one of the best no.10’s seen visiting Pottington road and was a real handful for Barnstaple’s defence.
Following another retrieved kick-off again by Dan Johnson the home side finally managed to apply the pressure and sure enough Exeter continued to give away successive penalties from which the Chiefs put on a masterclass of how to drive the maul from a lineout straight through the opposition, to give captain George Snell his and Barnstaple’s first try of the season. Four minutes later with the Chiefs game now flowing Tyler Gordon-Oke receiving in some space saw the gap to sprint through leaving the Exeter chaser floundering as he went over for Barnstaple’s second which Jake Murphy also converted to give the home side a 17-14 lead at the break.
The Chiefs were slow to get going in the second half as the Exeter fly half took full advantage of some sloppy tackling to run in their third try of the game to retake the lead. From here it was a fairly evenly fought second half with both sides committing too many penalties, firstly for the Chiefs having to defend their line continued to give up yards by not clearing properly and eventually a technical yellow for one penalty too many saw the Chiefs down to 14. It wasn’t long though before Exeter’s discipline cracked and a yellow for foul play dropped them to 14 just five minutes later with Jake Murphy retaking the lead 20-19 with the converted penalty. Exeter grabbed their bonus point try just a few minutes later and another conceded penalty by Exeter gave Jake Murphy the chance to reduce the lead to just one point 23-24 and all to play for in the last 15 minutes. The chiefs went for it and had several good positions from which to mount a challenge but good defending and missed passes and several penalties not going the way of the Chiefs, Exeter took one last chance to secure the game at the end of the match with a try in the corner which was converted to deny the Chiefs a very much earned bonus point.
There were a lot of positives especially in the scrum where I think we performed well and put them under some serious pressure at times, there was some really good cohension with the play although early on there was a few too many dropped balls, to be expected given the lack of pre-season matches and there was some really good running play. As with life though there is always some balance and there are areas to work on for the team, in particular territory, the Chiefs need to improve their kicking in order to secure territory and keep plenty of possession in the opponents half rather than our own and put them under pressure. When the Chiefs did that against Exeter the visitors quickly cracked giving up plenty of penalties of their own. All in All though in was a really good performance by the Chiefs, in an entertaining match to start the season off with, who nearly grabbed a win but at least deserved a losing bonus point for the way they played only to be denied at the end by a very well taken conversion.
Next week the Chiefs are on a short trip to Weston Super-Mare to take on the Hornets who went close up at Leicester Lions yesterday losing 28-17.
There was better news for the Tic’s who were away to Withycombe for their first league game and with 2 tries from Finn Hawkins and another from Connor Swan plus a conversion by Luke Knight they went away very happily with a 10-17 win. Just the tonic they needed to give them a big boost for the home game against Ivybridge Vandals, who lost at Exmouth 34-22, ready to avenge that loss last season.
That’s me done for now folks enjoy the week and lets try and get a big crowd down to Pottington Road to see the Tic’s first home league game.