Evening everyone and a much shorter blog than usual, been too busy in the real world. We kick off though with an unexpected date for the Chiefs who were supposed to be resting, What I should be doing to be honest roll-on May, but unfortunately for them they are having to travel all the way to Herefordshire to Mortimer Park and a date with the Luctonians. Massive game for Athletic as they prepare to take on League leaders Tavistock here at Pottington Road. Joining them here at home is the Buccaneers who take on Tiverton Athletic as they attempt to cement their spot at the top of the Merit table before they visit Exeter Saracens next weekend. Talking about the Bucc’s congratulations on becoming Sanford Orchards Devon team of the month for January.
Now before we begin a huge shout to the hard-working grounds team John, Tim and Dave who last week put in a massive effort of over 6 hours starting a 10am and going right through to the day with what can only be described as a pneumatic aerator. This machine essentially spikes the soil with 8 inch long rods and shots air into the soil that ruptures the soil helping to dry out the pitch and make it playable for last Saturdays game. A monotonous job but one that was urgently needed and boy did they come through for us.
Also 6 nations on the big screen today with the big one, quite possibly the 6 nations decider this early in the tournament, Ireland v France at 2.15. Shown live here at the club. That will be followed by Scotland v Wales at 4.45pm.
I expect many of you went home feeling a bit disappointed like me after the Chiefs were beaten by the Hornets 12-24 on Saturday. I can’t explain what the difference between the two Saturdays was, but we seemed to perform better against the Dings than we did against Hornets. Granted the Hornets defence really worked hard to keep the Barnstaple attacks at bay, but the fluency of two weeks ago was just not there and although there was some good rugby played by the Chiefs at times it didn’t feel consistent enough to grab the win. We did find it hard to break down the Hornets defence that’s for sure. Even a short lineout which looked odds on for a try until called to have not gone the requisite 5 yards, which to my eye looked harsh, was at a pivotal point early in the second half, which might have raised their confidence and the supporters voices to change gear for the final half of the game, really did sum up Barnstaple’s day out there. Too many penalties for sure and just the attacks not gelling as they did the previous week. One thing is for sure we are not scoring enough points, currently the lowest scoring team in the league.
That and the result between Newport (Salop) and Dings, with Newport grabbing a stunning 32-26 win, yeah go figure that result, and try this one for size Old Redcliffians beating Exeter Uni 20-30 in Exeter, what happened, please someone explain it to me. Just one of those weeks I suppose, but it does mean that Barnstaple are back in a dog fight at the bottom of the table as they have dropped to Twelfth just 3 points away from the relegation zone with the two below still to visit Pottington Road.
So, a very strange week for all playing and this weekend is no different as the Chiefs were hoping to have a lie-in but instead it’s an early rise and long trek to Luctonians who are currently 8th in the league with 9 wins to their name. They are also very stingy team, only conceding 273 points this season, the lowest in the league. Another very difficult away trip for the Chiefs but one they will have to be very patient about as this game will be all about the defence and keeping cool heads out there.
There are several changes to last week’s team as Connor Swan is recalled to the wing and Dan Johnson is back starting at 12. Tom Petty replaces Martinas who as many of you saw had to be helped off the pitch last weekend which was a big blow and sorry I have no update on his condition. Barnstaple also welcome new signing Fraser Felton who joins the Chiefs on a transfer from Ivybridge and with Dylan Gosling and Tyler Gordon-Oke unavailable this week it’s all change at the half backs. Here then is the Chiefs to take on Luctonians
ATHLETIC AND Buccaneers
A big day for Barnstaple Athletic and a very important one as they welcome runaway league leaders Tavistock to Pottington Road. Tavistock lead the Counties 2 Tribute Devon league by a massive 17 points losing only once this season, to third placed Withycombe back last October, since then they have had a perfect run with only a couple of teams almost causing them upset with the closest being 2nd placed Torquay who lost by just a single point in a tight game at Tavistock. Barnstaple too, have had a close game against the visitors losing at Tavistock 17-8.
Therefore, catching Tavistock really is out of the question, the mathematics of probability suggests as such, but what is possible is that 2nd place in the league and any points Barnstaple Athletic can get today, preferably the win which I do think they are capable of, will be a massive nod in that direction with just eight points between Barnstaple and Torquay, with the two of them meeting here at Pottington Road Next Saturday.
So, the win here would be massive to that end and the team to try and accomplish that in what will be their biggest game to date is includes Jake Patrick and also returning is Troy Willis who has been out of action for a number of weeks. Here then is the team to take on Tavistock.
Also at home today is the Bucc’s who’s winning season on their return to playing rugby just keeps getting sweeter game by game. Two weeks ago, they done a number on Bideford, beating them in their own backyard 5-34, to take a 4 point lead at the top of the Merit table. Today they welcome Tiverton Athletic to Pottington Road and every game counts, as we count down the season, with the Bucc’s playing their final game of 2022/23 against their closest rivals for the crown and the only team to have beat them this season Exeter Engineers in the final game of the season here at Pottington Road on March 25th. So big score lines and bonus point wins are a must for the next four games before that one and that begins here today against Tiverton.
Well that’s be all done and dusted for the weekend, just one final note and that is good luck to Danny Southworth who is starting for the Exeter Chiefs in this Sunday’s Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final against Sale Sharks at Sandy Park, knowing they are just one game away from booking their place in the first major final of the season.
Good luck to all out teams playing today and I’ll catch up with you all next weekend.