Cockles still have work to do after defeat at Newbury Blues
PUBLISHED: 19:11 16 April 2018 | UPDATED: 19:11 16 April 2018
Just seven days after reaching the heights to become only the fifth team to beat South West Premier champions Dings Crusaders, the Cockles slipped to a narrow 25-24 defeat on their visit to a Newbury Blues.
The Berkshire side began the day sitting third bottom, 10 points shy of the Cockles, but, at full-time, although Blues are still third bottom, they are now just five points behind the Cockles with both teams having just two games to play.
With just 15 minutes play, the Cockles looked on course to securing their South West Premier status as they held a 13 point advantage.
However, the home side hit back with a brace of tries inside four minutes and then won the game with their fourth and final try coming two minutes from time.
For the Cockles, in terms of individual performances, Henry Goldson, fresh from a fortnight away overseas, scored two tries and the other Exmouth try was scored by Tom Steer on his birthday, he a late call-up after Mark Wathes succumbed to illness.
Tom Whelan celebrated his recent engagement with some good kicking, slotting three conversions and one penalty.
In general play, Sam Richardson carried well, making good inroads into the Blues defensive territory and the ever-reliable duo, Dave Bargent and James Harris, were huge in the back row carrying and tackling everything that moved while Sam Fellows was outstanding at full-back. On the minus side, injuries led to the loss of influential prop Nick Hulse in the first half and Sam Richardson was left nursing a nasty knock to the face that ended his game prematurely.
Cockles head coach Jon Hill said after the game: “It was a tough and heartbreaking end to a promising performance on the road which means that the relegation battle continues for at least another week and most probably two.
“All other results went against us, and it is now important that we pick ourselves up and focus in on Lydney away next Saturday, which is now an absolute must-win game.
“After 60 minutes of today’s game we seemed to be coasting to victory, but somehow contrived to lose the game by the finest of margins, and offer Newbury a lifeline in their own battle for survival.
“An interception try for Newbury, which was against the run of play, a couple of missed penalty opportunities by ourselves, and a breakaway try for Newbury put us under pressure.”
He continued: “In the final five minutes we were held up over the line, had a good shout for a penalty try waved away, and then knocked on with the final play of the game, turning a very kickable penalty opportunity down in favour of a scrum.
“The players gave it their all, but too many errors closing out the game have been seriously damaging.”
As for the Man of the Match, Hill said: “For me it would be Sam Fellows, who I felt had his best game yet for the club.”
Looking ahead Hill said: “It’s a big training week ahead and, with numbers back in the county and the country, it’s now time to roll our sleeves up and go in search of a long overdue and much-needed away victory.
“Just to underline the closeness of the table positions, a win at Newbury would have sealed our place in the league; these are fine margins indeed.”
In other Cockles club news, the Nomads wrapped up the Devon Merit League table with a fine win over Sidmouth 2nds.
Cockles head coach Jon Hill said: “It has been a fine season for the Nomads, and Tinners and his team who have worked tirelessly to achieve the unthinkable in a league loaded with 2nd teams. A great achievement, and I would like to say a big well done to one and all involved with the team.”
This Saturday the Cockles head for already relegated Lanner for their away league game of the campaign. A Cockles win there and a defeat for Newbury Blues at Bournemouth, and the Cockles will be safe. The unthinkable is a defeat at Lanner combined with a Blues success and the Cockles’ survival will go to the final game of the season, the April 28 re-arranged home game against Camborne.