Withycombe came out on top in this highly anticipated return fixture against Exmouth Quins, winning a match full of intrigue by the narrow margin of 13-9.

Withies got the game off to a good start with some good pressure inside the Exmouth half. This pressure was converted into points with a Tom Cooke penalty after nine minutes.

Exmouth had an opportunity to level the scores a few minutes later with a penalty of their own, but with the ball sailing wide, the lead was maintained. A similar opportunity came and went for Withy too as the wind began to pick up around the Imperial Recreation Ground.

Exmouth eventually levelled out the scores through Rich Cadywould after 20 minutes. After putting his side level, the Exmouth flyhalf found himself in the sin bin shortly afterwards for an offence on the floor. The extra-man advantage didn’t last long as Withy’s Jake Prophett Oneill was also shown yellow four minutes later following a misjudged tackle deep in his 22’.

Spurred on by the loss of Withy’s centre, Exmouth turned on the pace, and thought they had scored from a quickly taken penalty, but with the ball held up, they were denied the try. Undeterred by this, they went again and earned themselves another penalty at the far end of the field around 5m out from the line. Another quickly taken penalty was the option as they darted towards the line, only to drop the ball going over it!

The Quins finally got themselves into the lead with a second penalty in front of the posts on 37 minutes by Sam Whitehead.

The first half action wasn’t done though as, following a second Withycombe yellow card, Exmouth began to further gain momentum as they slowly made their way deeper into the Withy half. However, with Mike Richards stripping the ball from the attacking players, he passed the ball out to Jake Prophett Oneill who made a break and made the marathon sprint to the line from halfway, the Exmouth defenders couldn’t quite keep up as Oneill’s outstretched arm placed the ball across the line to score. Tom Cooke’s conversion topped up the extra points to put Withycombe ahead at half time, the score 6-10.

With each team’s attacking skill being equalled by the opposing defence the game was deadlocked, albeit highly entertaining! Withy finally broke the scoring deadlock after the hour mark with a second Cooke penalty, extending the Withies’ lead to seven points.

Exmouth hit straight back though, once again from the boot of Cadywould to bring the score to 9-13.

The end-to-end action continued to keep the players and supporters on their feet and following a top team effort leading to a break from Callum Tose, Withy were back in the Exmouth 22’, but they were unable to capitalise on the territorial advantage and earn some points.

With just one minute left on the clock and with the Quins battling the Withy try line, co-captain Liam Cullen was sent to the sin bin. The numerical advantage looked to give the hosts the edge as they continued to inch closer to the line and scoring at the death.

The Withy defence was working as hard as it had throughout the entire game, but with a multiple-man overlap to the left at the ruck, it looked to be over, however with the ball carrier shipping the ball right instead, the ball landed in the hands of Withy’s Jason Farrant who immediately relieved the pressure with a speedy break down the line.

The infield pass didn’t quite make it’s intended target, but this proved irrelevant as the ball was knocked on by Exmouth in the tackle meaning the game was brought to an end in the most dramatic circumstances.

A perfectly fitting final few minutes for a true derby day classic – one that will be remembered for a number of seasons.

Exmouth Journal: