Exmouth pipped at the post

Exmouth 19pts, Barnstaple 23 Rhino Devon Senior Cup, final Exmouth and Barnstaple are the top sides in Devon outside the National Leagues so it was apt they should contest the final of the Devon Senior Cup at the Imperial Ground on Saturday. With their t

Exmouth 19pts,Barnstaple 23Rhino Devon Senior Cup, finalExmouth and Barnstaple are the top sides in Devon outside the National Leagues so it was apt they should contest the final of the Devon Senior Cup at the Imperial Ground on Saturday. With their two League contests all square, coming into the game there was little to choose between the two. By the end of the first quarter, though, the sides were chalk and cheese with Barnstaple totally dominant and Exmouth in for a long afternoon. The Cockles fought back and, at one point in the second half, took the lead and, had they turned the screw at that point, the result might have been different.The wind that has dogged the Imperial Ground for the past few weeks was again blowing in from the west, giving a slight advantage to Exmouth who faced up to the Barnstaple kick-off. Exmouth's Richard Cadywould tried to make his mark within minutes, but his drop-goal attempt never really looked on.A couple of penalties handed the initiative to Barum and with seven minutes on the clock they stunned the home supporters when Mark Galliford won a mauling contest with his opposite number and touched down in the corner. Barnstaple were calling most of the shots and applying a lot of pressure at scrums and line-outs.With 12 minutes gone Barnstaple were awarded a penalty ten metres out from the Exmouth line following a catch-and-drive move. Whilst the Cockles were re-grouping, quick thinking Barum scrum-half Dan Frost took a tap penalty and ran the short distance to the line virtually unopposed. Half-back partner Neil Giddy added the points for a 12-0 lead.When Giddy slotted another penalty from 30 metres out with 25 minutes played, the 15-point lead started to look out of reach to the Cockles. Forward Stuart Lowe joined the fray for the Cockles who, having spent most of the game in their own half, regained some control and started to run the ball. This change of tack quickly produced a spectacular try for Mark Wathes. The Cockles' skipper started the move in his own 22 and, with assistance from Garry Hooper, finished the move by scoring in the corner. For the remaining 10 minutes of the half, Exmouth wrested the game from Barnstaple with Dale Sleeman and Jack Downie going close. A Cadywould drop-goal, followed by a penalty right on time, closed the gap to four points.Exmouth restarted the second half and brought on Graham Smith, replacing Chris Strong in the back row. With ten minutes gone, the Cockles got ahead for the only time when Hooper made a break and, with his forwards in support, a driving maul took Exmouth over the line for Dale Sleeman to score.With a point between the two teams, the final was now living up to expectations. Referee Clare Daniels from the Somerset RRS sent Lowe to the sin bin five minutes later and the pressure from Barum was beginning to build. Barum full-back Paul Scheres started the move that ended with winger Matt Slee scoring in the corner and Barnstaple were back in the lead at 20-16. Marty Kerslake came on to replace Andrew Smith, a disallowed try added to the tension and with just eight minutes left to the final whistle the nerves started to jangle when Cadywould took his side to within a point with a well-taken drop-goal. Exmouth replacements Thomas Blampied and Barney Pasqual provided fresh legs and, when Barnstaple were penalised following the restart, the Cockles had an opportunity to create something.A moment of indiscipline cancelled this out when the penalty was reversed and Josh Squire slotted the penalty to increase the Barnstaple lead to four points.Barnstaple stood up to the final Exmouth onslaught and, when the referee brought the game to an end, both sides could congratulate themselves for having provided an exciting cup final. Exmouth will be looking to bounce back away to Clevedon this Saturday when a win will clinch promotion as South West Two league champions.Exmouth 0pts, Barnstaple 5Devon Merit TableFrom beginning to end this was a close-fought game with both sides showing respect for the other and few scoring opportunities.Early on Barum flanker Winston James made it to the try line from half way, only for the referee to rule he put a foot in touch.James was compensated moments later when he got close to the line again and this time the referee was satisfied he got the ball down the right side of it.The game was dominated by the forwards with Barnstaple making the early ground.Exmouth came back and pushed Barnstaple off their own ball to cheers from the home crowd. This wasn't a fast open affair with the ball seldom being spun wide but, when it was, Exmouth always looked the most likely to score. Lloyd Murrin stepped up to take the full-back berth and had an outstanding game. Some telling kicks cleared the Exmouth line and put Barnstaple under pressure.Coupled with some excellent footwork, Murrin was a contender for Man of the Match. This accolade went to Ben Waistell who appeared to be involved in just about every phase of the game.The second half was a repeat of the first but with Exmouth looking the more likely to score. Despite being reduced to 14 players when Lee Loveridge was ordered off, the last 10 minutes saw Exmouth pressing hard and going close to snatching victory.As in the previous encounter earlier in the season, the Barnstaple defence held firm.Although there was only the one score this was an excellent encounter between two committed sides who were a credit to themselves and their clubs. Joe Parkin once again controlled the game at scrum-half and older brother John gave a brave performance despite being troubled by an injury.Although some mixed form put paid to finishing in a play-off place, Exmouth have finished high enough in the table to get into the Plate, where they will meet Tavistock. The winner will go on to play in the final against either Bideford or Stonehouse.

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