Exmouth versus Barnes - big match preview

Exmouth took on Weston at the Imperial Ground on Saturday. Ref exsp 3576-17-15SH. Picture: Simon Hor

Exmouth took on Weston at the Imperial Ground on Saturday. Ref exsp 3576-17-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

The Cockles go head-to-head with Barnes tomorrow (April 25) with the winners stepping up into National Two (S). Here we take a look at the visitor’s to the Imperial Ground where kick-off is 2.30pm.

So what is known about Barnes RFC?

They finished as runners-up in National League Three (London and South East), finishing seven points behind champions Bury St Edmonds who they beat 28-27 in their penultimate league outing on Saturday, April 18.

Barnes finished their league campaign with an 8-7 defeat at 11th placed Westcliff.

That defeat was the teams first since early December. Just a year before Barnes were, rather like last weekends hosts, in a desperate battle to stay in the division and only did so with a last day win.

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The point that Barnes got from the defeat at Westcliff meant that they pipped London Irish to the runners-up spot and that was sufficient to book their visit to the Imperial Ground for tomorrow’s big game.

In their league campaign Barnes won eight and lost five of their 13 fixtures. There is a supporters coach making then trip down to Devon and that should ensure a good atmosphere.

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Exmouth coach Jon Hill says: “Although we defeated Weston last Saturday to make sure we had home advantage, we did not set the world alight.

“What we need to focus on is what we are doing or should be doing – and how we do it better.

“I don’t see it as practical to change what we are doing just because we pick up something from a DVD.

Hill said his priority is making more of the chances created than the team have been doing in recent matches.

Scoring opportunities will probably be limited in the play-off game, so Exmouth cannot afford to be wasteful.

“Our completion rate in the opposition 22 needs to be better, something we have seen on a number of occasions this season,” said Hill.

“When we played Redingensians two weeks ago we spent lots of time in their 22 yet came away with nothing.

“They were not that much better than we were, but won 37-7.”

Last Saturday’s win over Weston ensured home advantage in the play-offs, which Hill regards as a massive advantage.

“We know from two years ago how important being at home as from the play-off game we won against Dorking,” said Hill.

“There are huge psychological effects in sport, and being at home is one of them.

“Familiarity with the surroundings, the crowd on your side and the shared memory of previous successes, such as ours against Dorking.

“Very few players have come into the club since we beat Dorking as the squad has largely stayed together over the past three years.”

Exmouth Journal columnist Chris Bentley only managed 15 minutes in the second row against Weston last Saturday before his tweaked calf muscle started to pull and he was subbed off.

Ollie Pyne in the back row took a hard landing in a tackle and was also replaced as a precaution.

Both should return along with centre Mark Wathes, who was rested against Weston after a hard season.

“With the exception of Nigel Berry, for whom it might be a week too soon, we should be at full strength,” said Hill.

Saturday’s match is all-pay under RFU rules and Exmouth have reduced admission prices to £5. Kick-off is at 2.30pm.

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