Bargent try double cannot prevent another Cockles away defeat
PUBLISHED: 14:00 05 November 2018
Exmouth ultimately suffered a third away defeat of the season when beaten 25-21 at Barnstaple, but a superb opening 15 minutes from Cockles, indicated that they had travelled with intent.
A trip to Barum was never going to be an easy ride and so it proved! However, it all began so well and just two minutes into the contest Cockles’ centre Mark Wathes sliced open the home defence, mixing strength and pace to score a try and a successful Tom Whelan conversion saw the visitors lead 7-0.
Exmouth were in bullish mood for the initial quarter and did not let the hosts settle, a tactic that seemed to disrupt a very good Barnstaple team.
However, momentum began to swing in favour of the home side. The Cockles defence held firm until the 22nd minute when the referee decided Exmouth had buckled at the scrum intentionally and walked under for a penalty try to level things up at 7-all.
From the days outing the high penalty count against Exmouth was a disturbing feature! The Cockles could not get in to any rhythm and the hosts went to 10-7 from just such an infringement and a successful Jake Murphy kick made it 10-7. The higher than average penalty count resumed and, with half-time beckoning, Murphy rifled another kick between the posts and there was still time for Barum to bag a try through Ryan Lee, converted by Murphy for the home side to troop of at the break with a 20-7 advantage.
The Cockles suffered combative injuries during the first half that led Shane Cooper and Mike Richards being replaced by Charlie Tribble and James Harris.
Whilst Exmouth did lose some weight in the forwards this helped to speed up the forward pack. The Cockles were quickly into their stride from the re-start with Dave Bargent scoring the first of a brace of second half tries and a successful Tom Whelan conversion reduced the deficit to one of six points at 20-14.
Back came Barnstaple as the Cockles’ trademark tough defence was breached with a try from Matt Gohl to extend the home lead to one of 25-14.
However, the Cockles were not done, but they find it difficult to break down the Barnstaple defensive line and their penalty count working against them.
After several phases, Bargent scored again, followed by a Whelan conversion that closed the gap to one of just four points.
Both teams then went in search of a bonus point fourth try. Barum had another three point opportunity that they missed. The Cockles’ heart and determination was such they did try to work up-field to get in to score position. Let down by lost ball turned over, counter attack and penalties, the experienced Barnstaple team marshalled the last three minutes well before they eventually put the ball away to touch to seal a narrow success.
Exmouth walked away with a well-deserved losing bonus point on the road. However, head coach Steve Perry and his work hard squad will know that this game could have, indeed, should have, provided a rare away win for them. That said, the travelling faithful saw an encouraging performance from committed players.