Chris Bentley on all things Cockles and Exeter Chiefs

PUBLISHED: 19:18 22 April 2015 | UPDATED: 19:18 22 April 2015

Chris Bentley in action for Exeter Chiefs

Chris Bentley in action for Exeter Chiefs

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My much publicised return to front line action with the Mighty Muff lasted all of a splendid five minutes.

A spirited and in-form Weston started strongly as the opening exchanges were fast and furious. All was going well in the game plan when we came to the first scrum.

As the Weston surge came on I braced and drove into them with all the scrummage might that has made me a legend in my own lunchtime.

It felt good as their surge was halted and driven back, but the cost for me was high, something again seemed to pop in my calf and I’m afraid my day was prematurely done.

The medical boffins think it relates to some misalignment in my back and have arranged a specialist realignment session for the offending vertebrae later in the week.

I really want to play in the big promotion play-off game against Barnes RFC and am doing my very best to sort the niggling injury. However, let’s examine the facts; I left Saturday’s game with Weston early doors, shortly after the highly influential Olly Pyne was injured off. Two senior players taken from the front line early in the first half replaced by a pair of boys not out of their teens (big congratulations to Olly Dawe on his senior debut).

The Cockles of last season would not have survived such a setback, but the Mighty Muff of 2015 simply shrugged of misfortune and powered on to a 31-7 victory. It is a mark of just how far this team has developed and matured this term.

Make no mistake, National League Division Two rugby is just one win away from Exmouth. It’s all there to be played for on Saturday when Barnes come to town. I’m led to understand that Barnes have close links with Cambridge University, indeed when I last played against them, in Taunton colours, Barnes fielded no less than five university Blues. Regardless of who they select, this is one the Mighty Muff should win.

It’s a chance for Exmouth to show the power of the 16th man. A full house at Sandy Park is a daunting challenge for any visiting team.

A Chiefs crowd in full cry are as much a 16th man as is The Shed to Gloucester. Opportunity then for Exmouth fans to turn out in force and make the Imperial Ground into a fortress of Mighty Muff rugby power.

Exmouth bosses have lowered the admission for Saturday’s big game to just £5 in an open invitation to the people of Exmouth. Barnes are good, but with the roar of a big Devon crowd behind us Exmouth can be better and together we can bring National League rugby back to the Imperial Ground next season. What an exciting and amazing climax to the climax of Elite Level rugby. With the Premiership taking a week off the stage was set for the semi-finals of both the European Champions and Challenge Cups.

Exeter’s ever-increasing travelling ‘Tribe’ made a colourful appearance at Kingsholm, indeed many Chiefs fans managed to infiltrate Gloucester’s infamous Shed.

In the event, it was a creditable effort from both Chiefs players and fans but just fell short as the Cherry and Whites kicked on to win the day and a place in the final to play Edinburgh on May 17.

The Champions Cup provided two titanic struggles between four of Europe’s big guns.

Leinster made a massive effort to hold the mighty Toulon to a tie at full time, forcing the Frenchmen into extra time.

The Irish were quite magnificent and simply refused to bow to Europe big-spending Toulon.

Chasing the win in extra time Leinster in full cry had an overlap and a flowing backs move racing down field. The score, and probably the game, was theirs for the winning when, in a moment of madness, Madigan threw a miss pass in an attempt to open the French side’s defence.

It was just the opportunity Brian Habana was waiting for. The South African Rocket pounced and Toulon’s narrow three point lead was extended with just 10 minutes to play.

Still refusing to surrender, the Irish dug deep and scored out wide closing to just five points with three minutes to play. The luck of the Irish was not to be, however, as Toulon hung on to win the day 25-20.

In the other semi-final Saracens made a great effort to overturn French Giants Clermont Auvergne. Sarries made a good effort with their kick and chase game but, losing 13 -9 came up short and were left to contemplate what might have been had they been just a little more adventurous.

It will be an all-French affair at Twickenham when Clermont face Toulon in the blue ribband European Cup Final on May 2.

The atmosphere of all four semi-final games was reported to be at fever pitch an hour before kick off; when the teams ran out to play the excitement and atmosphere went off the scale.

Which all goes to underline the growth of product rugby.

Exmouth will never contest a European Cup final, but we do have a big game of our own on Saturday when the Mighty Muff take on Barnes in a winner-takes-all promotion game at the Imperial Ground. I look forward to seeing you.

Until the next time

Stay safe

Enjoy your rugby

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