Cockles edged out in close contest at the home of title chasing outfit Barnstaple
PUBLISHED: 08:26 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:26 11 February 2020
Exmouth gave a really good account of themselves before succumbing to a 22-10 at the home of South West Premier title-chasing Barnstaple.
Given that Barum had suffered something of a surprise in their previous outing - a rare defeat at Exeter University - the Cockles travelled to North Devon expecting a tough encounter.
Barnstaple struck first with an unconverted eighth minute try from Haydn Lidstone and, seven minutes later, they added to that early scored with a Kyle Spear try and a Kyran McManus conversion to move into a 12-0 lead.
However, despite being behind on the score board, what was very evident was that the Cockles held the upper hand in the scrum, although, and somewhat uncharacteristically, their line-out was misfiring!
But for an unsteady first 15 minutes from the Cockles rear guard, both defences were solid and both teams suffered the wrath of the match referee with yellow cards issued to Alex Goldman and then Matt Grohl, both for technical offences, to leave the two teams a man light for 10 minute spells.
The Cockles ended the first half in the ascendency and their persistence paid off when, from another strong forward drive, Steve Pape crashed over to leave the half-time score at 12-5 in favour of the home side.
Six minutes into the second half the Cockles had the chance to close the gap further, but, n an afternoon when the strong wind made kicking very difficult, the wind dragged the George Meadows effort wide.
Fifteen minutes into the second period Barum scored another try to move into a 17-5 lead, but, despite being a dozen points in arrears, the Cockles were very much 'in the game'.
They went close to adding to their score a number of times, particularly when, in one blistering break, Henry Goldson was brought down close to line. Although he acrobatically got the ball down, he was adjudged to have his foot in touch by the home linesman.
A similar act of acrobatics saw Dave Bargent reach over out wide for his try and suddenly the gap between the teams was down to one of seven points at 17-10.
The Cockles found a new gear and Shane Cooper, Charlie Tribble and James Harris came to the fore putting the home side under intense pressure.
Sam Whitehead, from replacement full back, looked to create something for his team as he found the reserves of energy to launch a final attack. With a couple of minutes on the clock it looked like Exmouth were heading for a, well deserved, losing bonus point.
Unfortunately, a loose kick downfield was gathered and returned virtually unopposed by Josh Davis, 22-10 and that was that - game over!
The Cockles showed real fight, quicker tempo and great phases throughout the game and another large band of travelling Exmouth supporters would have been pleased with the spirt shown by the Cockles in North Devon.
Skipper Jack Fahy will be keen to regroup his men for the challenge of bottom side Bracknell who visit the Imperial Ground this Saturday (February 15).
The Cockles owe Saturday's visitors one having lost the meeting earlier this season up in Berkshire when they were beaten, albeit in the most atrocious of playing conditions.
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