Cockles lose at Maidenhead despite being the better side throughout the first half
PUBLISHED: 10:21 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:21 07 January 2020
Exmouth suffered a 44-27 defeat when they travelled up the M5 and M4 to Maidenhead for their first South West Premier game of 2020, but, for the first half of the match the Cockles had enjoyed near total dominance and led 20-7 at the break.
With the home side sitting second in the table, the Cockles were under no illusions as to the size of the task in Berkshire.
However, they made a confident start and it was no more than they deserved when Matt Ryan crossed the home whitewash and a George Meadows conversion saw the Cockles into an eighth minute 7-0 lead.
It was somewhat against the run of play when the home side drew level with a penalty try and, to add to the Cockles woe with the equalising score, they lost Ryan to a yellow card, handed out after he had been adjudged to have muscled the home player off the ball as it ran over the try line!
Despite being a man light, the Cockles snuffed out several attacks and gained great field position with intelligent play.
Nick Headley looked sharp, breaking the gain line, but was hauled down close to the line before, on 25 minutes; George Meadows put the Cockles back in front with a well executed drop goal.
Ten minutes later, following several smart phases of play, the Cockles won a lineout on the Maidenhead 22 metre line.
Ben Hawley, who was dominant in the air all afternoon, took the ball for the forward pack to drive 22 metres for Dan Armstrong to touch down and another Meadows conversion increased the Cockles lead to one of 10 points at 17-7.
With two minutes remaining in the first period, Meadows kicked another penalty and Cockles skipper James Harris led his side back to the Maidenhead dressing rooms with a 20-7 lead.
During the break, former England and British Lions player Will Greenwood said what he had to say to the home side and, a blistering start to the second half by the hosts changed the whole dynamic of the contest!
Tries on 43, 45 and 48 minutes by Niall Crossley, Scott Prince and Ben Mitchell, all converted by Will Runciman, saw the home side into a 28-20 advantage.
In part, the Cockles were the architects of the reverse, with a couple of missed clearance touch kicks and missed tackles and the combined result of all this was broken field play that was defended poorly.
There was a chance of three more points for the Cockles, but a Meadows penalty drifted just wide before, on the hour mark, Runciman kicked the first of three penalties.
A Ben Mitchell try followed by another Runciman conversion added to the score-line, but the Cockles did have the final say when a smart stepping run took Jack Downie over the try line and a Meadows conversion closed out the scoring in the game.
So the Cockles were left to lick their wounds on the long coach journey home. They will have reflected on a game in which they had contributed plenty, but they got no return for their honest endeavour - and the fact that the 'Greenwood factor' during the break clearly had an impact on proceedings!
This Saturday (January 11) the Cockles are in home action when they entertain one of the two teams to sit below them in the table - Newbury Blues.