Cockles fall to champions and now target play-offs for promotion place of their own.
PUBLISHED: 07:25 11 April 2013 | UPDATED: 07:25 11 April 2013
Exmouth 13, London Irish Wild Geese 36
In front of a bumper crowd this top of the table clash was an epic encounter between two quality rugby sides, sadly for the massed ranks of the home faithful, it was the classy visitors on top of their game that emerged victorious to secure the national Three (SW) title with two games to spare.
The Cockles played their part in a thrilling contest and they can now re-group and target a play-off berth.
The Wild Geese, who travelled down the night before, such was the importance of the game, started well taking an early lead with a penalty and converted try.
Exmouth struck back with two Andrew Powell penalties.
Exmouth looked strong in the tight and caused numerous problems for the visitors yet failed to capitalise on some good field position and the advantage of an extra man as the Irish had a man in the sin-bin!
In attack the visitors were sharp and physical in defence. When the Cockles made a mistake they were quick to take advantage, but the game flowed fro end-to-end throughout.
Exmouth took the lead with minutes of the half remaining a number of forward drives resulting in a try for Mike Wilson which Powell converted.
From the restart the unthinkable happened; a mix-up in defence allowing the visitors the softest of tries and conversion to head into the break with a 17-13 advantage.
The visitors made a dream start to the second half, and perhaps turned the game, with another converted try. The Cockles rallied well, but the visiting defence was equal to the best of the home efforts.
It was somewhat against the run of player and from a Cockles mistake that the visitors got their bonus point try.
Exmouth refused to lie down and used the bench to full effect. Sadly, when they got within metres of the try line, a mistake, or wrong option, became their undoing.
The visitors bagged a late converted try to give the final score a flattering look in their favour.
None the less they are worthy champions and will pay their trade in national two next season.
If the Cockles are to join them then it will be via the play-offs.
There remain two league games for the Cockles with a trip to Maidenhead and a home meeting with Malvern and with both sides already relegated it gives Exmouth a glorious opportunity of bonus point’s victories and a good points tally to ensure that home advantage is gained for those play-offs.