Cockles make Bournemouth work hard for title-winning victory
PUBLISHED: 15:06 11 March 2019
Exmouth went down 41-10 on their visit to champions-in-waiting Bournemouth.
However, for a good hour of the contest in Hampshire, the Cockles were very much ‘in the game’ and making the home side work hard to try and get control of the match.
Just two minutes had gone when the home side missed what seemed a comfortable penalty kick and another excellent number of travelling faithful may have thought that ‘perhaps something special’ was set to happen for their side against a team who had won 20 of their previous 21 South West Premier fixtures this season.
Thirteen minutes after the ‘miss’, Grant Hancox tucked over two penalties in quick succession to give the hosts a 6-0 lead.
On 23 minutes, both sides were reduced to 14 men with a yellow card, Steve Pape of Exmouth and Joe Tarrant, forced to take a break together.
From the resultant penalty, that was awarded to Exmouth, Sam Whitehead duly slotted to close the deficit to one of three points.
The game was fast and furious and both teams squandered chances. Exmouth did have a series of penalties that were kicked to corner. Unfortunately, the line-out malfunctioned and the potential scoring opportunity squandered.
Having said that, some of the best defensive work, especially from skipper Jack Fahy and the industrious back row of O’Shaughnessy, Harris and Hawley, blocked the path of the home side.
George Meadows, at fly half, marshalled his backs to attack wide where they could, wings Goldson and Wathes with Dave Bargent made ground with some elusive running. Eventually, on 31 minutes, Bournemouth scrum half Sam Hardcastle spotted an opportunity close to the line and went over. Hancox slotted the conversion and the teams trooped off at the break with Bournemouth holding a 13-3 lead.
The Cockles made a bright start to the second period and, with the front row of Cooper, Halse and Tribble a good match for the home front row, it was no more than the Cockles deserved when, in the 51st minute, centre Nick Headley outsprinted the opposition to race 60 metres to score a try that full back Sam Whitehead converted, and the margin between the teams had shrunk to one of just three points.
However, on the hour mark the home side showed just why they have been so dominant in the South West Premier Division this season as they turned up the tempo and played some simple but patient and big hitting rugby, scoring four tries through Scott Chislett, Joe Reece, Ben Roberts and Sam Hardcastle, all converted by Hancox, to complete the scoring.
As good as they were, certainly in those final 20 minutes, Bournemouth were made to work for their success by a Cockles side that displayed grit, determination and guile.
However, the Cockles’ cause on the day was not helped by missed passes, turnovers, ball stripped and luckless bounce, all of which, combined with some plain ill fortune, consigned them to defeat.
Being penalised for competing at a 50/50 breakdown also seemed to be an issue on the day. Exmouth had to endure another 10-minute yellow for the unlucky Charlie Tribble.
From the bench, Will Ridout at hooker made some in roads to the final stages, and debutant winger Will Hockin showed fabulous pace to chase down a cross-field kick from Tom Whelan, only for it to bounce away and be cleared.
Congratulations to Bournemouth, who gained promotion as other results also went their way. More importantly for Exmouth, they retain their South West Premier League status with four games to go. Next up, the Cockles entertain Bracknell in two weeks, on Saturday, March 23. They follow that with a visit to Brixham on the final Saturday of the month.
The Cockles will push on to improve on their current fifth place and have so much still to play for before the campaign comes to an end next month.