Cockles serve up superb first half and then it all goes horribly wrong

PUBLISHED: 12:07 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:07 10 December 2019

Action from the Cockles defeat at Exeter University. Picture ERFC

Action from the Cockles defeat at Exeter University. Picture ERFC

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Exmouth suffered a fifth defeat in six South West Premier outings when beaten 31-26 in a thrilling encounter at Exeter University.

In what was a 'scorching' 40 minute period of the game the Cockles were the dominant force in the contest.

There were three early penalties slotted with George Meadows putting two between the posts while the students got one themselves for the Cockles to hold an early 6-3 lead.

The first try of the game owed much to the Exmouth dominance in the scrum that saw the students pack driven back which created an opportunity for Nick Headley to cut through the student defences to score and a successful Meadows conversion left the Cockles holding a 13-3 advantage.

University looked to hit back, but they were thwarted time and time again by a combination of Lewis Geran, at centre, and Matt Ryan.

After several neat phases, the Cockles situation got even better as Ryan crossed the whitewash and another Meadows conversion meant that when the half-time whistle blew the Cockles were ale to troop off holding a 20-3 lead.

A feature of an impressive first half from the Cockles was a mix of tight and quick defence together with clinical finishing.

However, that was to be as good as it got for the travelling supporters who could be forgiven for suffering a sense of deja vu from the previous week!

The second half saw a mix of slipped tackles, penalties and injuries. The Cockles were also reduced to 14 men after a red card midway through the half. The Cockles cause was certainly hindered by unsighted physical knocks to George Meadows and Nick Halse which ended their contributions prematurely.

Halse left the field, from a particularly uncompromising hit, after a long period down on the artificial (4G) surface.

The students scored the first try of the second half. Meadows then slotted a penalty to make the score 23-10 before he limped out of the action as a result of his earlier hefty clattering!

The students took advantage of the changes in the Cockles ranks and ran in two tries to edge ahead at 24-23.

Exmouth replied with a long-range Sam Whitehead penalty to regain the lead at 26-24.

Then came a moment that arguably altered the outcome of the game for, when the Cockles again had the ball over the try line after a scrum drive with the returning James Harris touching down at the base of the scrum, the match official adjudged a knock-on. From the resultant scrum the Cockles were penalised as they pushed the students back again.

Eventually the home side broke through from close range to score their final try and conversion to take the game 31-26.

It was certainly a game of mixed emotions for the Cockles faithful with the disappointment the over riding emotion at full time, particularly given how good the feeling had been at the halfway stage.

There's no game for the Cockles this Saturday (December 14) and so the next time the team will see action will be the home meeting with Launceston on Saturday, December 21, a fixture that marks the start of the second half of the South West Premier campaign.

Exmouth Nomads continued their fine form with a 39-7 victory over Crediton III.

The Nomads continue to sit top of Devon Merit Table Two, just ahead of Tiverton and Sidmouth.

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