Cockles suffer last gasp disappointment as Barnstaple take the match honours
PUBLISHED: 20:29 21 October 2019 | UPDATED: 20:29 21 October 2019
Exmouth suffered their first home defeat of the league season, but they made South West Premier table-toppers Barnstaple work very hard for their sixth straight win of the campaign.
Given the mauling the Cockles had received seven says before at Weston-super-Mare, this was a hugely improved all-round show.
An early trade of penalties, Kieran McManus of Barnstable and then George Meadows of Exmouth tied the score at 3-3 after 10 minutes.
A few minutes later and after some flowing movement, Sam Whitehead at full back sliced through to go over for the try, converted by Meadows and the Cockles were 10-3 to the food. Barum hit back and, with a Will Topps try and a a McManus conversion, the scores were leveled at 10-all.
This was a physical encounter with both sides in full contact. On the half hour the home side stretched their lead through a wonderful, individual effort from Dave Bargent and, with a successful Meadows conversion, the Cockles led 17-10.
Barnstaple then bagged a yellow card resulting in Hilton sitting out what remained of the first half, but Exmouth could not capitalise on the extra man.
The Cockles made a confident start to the second half and it took Barum a full 20 minutes before they were able to get the better of the home defence, something they did with a converted try to level things up at 17-all.
A few minutes later, a Meadows penalty took the Cockles into a 20-17 lead.
The final 15 minutes were closely contested with action at both ends of the pitch.
Despite early scrum dominance the home side creaked and found themselves under pressure a couple of times. Ben Hilton added a try for Barum, missed extras now 20-22 to Barnstaple. With 10 minutes to go George Meadows held his nerve to kick a long-range penalty from the Barum 10 metre line.
Maybe some question whether to Cockles could have gone for the corner to try and win their lineout to secure more points but the decision was right at the time leaving the Cockles 23-22 to the good.
The clock was ticking down and the Cockles defended superbly, however, it was their penalty count that let the visitor steal the game with a McManus penalty to seal Barum the narrowest of wins at 25-23.
The Cockles picked up a losing bonus point from a game that was within their grasp. Clearly disappointed, the home side support recognised that the squad effort was never in question.
This coming Saturday the Cockles face a trip up to Bracknell.