Exeter Chiefs, Exmouth RFC and lots more with Chris Bentley

PUBLISHED: 11:21 27 November 2014 | UPDATED: 11:21 27 November 2014

Another milestone for Devon Rugby as Exeter Chiefs hit top spot in the Aviva Premiership, admittedly only for 24 hours as Northampton Saints eased back to the top spot on Sunday, but Chiefs still hold second spot with a third of the season gone, pretty good in my book.

Meanwhile, here in Exmouth our very own Cockles continued in winning ways to stay right up with the top of National League Division 3 (SW). A convincing bonus point victory over Old Redcliffians underlines the progress made by John Hill and the Mighty Muff this term. Yes, dear reader, Devon rugby is in a good place as the festive season beckons. Indeed even smuggling Albion forced a draw against Yorkshire Carnegie to bring some warmth to Brickfields.

Developing my Devon theme let me highlight the Baxter family. Emanating from rural farming roots the Baxter’s have long been prime movers in the service of Exeter RFC. Father John, an accomplished player in his own right, went on to play an important boardroom role planning and building Chiefs road to the top.

Coach Rob came through the Devon ranks to crown an illustrious playing career captaining Chiefs through those all important development years before making a successful transition to coach. The playing record of younger brother Richard, with over 300 first team games, is already legendary in Devon rugby circles whilst here at the Imperial Ground Uncle Paul Baxter is a stalwart member and front line committee man contributing to Exmouth RFCs well being.

My point being that our community is well able to breed Devonian pedigree of the highest quality on and off the field well able to compete with the best of the best.

First up; Chiefs milestone performance in our 31-15 win over Wasps at Sandy Park on Saturday. Jack Nowell is back to his best fizzing and buzzing in attack and defence. Jacks score in the opening minutes followed by a quite brilliant second try must surely be sounding in the mind of Stuart Lancaster.

At the Chiefs we pride ourselves on the selfless team ethic. One in, all in, as my new classic lions associate Willie John McBride puts it, but there can be no doubt that there will be stand out players. If you’ve not seen him play in the flesh I urge you to get along to Sandy Park and see Devon’s adopted ‘Force of Nature’ Big Tom Waldrom who just can’t stop scoring. To think that warriors like Sturgess, White and Scaysbrook are not currently in the mix and captain Fantastic, Dean Mumm has only just returned from injury, Chiefs really are in a good place.

It’s tough at the top with high flying Saracens in town on Saturday. Bristling with international stars and quality in every position the Sarries pose a tough challenge for our Chiefs. Such is the nature of Premiership rugby and the stage, on which our top club wants to play, but we’ve a team and club to be proud of at Sandy Park and I for one will be looking forward to consoling my old Cheshire playing mate Dave Strettle after Sarries lose on Saturdays. Respect, but no fear as our Chiefs pitch to compete with the best of the best.

A final quick note about the Chiefs; it would be remiss not to congratulate Phil Dollman on joining that exclusive Chiefs Centurion Club. Having notched up his 100 league cap on Saturday he becomes a member of the most exclusive club at Sandy Park. Well done Phil on reaching an achievement yours truly missed by just two games!

Now to matters Exmouth. John Hills Cockles are emerging as something of a growing Imperial Ground force to be reckoned with. Shedding the stuttering form that edged a Devon Cup win away to Bideford in the previous week the Mighty Muff battled to find their form in a tight scrappy and error strewn first half. The Cockles struggled to get pace and width into the game further hampered by an early injury to centre Ali Hill.

With no back on the bench James Harris stepped up to the plate and played 65 minutes in the centre. In typical Devonian manner he was excellent! Veteran Stu Lowey rolled back the years to play an impressive 65 minutes too! Devon steel or what?

In the second half The Muff found their Mojo and posed Old Reds with problems they could not handle as we secured the bonus point victory with 15 minutes to spare. This was another pleasing victory built on a committed team play, a solid line out foundation and an ability to recognise the space and width Hill is breeding into our team

George Meadows, Ross Morshead and James Harris were stand out players as was Tom Emery. But it was the old man Garry Hooper who was again outstanding to earn the Man of the Match award.

The gentle winds blowing through Bermuda’s World Classics Rugby Tournament together with memories of beautiful crystal clear seas and the warmth of international fellowship that defines our rugby family are now but a fading memory. It’s a return to the trenches of Devon Rugby as yours trul gets back to business preparing for Saracens at Sandy.

Exmouth are away to Old Patesians on Saturday and Oxford Harlequins the following week, but have a colossal battle with fellow league toppers Old Redingensians on Saturday, Deceber 13 (2pm).

With Chiefs away in France for the Oxford Halrequins weekend I hope to have a spot in the Cockles squad and look forward to seeing you after the game.

In my book rugby is so much more than a game and a rugby club so much more than a merely place a place to train and play the sport. I make no excuse for banging the drum and repeating the message. Rugby is important, a way of life on and off the field and massive benefit to youth, sport and the community in general. Don’t you just love this game?

Until next time

Enjoy your rugby

Stay safe


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