Exmouth below-par, but still able to bank bonus point Oxford win
PUBLISHED: 11:03 11 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:03 11 December 2014
Exmouth made the long trip to Oxford Saturday and despite hiccups on and off the field recorded a bonus point win to stay hard on the heels of this weeks opponents Redingensians at the top of the National Three (SW) table, writes Chris Wright.
Arriving late to the ground as traffic proved a problem wasn’t the best start for the Cockles, and the players seemed to lack the clinical efficiency seen the week before.
The opening half hour saw the Cockles camped in the hosts’ half of the pitch, but all they had to show was a George Meadows penalty. The next score came when Ollie Rice ran the ball back from deep in Exmouth territory and, from a ruck 15-metres out, quick hands to winger Matt Ryan saw the
speedster beat several defenders to score an excellent try in the corner. Oxford replied with a converted try and then scored again to take a 12-8 half-time lead with the Cockles lamenting, during the interval, their high error count!
Coach Jon Hill’s half-time words clearly hit the spot for his side looked to have an extra spring in their step from the restart.
Meadows slotted an early penalty before, with temperatures diving and the floodlights on Exmouth began to take charge. However, a poorly placed kick and a missed tackle resulted in a third Oxford try!
The Cockles needed to find a swift response and they did as phase after phase of play took them over the Quins line, but they were unable to ground the ball. Awarded a five-metre scrum, the Cockles powered forward, Quins stood up to stop the drive but, the award of another penalty saw the Cockles opt for another scrum from which number Ross Morshead peeled off to touchdown and the following Meadows conversion put the Cockles a point ahead.
The home side visibly buckled and were soon on their knees as, from the re-start Ollie Rice found time and space to turn the flagging defenders inside, then out, before crashing over to score an unconverted try.
Urged on by a small band of travelling support the Cockles looked for the all-important bonus point try.
It duly arrived when Stuart Lowe, tracking back in field, produced a tackle that swiftly turned defence into attack and, following a series of penalties, taken as scrums, the final play saw flanker James Harris eek out the smallest of gaps in the home defence to dive over and another successful Meadows conversion completed the scoring.
Cockles coach Jon Hill said: “This was a very average performance from ourselves where we struggled to convert possession and territorial dominance in the first half into points. We had ample opportunities to score tries, and some resolute defence from a well organised oxford team, as well as a high error count from us, was our Achilles heal on the day. That said, without playing well and coming away with a bonus point victory with the very last play of the game is very pleasing. In fairness to Oxford, they were well organised, had very good line speed in defence, and had a lively back line that caused us some issues.”
With 20 minutes to play and being a score down, we recovered well and showed a lot of composure to close out the game and create the bonus point try opportunity.
“We are well aware that we will need to be right on top of our game next weekend against Redingensians. One of the positives from the Oxford win was that we did not get any injuries. Another big boost was that Jack Pyne played well in his first game back. It was also good to hear that Nigel Berry got through 80 minutes and scored a try in the 2nd XV victory over Cullompton.
Flying winger Matt Ryan gained the man of the match award.
On Saturday, in front of the clubs vice presidents and guests the Cockles host table-topping who sit two points above the Cockles who will need to be on top form to get the right result. Kick-off in this vital match is 2pm.