Meadows kicks well but Cockles suffer the 'Blues' in Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 16:41 29 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:41 29 September 2019
Despite 15 points from the boot of George Meadows, the Cockles succumbed to their first defeat of the South West Premier campaign, beaten 25-15 at Newbury Blues.
The home side, who had previously lost all of their first three outings this fledgling league season, were good value in their victory. Back to full strength for the first time this season, the Berkshire side certainly tested the Cockles.
The Blues got early points within 11 minutes with a tries from James Macaulay and Josh Bartlett, converted by Dan Thorne.
Exmouth were never going to give up, their determination this season has been exemplary. They drew the first of a number of infringements from Newbury on 20 minutes. Meadows converted the penalty to make it 12-3.
Frustratingly, the Cockles made their own error for Newbury to increase their lead to 15-3 with a Thorne penalty. The last 10 minutes of the first half were all pressure from Exmouth but, despite getting close to the try line, they could not force their way over the white wash and had to settle for two further penalties to close the half 15-9 down.
A much brighter start to the second half saw the Cockles driving their way back in to contention. A quicker tempo of play and good carries from Steve Pape, Dan Armstrong and skipper Jack Fahy, definitely helped.
Joe Harris in to the back row drew the next penalty and Meadows calmly slotted for 15-12. Newbury were forced to concede again and the score was level at 15-15. Games are defined by fine margins and so it happened here.
Exmouth spent a lot of time and effort getting to the try line, but were unable to convert. Despite solid work from Charlie Tribble, Nick Halse, Gareth Walker and latterly Jack Madge, the Exmouth front row could not get over the line.
Defensively Dave Bargent and James Harris had worked tirelessly throughout. t the final stages of each phase, a spill of the ball, turnover or penalty halted the Exmouth comeback. The Cockles were clearly frustrating the hosts also, as they eventually opted to take penalty chance, when they were pressing for a try. 18-15 to Newbury. Despite the tenacity of James Bath and marshal of Meadows it was difficult for Dan Sanders, Alex Goldman, Matty Ryan, and Jacob Unwin to break free.
Henry Goldson looked lively and did cause a few problems but the final play broke down. Goldman was replaced early in the second half by James Willmott who also cut strong running lines. Although the game was tight it was the error count that decided the game. In an attack situation, a ball fumble and a fly hack kick through by Newbury led to the last points of the game, a try from Dylan Stewart, converted by Thorne 25-15.
For the final 10 minutes The Cockle did try to salvage something from the match but once again misfired at the lineout or could not get to the try line.
Newbury deserved their win, as the better team on the day, but, on the flip side to that, this was definitely a game that the Cockles could have win.
Exmouth will regroup and look to find their early season, whole game tempo, when they host Okehampton at the Imperial Ground on Saturday (October 2).