Superb all-round team show sees Cockles net derby win

PUBLISHED: 22:27 04 March 2019

The Cockles produced arguably their finest team performance of this – and indeed – many a campaign as they defeated second in the table Barnstaple 25-12 in a compelling South West Premier Division encounter at the Imperial Ground.

Defensively this was probably the best Exmouth had delivered throughout this term. The Cockles worked tirelessly and clearly enjoyed their rugby.

It took 28 minutes of all-out attrition before either team got into a position to break the deadlock. Barum centre Jake Murphy missed a penalty on 28 minutes. A further seven minutes elapsed before a scrum close to the hosts’ try line resulted in a slight wheel, pick from the base and Nat Bayet went over under the posts, converted by Murphy for Barum to lead 7-0.

With half-time looming, the Cockles finally got just reward for their forward dominance, working their way up field, eventually giving Sam Whitehead the chance to close the gap with a well-taken penalty and half-time arrived with Barnstaple holding a narrow 7-3 advantage.

A very large crowd, bolstered by a fair number of travelling support from Barnstaple, hoped that the cagey affair would break open.

The kick-off from Barnstaple caught Exmouth out, giving away an early penalty chance, but Murphy missed again.

Playing with the strong breeze, the Cockles found a higher gear and, on 46 minutes, Charlie Tribble crossed for a try converted by Whitehead and the home side led 10-7.

The Cockles clearly sensed they were gaining the upper-hand and, 15 minutes later, a perfectly executed set move saw Dave Bargent cut the Barnstaple defence wide open and he ran in from 25 metres before diving over the line under the posts and another clean Whitehead conversion took the home lead to one of 10 points at 17-7.

The third home try was exceptional! On the attack, full back Sam Whitehead slipped a deft kick, between two Barum defenders, along the ground towards club house corner. Centre Nick Headley outpaced the back tracking defence to get round the outside to touch down in the corner. The conversion was missed, but, with 10 minutes remaining, the Cockles led 22-7.

There was time for Barum to hit back as Mitch Turner went over for an unconverted try. However, the Cockles were not to be denied and they had the final word with a late Tom Whelan penalty.

This was a Cockles squad performance that head coach Steve Perry would have been very pleased to watch. Exmouth were dominant in a number of areas with the forward pack in charge. Skipper Jack Fahy would have been impressed by his lads across the park, Connor O’Shaughnessy, James Harris and Ben Hawley in the back row caused mischief all day. On Saturday (March 9), the Cockles will need to replicate this latest performance if they are to take anything from a visit to champions-in-waiting Bournemouth.

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