Whelan holds his nerve with late conversion as Cockles draw at University

PUBLISHED: 13:29 07 January 2019

Mark Wathes scores one of the Cockles tries at Exeter University. Picture JASON FAHY

Mark Wathes scores one of the Cockles tries at Exeter University. Picture JASON FAHY

Archant

Exmouth returned from their South West Premier ‘local derby’ visit to Topsham with a share of the spoils after they shared 48 points with hosts Exeter University.

Exmouth RFCs Connor O’Shaughnessy in action against Exeter University Picture JASON FAHYExmouth RFCs Connor O’Shaughnessy in action against Exeter University Picture JASON FAHY

Exmouth returned from their South West Premier ‘local derby’ visit to Topsham with a share of the spoils after they shared 48 points with hosts Exeter University.

With the students sitting immediately below the Cockles in the table, this was always going to be an engaging encounter. Exmouth started very well and it was immediately apparent the Exmouth forward pack had the upper hand at scrum time. Indeed, the front row of Savage, Halse and Cooper were the foundation of a solid platform.

There were just seven minutes on the clock when, on penalty advantage, Cockles fly-half George Meadows slotted a deft chip over the upcoming defenders with Mark Wathes slipping through to gather and cross the line. George Meadows converted and the Cockles led 7-0.

There followed a period of fierce end-to-end action with both teams seeking to break, with both defensive sets blocking with tight tackling and counter ruck.

Action from the Exmouth 24-24 draw at Exeter University Picture JASON FAHYAction from the Exmouth 24-24 draw at Exeter University Picture JASON FAHY

It wasn’t until just after the half hour that the game saw another score – a successful Meadows penalty that extended the lead to 10-0.

The students hit back with a try from Paul Schroter, converted by Charlie Davis, to make it 10-7.

As half-time approached, after several forward drives, Nick Halse crossed for the try and another Meadows conversion took the Cockles into the interval with a 17-7 lead.

The home team had opted to play the fixture on the pitch furthest away from the changing rooms and decided to stay on the field during the break.

Exmouth RFCs Nick Halse in action against Exeter University Picture JASON FAHYExmouth RFCs Nick Halse in action against Exeter University Picture JASON FAHY

This may have helped in their early second-half performance as they certainly flew into the contest from the re-start. Just two minutes in, former Exmouth player Jack Rouse finished a lovely passing phase to touch down and a Davis conversion made it 17-14.

Twenty minutes later a Paul Schroter try, converted by Davis, edged the students into a 24-17 lead.

As the clock ticked down, the Cockles, staring at another ‘first game of the year’ defeat [they had lost every one of their first games of a new year since 2013] threw everything they had at the home side. They laid siege to the students’ line. The forwards worked hard and seemed to cross the line several times; however, the referee pulled up and could not see clearly to award a score.

After a couple of infringements, the Cockles got the opportunity to use their effective pick and drive. After several phases, Connor O’Shaughnessy got over the whitewash, leaving Tom Whelan with a kick to level the score. Never easy, Whelan kicked straight and true to secure the final result 24-24.

Exmouth RFCs George Meadows in action versus University Picture JASON FAHYExmouth RFCs George Meadows in action versus University Picture JASON FAHY

Both teams will feel they could have taken the victory as both teams put maximum effort in their first game back after Christmas. The draw means that the Cockles remain sixth in the league table. This Saturday (January 12), the Cockles travel to Weston-super-Mare.