A fantastic first 15 minutes from the Cockles on the road, indicated that they had traveled with intent. A trip to Barnstaple was never going to be an easy ride and proved to be true. On 2 minutes, Centre Mark Wathes went over after slicing through the Barnstaple defence, to touch down after using strength as well as pace to get over the line. Tom Whelan added the extras for a 7 point lead. Exmouth were in bullish mood for the initial quarter did not let Barum settle in to the game, this seemed like the way to disrupt a very good side. Momentum did start to swing in favour of the home team. The defence held firm until 22 minutes in. On Exmouth try line, the referee decided Exmouth had buckled at the scrum intentionally and walked under for a penalty try, 7-7. From the days outing the high penalty count against Exmouth was a disturbing feature. The Cockles could not get in to any rhythm and the hosts went to 10-7 from just such an infringement. Kick by Jake Murphy. The higher than average penalty count resumed, closing in on half time, as the hosts went to 13-7, from the boot of Murphy again. Exmouth would do well to keep the score close however it was Barnstaple who struck again through Ryan Lee, converted by Jake Murphy to 20-7 at half time.
During the 1st half some enforced changes had to be made with combative injuries, Shane Cooper and Mike Richards had to be replaced from the scrum with Charlie Tribble and James Harris. Whilst Exmouth did lose some weight in the forwards this helped to speed up the forward pack. Exmouth did make a lightening start after the break with Dave Bargent scoring the first of a brace. Tom Whelan converted, 20-14. The pace and descriptiveness was back in to the Exmouth game, however the trademark tough defence was breached with a try from Matt Gohl, 25-14. The Cockles were not done, however they found it difficult to break down Barnstaple defensive line and their penalty count working against them. After several phases Dave Bargent did break over for his second, once again converted by Full Back Whelan, 25-21. Both teams on 3 tries apiece; they went hunting for the 4th try bonus point. Barnstaple get another 3 point opportunity from the tee to close out but missed the kick. The Cockles heart and determination was such they did try to work up-field to get in to score position. Let down by lost ball turned over, counter attack and penalties, the experienced Barnstaple team marshaled the last 3 minutes to eventually put the ball away to touch.
The lads walked away with a well-deserved losing bonus point on the road, however Coach Pez and his work hard squad will know that this game could have and should have been won by the Cockles. The traveling faithful saw a tough performance from committed players. Very encouraging.
A break next weekend from league rugby. Back at Home on 17th November v Bournemouth, currently unbeaten league leaders.
Updated 16:21 - 10 Nov 2018 by Ian Harris