Sitting one place ahead of Exeter University in the league, 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. Front row, Savage, Halse and Cooper we the foundation of a solid platform.
Exmouth went on the attack immediately and it only took seven minutes for the visitors to break the Uni defence. On a penalty advantage, George Meadows slotted a deft chip over the upcoming defenders with Mark Wathes slipping through to gather and cross the line. Meadows converted to secure the 7-0 lead. The travelling supporters were treated to a hammer and tongs battle with both team seeking to break, with both defensive sets blocking with tight tackling and counter ruck. It took another 25 minutes of the half before Meadows got the opportunity to kick a penalty, to stretch Exmouth lead to 10-0. The university lads were still in fight-back mode and capitalised on their effort to score their first try through Paul Schroter, converted by Charlie Davis, 7-10 approaching half time. Closing in on the break, The Cockles worked hard to get within strike distance of the students try-line. After several forward drives it was Nick Halse who crossed, Meadows adding the extras to ensure a half time lead 7-17.
The Uni decided to play on the furthest pitch away from the changing room and chose to stay on the field during the break. This may have helped as they certainly had to warm quickly to the challenge. Increased speed and attacking lines gave them a scoring opportunity after 2 minutes of the second half, former Exmouth player, Jack Rouse finished a lovely passing phase to touch down, converted by Davis, 14-17. 20 minutes later and the pattern of the first half continued with a testing battle around the park. Both attack and defence were good from both teams. Paul Schroter scored his second on 61 minutes with Davis converting again, 21-17. Davis also kicked a penalty on 72 minutes giving the Uni a 24-17 lead. The final 8 minutes Exmouth laid siege to the Exeter University 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. Returning Ben Hawley looked sharp and made an impact with Charlie Tribble. After a couple of University infringements The Cockles got the opportunity to use their effective pick and drive. Several phases and great patience, 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.
Both teams will feel they could have taken the victory. Both teams put maximum effort in their first game back after Christmas. League position for Exmouth remained the same in 6th, on a day when the game could swing either way.
Exmouth 1st XV travel up to Weston-super-Mare next weekend, in another tough rematch this season.
Updated 17:32 - 11 Jan 2019 by Ian Harris