The game started at a quick pace with the slope in the favour of the home side as they kept hold of the ball, recycling through several phases of play. Despite the 3-league gap the Withy defence stood strong and a Sidmouth driving maul was stopped and the ball stolen to extinguish early chances from the home side.
After 6 minutes, a cross-field passing chain gave Sidmouth the gap they needed and they went over to get the opening points of the game. The difference in skill level became apparent as the next 10min exposed the weakness in long range defence in the Withies and after 15 minutes the left-hand channel had been exposed and used twice more in quick succession to give the home side a 17-0 lead.
It was at that point, the Withies upped their pace and resolve and started to build the pressure with phases of hard work and possession from the pack and some good runs from the backs and the tables started to turn and territory was favouring the boys. It was just before the first break at 30 minutes where Colts player and 1st XV debutante Joe Blyth crossed the whitewash to open up the Withycombe account. With Glenn Channing getting the kick the gap was down to 10.
With a quick rest and change of ends, the Withies now had the slope and it took just 4 minutes until the boys had a chance to close the points deficit further. A break from Channing just outside the 22' saw the ball handed to club returnee Mike Richards who had a short run and dived between the posts to a huge cheer from the travelling supporters. With the kick sailing over, the gap was down to just 3.
The Withy dominance continued once again as the boys were starting to feed off the good atmosphere and the hard work in training was starting to pay off. A knocked-on ball on the Sidmouth 22' line gave the home side a brief respite, but it wasn't to last as the powerful Withy forwards turned the scrum to pick the ball up and pass the ball to another returnee, Will Hockin, who touched down under the posts. With another good kick from Glenn Channing, the visitors were ahead with the score at 17-21.
The final third began at 50min and the strong play, positive attitude and impressive initiative carried on, but the home side had a point to prove and wanted to show the job wasn't done and some quick passing opened up that left-hand channel once again and the ball was run down the line. In an attempt to make the posts, the run changed direction, straight into a Withy player who managed to pull off a try saving tackle. The resulting scrum, however saw the ball out quickly and passed out to the touchline, and with a sudden change of direction, the ball headed inwards and under the posts. Sidmouth were back out in front. By this time, game time was lacking, but Sidmouth still managed to get one more run down the wing to score one last time, bringing the final score to 31-21.
Although the boys didn't come away with the win, they will have come away with the knowledge that they put in their all and put on a stunning display of rugby. There was some great phases of play and a lot of promising stuff to work on over the next few weeks before the start of the season.
The whole team worked well today with effort levels through the roof and each player should be proud of their performance.
In his post-match comments, Head Coach, Sam Williams praised the whole team for "pulling together so well" but brought attention to the huge shifts put in by Joe Blyth in his first match at senior rugby and to fellow colt, Josh Saunders for his "tireless efforts".
Next Saturday, the Withies travel away again for their second pre-season fixture as they head out to Crediton for a match against their 2nd XV. Kick off 3pm.