Derby-day delight for Exmouth Withycombe RFC

By Will Goddard

19th Sep 2022 | Rugby

Line-out (Jim Davis)
Line-out (Jim Davis)

Final score: Withycombe 30-28 Honiton

In the first of two local derbies this season, Withy welcomed Honiton to Raleigh Park in what was to become another classic between the two sides…

Following an impeccably held two-minute silence, the game got underway. With Honiton playing downhill in the first half, they managed to get an early hold on the game; and with a string of early penalties in their favour, they soon found themselves in the Withy 22' and battling the 5m line. The Withycombe defence held strong though and battled through to clear the ball away from any immediate danger.

It would be the visitors who would get themselves on the scoresheet first though, as they used the speed in the backs to get the ball wide and break through from halfway to score. Honiton built on this and, in a carbon copy of the previous try, broke through from the halfway to score under the posts once again shortly after to gain a 0-14 lead after 16 minutes.

After a dominant start to the game, Honiton's attacking strategy was forced to turn into a defensive one as the Withies began to find their way into the game. With the pack becoming a threatening force to their opponents, Withy began to turn the screw with some decent pressure inside the Honiton 22'. Pressure was converted into points with Callum Tose gaining his first try for the senior side in the corner of the field. The driving maul proved potent again on the half hour mark with Chris Gibbons crashing over the line in Clubhouse Corner, reducing the points gap down to just the two points at 12-14.

With the score reflecting the close nature of the game, any small mistake was capitalised on by the opposition. This was made clear for Withy, who were caught out by a short spell of ineffective tackling, allowing Honiton to claim another 7 points before half time courtesy of a break through the centre. This brought the score at the break to Withy 12, Honiton 21.

As the second forty began, Withycombe were temporarily reduced to fourteen with try-scorer Gibbons being sent to the sin bin. Despite this, the home side were the team to increase their points tally thanks to a Tom Cooke penalty.

After a period of play in the middle third, the Ton extended their lead further after more use of their backs as a well-placed chip kick found the awaiting second-rower who would run to the try line to bring the score to 15-28 after 60 minutes.

Despite the extending score line, Withy refused to 'lay down' and let the game slip away from them. With Honiton overthrowing a line-out ten yards into their half, Withy capitalised and worked the ball downfield through the various players, with the try line approaching, a good run from Callum Tose was offloaded to Bryn Cresswell who would score to put Withies back into the game. However, the belief and confidence that was building in the Withy camp was dealt a huge blow after a high tackle from Outside Centre, Lewis Vaughan was adjudged a little too dangerous and he was shown a straight red card, reducing Withycombe down to fourteen men for remaining 15 minutes of the game, making the comeback all the more tricky.

Withy held their own incredibly well though and continued to battle through, even gaining the upper hand. With just five minutes on the clock, excitement in the crowd was whipped up as Cooke broke through the Honiton defence to score under the posts, putting just a single point between the two sides. This excitement raised even further as, with just one minute remaining, the Withy boys were awarded a penalty in a kickable position directly in front of the posts; giving Flyhalf Cooke the easiest decision of the game to go for goal. The kick bisected the posts, putting Withy ahead for the first time with less than 30 seconds remaining. Honiton took the restart with the ball landing in Withy hands; the ball was secured and kicked dead to bring an end to the game to the sound of erupting celebrations from the home crowd. The final score: Withycombe 30, Honiton 28.

A huge victory for the boys, proving that it's never too late for a comeback in an amazing end-to-end game of rugby… one that'll certainly be remembered for a fair few weeks to come!

After the game, Club Captain Liam Cullen praised the effort from his team, commending their new-found determination, saying: "A couple years ago, that game would've been lost, but the guys stuck at it to battle through for a win."

The boys will be looking to take the energy from this win into next week when they travel to Mid Devon to play North Tawton at Taw Meadow.


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