Cockles coach Jon Hill speaks on the Devon derby defeat at Newton Abbot

PUBLISHED: 16:47 09 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:47 09 October 2017

Action from the Cockles defeat at Newton Abbot

Action from the Cockles defeat at Newton Abbot

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Cockles coach Jon Hill had plenty to say after his side’s narrow 48-42 defeat in the Devon derby at Newton Abbot.

He was gracious in defeat when he began with: “In a great advert for South West Premier and also Devon Rugby, Exmouth and Newton Abbot threw caution to the wind and played expansive rugby at a pace and standard that would not look out of place at least one league above.”

He continued: “Newton, boosted by the short term arrival of Samoan International JJ Taulagi, and with former Premiership speedster Matt Jess pulling strings behind the scrum, Newton were always a threat, and certainly caused damage off any poor kick or any error made by ourselves.

“In the end, we were on the wrong end of some fine margins, but did, at least, take two bonus points for our troubles.”

Hill was left feeling that a number of things on the day did not go his side’s way. He explained, saying: “Three key decisions certainly did not go our way, and if any one of those three key incidents had been given in our favour then the result would have been very different.

“That is how close the game was, and how evenly matched the teams were on the day. Fair play to Newton, and in particular their outside backs, who caused damage and took their opportunities. Jessy [Taulagi] showed his quality, and was a constant thorn in our defence. They were well organised and dangerous with ball in hand.”

He continued with his view on the specific decisions, saying: “Decision one came as Samoan International JJ Taulagi broke through and when dotting down to score his debut try, he droped the ball over the try line.

“Seen by the ‘neutral touch judge’ and by the Exmouth players, but unseen by the referee, the try is given.

“The Exmouth players asked the referee to ask the touch judge who has spotted the incident, but the match official did not seek the touch judge’s opinion.

“And, to rub salt into the wounds, the touch judge told the ref at half-time that the ball was dropped over the try line?! Is it time to stress the role of the ‘neutral’ touch judge, where a ref can ask an opinion, and the touch judge empowered to offer their opinion on such tight calls?

“The standard of this league is improving all the time, and referees are only human. How can they be assisted more to ensure the error count is not game result changing, as this became with Rob Avery Wright adding the touch line conversion?”

He continued: “The second incident came with a penalty try and a yellow card against us at a scrum offence.

“This was a big call, especially when it was a very early scrum penalty, and the yellow card was given to a player on the far side of the scrum to the referee? If this was justified, fair enough, but then incident three should surely be dealt with in the same consistent manner, and this came in the final minute of the game and the penultimate play. Exmouth set up a driving maul, and, were powering through towards the try line, only for a Newton player to illegally enter the maul, and pull the maul down. The resultant effect, no penalty try, but a yellow card?! How was this dealt differently to the scrum penalty?”

He added: “In a game of very fine margins, we feel as if we have been dealt a tough blow. However, this should take nothing away from Newton, who were good value for their win, and will be a tough team to beat this season without a doubt.

“It is important that we attribute our loss to internal rather than external reasons, and take some ownership and control to improve as a team. We took two points away from home, but could easily have taken five.

“Should we have taken a scrum with the very last play with Luke Mingo in the bin, perhaps, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“We missed our lineout throw and lift under pressure and we should have executed on both fronts.

“Could we have exited better and could our kick chase have had more organisation about it? - without doubt.

“Our defence in broken field play was not quite good enough on the day, and we must work hard to rectify this.

“All too often teams are scoring far too easily against us, and this is not acceptable. Our target was to not kick loosely to the Newton back three who are all very dangerous … on three occasions we did, and we were punished accordingly.”

With regard to playing matter and looking ahead to Saturday’s Imperial Ground visit of Bournemouth, Hill says: “We hope to welcome back from injury, props George Savage from Tom Brown, back five forwards Ben Hawley, Sam Richardson and Dave Bargent, and outside backs Henry Goldson and Richard Bright ahead of the game against Bournemouth.

“In addition to this , Harvey Ridgeway is progressing well, and we also hope to welcome back Royal Navy pair Harrison Marsh (front row) and Lewis Cooper (back five), after they missed he Newton Abbot game owing to work commitments.”

There was one matter though that Hill was keen to end with and it was with regard to what had certainly been a kicking ‘master class’ from the Newton Abbot and Exmouth kickers.

He said: “On a final note, has there ever been such an outstanding goal kicking performance in a league game as put on by Rob Avery-Wright and Tom Whelan? Only one kick was missed in a game that amassed 90 points … fair play to both players. If there was any ‘neutrals’ in the ground, we are sure you enjoyed your day in what was a defence coaches nightmare.”

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