Meadows holds his nerve as Cockles rescue draw from the jaws of defeat

PUBLISHED: 18:40 08 September 2019 | UPDATED: 18:40 08 September 2019

Nick Headley in the thick of the action during the Cockles' meeting with Ivybridge. Picture EXMOUTH RFC

Nick Headley in the thick of the action during the Cockles' meeting with Ivybridge. Picture EXMOUTH RFC

Archant

Exmouth began a new season of South West Premier rugby by snatching a deserved 17-17 draw, albeit from the jaws of defeat, when they entertained Ivybridge at the Imperial Ground.

Matt Ryan in the thick of the action for the Cockles during their opening day draw with Ivybridge. Picture EXMOUTH RFCMatt Ryan in the thick of the action for the Cockles during their opening day draw with Ivybridge. Picture EXMOUTH RFC

Indeed, the Cockles served up some serious steely determination from a team that looked to have offered the visitors the victory and they very nearly snatched victory for themselves in the dying embers of the contest!

The Cockles started at high-tempo and just three minutes were on the clock when centre Nick Headley twisted and turned to reach out and touch down for what was an unconverted try.

Fifteen minutes later, a sweeping movement from side to side ended with the ball thrown out to full-back Sam Whitehead to score in the corner, but the conversion, taken by the try scorer, was missed and the Cockles led 10-0.

For the rest of this first half both teams were looking to take the initiative.

Jacob Unwin in the thick of the action for the Cockles in the game against Ivybridge. Picture EXMOUTH RFCJacob Unwin in the thick of the action for the Cockles in the game against Ivybridge. Picture EXMOUTH RFC

Cockles skipper Jack Fahy, Steve Pape, Dan Armstrong and Charlie Tribble made some big carries and the Cockles forwards; Nick Halse, Shane Cooper, Dave Bargent and James Harris, worked tirelessly to get closer to the try line.

With time almost up the Cockles made an error and former Exmouth player, Matt Dayment went over for Ivybridge and the teams trooped off at the break with the score board showing 10-5.

It was Ivybridge who made the better start to the second half. However, a real feature of pre-season was the superb work that had been done on the Cockles' defensive unit and the back, George Meadows, Nick Headley, Sam Whitehead and the returning Matty Ryan, along with debutants, James Bath, Jacob Unwin and Lewis Geran, collectively shut down the opposition.

Indeed, the home backs looked sharp all afternoon, just taking a little time to find their rhythm.

Line-out action from the Cockles home meeting with Ivybridge on the first day of a new league season. Picture EXMOUTH RFCLine-out action from the Cockles home meeting with Ivybridge on the first day of a new league season. Picture EXMOUTH RFC

The introduction of replacements, returning hooker Jack Madge, Henry Goldson at full back and former 2nd XV skipper Joe Harris in to the back row, on his 1st XV debut, helped the home cause and it took Ivybridge until the 76th minute to find a way through with Will Lamont crossing and a Matt Grieveson conversion saw Ivybridge into a 12-10 lead.

With their tails up, a deft chip through saw Charlie Bryant outpace the home back line for the game's fifth try and now the lead was 17-10.

The home faithful were looking at their watches!

However, there was still time for one last determined Cockles push that saw the forwards do the damage prior to Dave Bargent going over and George Meadows kept his calm to slot the conversion to level the scores up.

Incredibly, there was still time to restart and the Cockles clearly sensed that they could go on and win it.

However, despite the forwards gaining field position, time ran out and the game ended all square.

On reflection, the Cockles had the better of the first half and Ivybridge enjoyed the better of things after the break so, on balance, a draw was a fair outcome.

The Cockles will feel this one slipped out of their hands, however they did put in a big shift and showed great character to ensure they got something out of the opening game of a new league campaign.

On Saturday (September 14) the Cock les make their first trip over the border into Cornwall when they visit Launceston.

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