Rugby recall – Looking at some very special drop goal scores in bygone years.

PUBLISHED: 09:22 26 August 2020

The Sidmouth RFC team that was succesful in the 2008 Western Counties West play-off. Picture SRFC

The Sidmouth RFC team that was succesful in the 2008 Western Counties West play-off. Picture SRFC

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Continuing our series of ‘rugby memories’ with Sidmouth RFC club stalwart Terry O’Brien.

Drop goal kicking is a skill which I never fully mastered despite playing many games at fly half, writes Terry O’Brien.

Thus, I am proud of my 100 per cent career record of drop goals – one attempt, one success!

That lone attempt - and subsequent success – was achieved on December 16, 1978 in a 2nd XV match against Old Heleans at the Blackmore Field.

Like my first ever try scored in 1960, it was not the result of a cunning plan involving an elaborate build up.

Playing at inside centre, I received a pass which was slightly behind me causing me to stop to receive it.

I could not pass the ball on and running would result in being tackled well behind the gain-line.

The amygdala took over. I dropped the ball and swung my favoured left foot. Somehow, I struck the ball perfectly and it sailed between the posts.

My pleasure was increased by the fact that some of my ex-pupils were playing for the opposition.

No doubt, for Newport supporters of a certain vintage, ‘the’ drop goal is the one kicked by Dick Uzzell to beat the All Blacks in 1963.

For British Lions fans it will be Jeremy Guscott’s series winning effort at Durban in 1997.

While English fans and rugby history will surely record Johnny Wilkinson’s meticulously constructed World Cup winning kick as ‘the’ drop goal!

This eclipsed Rob Andrew’s more difficult and spontaneous effort to beat the same opposition in the 1995 quarter-final.

The reward for which was to be bulldozered by Jonah Lomu in the next round.

For Sidmouth, ‘the ‘ drop goal was kicked on Saturday, April 26, 2008.

After eight years playing National League rugby for Plymouth Albion and Launceston, Andy Matchett had returned as player/coach with Tug Wilson as team manager and Steve Trim as captain for the 2007-08 season.

The Chiefs finished second behind Paignton in a very competitive Western Counties West league to earn a place in a promotion play-off against Bristol side Old Redcliffians.

A superior playing record gave Sidmouth home advantage.

More than 700 supporters lined the Blackmore Field to watch an entertaining game with a nail-biting finish.

Left winger Ashley Cooper scored an early try to open the scoring before Old Redcliffians replied with a converted try to take the lead at half time.

The visitors extended their lead with a penalty, which was soon cancelled out by a similar effort by Harry Chesterton. An interception try gave Old Reds a seven-point lead before Jack Pyne forced his way over to close the gap to two points.

With five minutes to go Old Reds looked to have secured promotion with a third try but, in the final minutes of normal time, the Chiefs produced a bit of magic.

Harry Chesterton made a break in the centre and Tristan Beavis provided the link to send Ashley Cooper on a clear run into the corner.

Dan Retter kicked the conversion from the touchline to level the scores as the game went into injury time. From the restart kick, the forwards set up a maul and drove forward over the 22-metre line. From here, a long clearance kick would be expected but the forwards continued to advance the ball through several phases.

With the ball having been progress a full 40 metres and into the opposition half, it was at last released to the backs. Dan Retter launched a drop kick from just over the halfway line.

The contact was perfect, the ball sailed between the posts. The final whistle followed and the Chiefs had won 23-20. The next season, Sidmouth would play at the highest level since leagues began 21 years earlier.


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