The Green and Whites unbeaten start to the season came to an end against a strong Exeter Chiefs Academy XV
The first time these two sides have competed provided an excellent opportunity for both squads to prepare for their competitive seasons. The Chiefs will start their Premiership U18 Championship season by hosting London Irish Academy at Sandy Lane on 6th January whilst Dorset & Wilts will face Berkshire in a final warm up match before starting their Jason Leonard U20 County Championship campaign against Hampshire RFU U20 on 11th February at Overton RFC.
Despite only leading 7 – 5 at half time the Premiership Champions Academy sides superior fitness and skill shone through in the 2nd half as they won 42-12 against their amateur opponents.
Dorset & Wilts went into the match full of confidence following recent victories over the Royal Navy and RAF U23 squads. They started with a bang when Salisbury flanker Jared Cardew outjumped the opposition to receive fly half Harry Bazalgette’s kick off to win the ball for his side.
However, Exeter scored first following a break down the left side followed by a clever grubber kick in field that was simply gathered for an unopposed run in under the posts to ground the try.
The ambitions Dorset & Wilts side were not intimidated, and a sustained period of pressure led to lineout just 5m metres from the Chiefs try line. An accurate throw from North Dorset’s hooker Jack Spencer was caught by 2nd row Hamish Janes and with the ball moved to the back of the maul the pack drove over with Jared Cardew able to dot over for the twin counties first score. The resulting conversion was missed.
Dorset & Wilts then had their best period of the match as they played with pace and power that Exeter were struggling to contain. Full back Jonny Dowell and 2nd row Lewis Saliba both carved their way through the home sides defence with ease. There were a number of opportunities for the twin counties to take the lead including a cross field kick from Bazalgette to debutant winger Tom Owens however they were unable to turn the pressure into tries.
Head Coach Ali Lund was pleased with the game very much in the balance at 7-5 to the Cheifs at the half time break.
There was always going to be times when the Chiefs powerful forwards and fast backs were going to cause the Twin Counties problems and that is how the 2nd half played out. Dorset and Wilts struggled to retain possession of the ball for any length of time and had to defend for long periods.
Unfortunately for DW their problems were compounded when they suffered as number of injuries which meant they had to make enforced changes including influential captain James Hill from Salisbury RFC.
The chiefs were very quick to capitalise with a as series of damaging carries from their powerful front row and slick handling in the backs providing plenty of opportunities for their wingers and full back. They were able to take the game away with five unanswered tries as the home sides superior fitness made it very challenging for Dorset & Wilts. However, at no point did the visitors give up and they showed determination to make the most of the opportunity to run out on the home ground of the current Premiership Champions. Royal Wootton Bassett’s flanker Josh Macafferty made a series of breaks and Archie McEwan who was returning to the squad following a period out with injury managed to win a couple turnovers.
The game ended in the most positive way with a strong carry from Bournemouth’s impressive prop Tom Cordery followed by quick hands by Charlie Green and Jonny Dowell provided left winger Will Slark the opportunity to slice through the defence and show great pace to sprint up the touchline before unselfishly passing inside to replacement scrum half Ben Hathaway who ran in unopposed under the posts for the final try of the match. Dowell slotted the simple conversion and the referee blew for full time.
Head Coach Ali Lund said “Whilst we are disappointed to lose our unbeaten record it was a fantastic learning experience for our players. The Exeter Chiefs side were very well coached and organised and showed our players the fitness levels they need to attain if they going to play at the higher levels of the game”.
“We will analyse the video of the game carefully and will be asking the squad to come up with ways to be more aggressive in defence”.
Team manager Rich Rees said “We have a wonderful opportunity to have a successful season in the National U20 Championship. There is plenty of competition for places and the challenge is for the players to show the commitment to work hard in training to help us reach our potential”.