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RUGBY: Chippenham 20 Redingensians 14
CHIPPENHAM produced a rousing performance to condemn Redingensians to their first league defeat in a year and maintain their fine start to the National Three South West season.
The home side were left hanging on at the final whistle, having roared into a 20-0 lead with a display of commitment and desire that the Rams were unable to match, and it needed a magnificent last-gasp tackle from wing Christian Novik to prevent the visitors from a potentially match-winning try.
But in truth, anything other than a win for Jason Forster's men would have been a travesty of justice as they consistently carried the fight to opponents who have been hotly tipped for promotion this season.
With a crosswind slightly in their favour in the opening 40 minutes, the hosts tore into their rivals, who looked non-plussed by the ferocity of the early exchanges.
Led by rampaging performances from number eight and skipper Bobby Lyons and second row Sam Hill, Chippenham’s excellent forwards made a real nuisance of themselves at the breakdown, ensuring visiting ball was frequently slow and occasionally non-existent as they were turned over.
Redingensians did have the upper hand in the scrummage, especially late in the day, but their lineout constantly malfunctioned under pressure.
Even when the ball did reach the away side’s three-quarters their opposite numbers, led by monstrous defensive performances by centres Rupert Crockett and Gary Champion, were up quickly to snuff out any threat.
Having dominated the opening 10 minutes, the opening try from Novik, after scrum-half Lewis Surry’s excellent flat pass had set Lyons free up the left wing, was the least the home side deserved.
The second score arrived just after the half hour when, from a back-pedalling scrum, Lyons delightfully flipped an underhand pass to Surry, who repeated the trick to send Fijian right wing Aminiasi Titoko over.
In the tricky conditions, full-back Sam Saunders was off target with the conversions but the kicking from hand of fly-half Harry Taylor and Surry kept the increasingly-frustrated visiting side penned back.
The expected fightback appeared to be under way as Redingensians started the second half strongly, but Champion’s magnificent smother-tackle with the visitors holding a three to two overlap, got his side back on the front foot.
Hill charged up the left wing and as the ball found its way to Novik, he weaved in and out of the defence to touch down again.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Chippenham poured forward again and a brilliantly-executed rolling drive from a lineout allowed Lyons to touch down for the bonus-point try.
Saunders was again unsuccessful with the conversions and belatedly, Redingensians began to show the form of promotion candidates.
Wing Joe Duffelen reduced arrears with a quick tap and go from a close-range penalty before Andy Amor finished a length-of-the-field move for a second try shortly afterwards.
Two expertly-taken conversions from Guy Swadling put the visitors back in contention and set up a nervous conclusion.
Flanker Ossie Wolf was sin-binned as Chippenham began to creak under the pressure, seemingly certain to crack after a series of scrums close to their own line.
In a heart-stopping finale, substitute Jez Flynn looked odds on to touch down, but Novik flew across from the opposite wing and slammed into the tackle, knocking the ball loose over the line and heralding the final whistle.
ALL THE REACTION AND PICTURES FROM ALLINGTON FIELD, PLUS NEWS OF CHIPPENHAM RFC'S WIN AT THE WILTSHIRE SPORTS AWARDS IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD