Exmouth coach Hill heats up grudge match against Reds
YOU can almost cut the atmosphere with a knife ahead of Exmouth's rearranged home game against Redingensians in National Three South West.
The game was due to be played three weeks ago, but failed to get under way when Redingensians objected to the fitness of the pitch.
Exmouth felt the pitch was perfectly playable – and said so, forcibly – while Reds were equally adamant they had been dragged down from Berkshire at a cost of £800 on a wild goose chase.
The game is a big one in the ever-changing promotion race a the top of the table, not just because it pits third-placed Exmouth against fourth-in-the-table Reds.
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It is Exmouth's game in hand on second-placed London Irish and one of two they have to catch-up on leaders Weston, who are only six points ahead off them.
If Exmouth win they will open up a 10-point lead over Redingensians and move within a point or two of Weston and Irish, who are only separated by points difference.
So there is everything to play for, presuming the teams get out on the park.
"The pitch we beat Barnstaple on last Saturday was worse than the one Redingensians wouldn't play us on three weeks ago," said Exmouth coach Jon Hill.
"Who knows what will happen this time? Perhaps they will turn around and go home again?"
Exmouth are fresh from a 34-18 win at Barnstaple, which wasn't quite as straightforward as the scoreline suggests.
Barnstaple were 13-5 up at half time, but Exmouth got a grip in the second half to run out comfortable winners.
Matt Garner, Garry Hooper, Dave Kimberley, Tom Kill and Bob Armstrong scored tries for Exmouth.
Andrew Powell kicked the goals.
Exmouth's Dale Sleeman was among the try scorers for the Royal Navy in their 21-14 defeat by Oxford University at Burnaby Road. Sleeman is an engineering technician based at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint.
Newton Abbot could probably do with a game this week to keep the momentum up after their 24-12 win away to Oxford Harlequins.
The post-Christmas spell has not been kind to the All Whites, who have been hammered by London Irish and Weston, as well as losing to Old Patesians, among the few occasions when they have been able to play.
Victory at Oxford was expected, but by no means a foregone conclusion for a Newton side riddled with selection problems.
"We scored three tries in the first half and one more in the second for the bonus point," said director of rugby Roy Henderson. "Our confidence has taken a real knock in recent weeks, but the longer the game went on the more you could see it coming back.
"Hopefully we are back in the groove now, although not having a game this Saturday is going to be a mixed blessing.
"A week off will give some of the injured players time to come back, but it means we go into a difficult game against Redingensians (4th) without a game for two weeks."
Newton really did have problems at Oxford as they were without full-back Josh Smith, centre Kev Dennis, scrum-half Matt Newman and lock Matt Templeman.
Newton had a real headache until an old face stepped into the void.
Former player-coach Andy Birkett, who retired at the end of last season and is now a media pundit, dug out his boots again and between him and Stephen Ward they covered the job of scrum-half.
Sam Jones scored two tries, James Hannaford and Lee Williams had one each.