EXMOUTH director of rugby Chris Wright believes a little more composure at the death and his side could have been celebrating success instead of defeat against Cornish All Blacks on Saturday.
Already relegated from National Two South, the Cockles found themselves trailing 15-0 after 41 minutes.
They rallied in the remainder of the second-half, with fly-half George Meadows getting them up and running with a penalty before he converted a penalty try to close the gap.
Much the better side in the closing stages, Exmouth pushed for the victory but could only add a further score at the death with Alexander Brown’s try, converted by Meadows, seeing them come up short 18-17.
While the setback at Polson Bridge made it 23 defeats for the season, Wright insisted his side more than matched their opponents.
“It was a close start but we missed a few tackles and found ourselves down at the break and then before two minutes were on the clock after the break we conceded again so we left ourselves a lot to do,” he said.
“But I still felt we had more than enough to be able to put them to the sword. We came back with George getting a penalty and then got our rewards with a penalty try.
“We kept the pressure on for a long time and eventually the referee awarded us the try to get back to within five [points], although they managed a penalty with a rare attack.
“We pushed and pushed at the end,” Wright added, “but we took a couple of wrong options before finally getting a try in the last play of the game which George converted, but we just ran out of time. We had plenty of opportunities in the last five to ten minutes but we just butchered our chances or gave it up too easily.”
After an even start, the All Blacks notched up a penalty on 28 minutes before two tries either side of the break, the latter converted, saw them extend their lead.
Exmouth’s reply was almost immediate with Meadows slotting over three points although he missed with another attempt shortly afterwards.
However, the visitors were soon back on the attack, and with the hosts’ Lewis Webb in the sin bin, Exmouth capitalised with a driving maul and eventual penalty try, which Meadows converted.
Kieron Lewitt’s penalty eased the pressure on All Blacks but Exmouth came again with Brown eventually touching down – a show of determination that was not lost on Wright.
“The morale of the guys has never dropped, despite already being relegated they came out and put on a good account of themselves,” he said. “Our defence was outstanding in the second half but we just could not make our chances count.”
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