Western Counties (W)

Chard 20, St Austell 22

CHARD welcomed the league leaders to Essex Close knowing that this was going to be their sternest test that they had faced yet this season, writes Jon Hendy.

The in-form visitors made a perfect start when winger Fraser Nottle collected a favourable bounce of the ball to scamper clear and score in the corner.

The conversation was missed but Chard were 5-0 down after only two minutes without touching the ball.

From the restart, St Austell created an overlap and a forward pass was the only thing denying them of their second score of the afternoon.

The home side were shocked into action and the Chard forwards gradually started to make their presence felt.

A Niall Crouch penalty got Chard on the board but St Austell's backline looked dangerous and Nottle was denied by a wonderful try-saving tackle by Huw Edwards and Ben Stead.

Chard again came back and the pressure told when, on 25 minutes, St Austell flanker Welland was sin-binned and Crouch knocked over the penalty for a 6-5 lead.

An attempted intercept by Chard winger Jamie Prior on 35 mins was seen by the referee to be deliberate and he received a yellow card, making the teams equal at 14 a side.

St Austell used this penalty to their advantage and slick handling put centre Sam Parsons in for a try in the corner. The conversion was missed but Chard trailed 10-6 at half-time.

After the break, Chard’s scrum was starting to take control and a penalty was narrowly missed.

The continued arm wrestling between the two sides was intriguing to watch but St Austell were armed with a very decent goal kicker in full-back Tucker and he pinged over two long distance penalties which took his side into a 16-6 lead with 20 minutes left.

A further kick by Tucker increased the lead but Chard fought back strongly and earned a penalty try after strong running by centres Brooks and Roberts had given Chard good position.

From the restart, some over eagerness from Chard gave Tucker another opportunity to take the three points and he did so to increase the lead.

For the last ten minutes, the Chard scrum hammered at the line of the Cornish side and again the referee had no option but to award a penalty try to Chard.

What resulted from that scrum was a yellow card for both sides after some overheated exchanges between the front rows and the game was to be played out with 14 on each side with Chard trailing 22-20 and only three minutes left to play.

The 14 on the pitch threw everything they had at the visitors for the last three minutes of the match but St Austell stood their ground and Chard came up just short.

Chard will be disappointed not to have taken the four points from the league leaders however on the day St Austell were just a bit more clinical when it mattered.

The Chard side can take massive positives from the effort and endeavour shown and this team is gaining respect throughout the league as a serious threat to all.

Next week they travel to Devon to take on Teignmouth in what will be another hard test.