Western Counties West
Chard 32, Bideford 26

WHAT a game this was if you were a Chard supporter... you had to be there to believe it, writes Glyn Hughes.

Despite the terrible weather of the last few days, the main pitch at Chard was in very good condition and there was never any doubt that Saturday's home fixture with Bideford would go ahead.

The hosts lost the services of Emile Szydelko and Liam Mustchin to injury, but did welcome winger Oliver Klimpke into the team for his debut.

Chard started the game well enough and were awarded an early penalty when Bideford were caught offside, with scrum-half Paul Nicholls slotting the ball between the posts.

However, Bideford were by far the better team in the first half and really looked like a top three team.

They had big aggressive forwards and dangerous backs, while the home side did not help matters by conceding a dozen penalties, and having Ryan Helliar and Jack Elliot sent to the sin bin.

Tries from Callum Davies and Rob Elliot, both converted by Josh King, gave Bideford a 14-3 advantage but somehow, despite playing nearly 20 minutes with players in the bin, Chard somehow managed keep Bideford from scoring again.

Bideford would, in the final analysis, regret not capitalising on their superiority in the first half.

Shortly before the interval Nicholls kicked another penalty, and at 14-6 Chard were still in the game.

A disastrous start to the second half put Bideford further ahead, however.

Chard knocked on the restart kick and the resulting scrummage set up Elliot for his second try, which was again converted by King

Shortly afterwards the Chard defensive line was breached again when Peter Hockridge went over for a fourth, bonus-point try.

King missed this conversion and also missed a sitter of a penalty a few minutes later, but Chard looked dead and buried - 26-6 down with less than 25 minutes to go.

They made a couple of changes, bringing on fresh legs in the pack and moving a few players to different positions, and suddenly it all clicked.

Bideford were suddenly under severe pressure for the first time and the hosts got back into the match with a try from Dave Biss, following good work by Ben Robinson, and Nicholls added the extras.

The heavy rain seemed to suit Chard and they scored again when the visiting scrum was shunted backwards at quite a rate and Nicholls added to his points tally with all seven points.

In the space of a few minutes the home side had reduced the deficit by 14 points and now had the upper hand, with Bideford there for the taking.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Chard went all out to get the converted try they needed to put themselves in front, and it was fitting that this came from the good wing play of Huw Edwards, who somehow got over in the left-hand corner.

Despite the wind and rain Nicholls pulled a beauty out of the bag and got the extra two points to put Chard ahead; this try also gave Chard a bonus point.

The shell-shocked visitors knew they only needed a score of any kind to retake the lead, but it was Chard having the final say when the impressive Jack Elliot scored a fifth try in the last few minutes.

Nicholls missed the conversion but from nowhere Chard had shown their character and took a maximum five points from the match.

Chard: Stead, Edwards, Crouch, Brooks, Klimpke, Roberts, Nicholls, D. Biss, Mainwaring, Aplin, Tinley (c), Moore, Wright, Helliar, Elliot. Replacements: Gosden, Prior, Robinson.

Chard re-commence their league season in the new year, with an away fixture against Wiveliscombe on Saturday, January 4 (2.30pm).