RUGBY: Devizes 18 Windsor 19
DEVIZES skipper Tom Collins admitted his side had learned a “harsh lesson’’ after Chris Laidler’s injury-time penalty handed the Saddlebacks an undeserved defeat to the South West One East’s second-placed side.
The home side looked set for another significant milestone in their maiden season in the division when Collins dummied his way over for a try in the dying moments and wing Ryan Webb knocked over a nerveless conversion.
But in a hugely-controversial finale, Windsor were handed a lifeline after Devizes centre Mark Carter had been felled by a dangerous tackle – one of several from the visitors during the afternoon – in midfield.
Carter’s incensed teammates took exception to his treatment, but once the ensuing fracas had concluded, Dorset & Wilts Society referee Andrew Clune chose not to further punish the original tackle, while also reversing the penalty initially awarded to Devizes, allowing Laidler one last shot at the posts from more than 40 metres.
The visiting fly-half capped a faultless kicking display in blustery conditions by sending a magnificent kick sailing through the uprights to rescue his side.
Collin said: “Fair play to their kicker, it was a great kick under pressure, but it was a massive get out of jail card for them.
“Their coach said to me afterwards that we were robbed and it felt like that.
“You can’t blame the official because without them we wouldn’t be able to play. He had said earlier in the game that if there was retaliation, the decision would be taken away.
“But we felt there had been a few high shots all through the afternoon and after the last one there was just a bit of handbags really. No punches, just pushing.
“It was a harsh lesson to learn – but we will learn from it.’’ It was an ironic ending given that it was Windsor, rather than the home side, who had continuously lost their discipline in a compelling second half.
Webb and Laidler exchanged penalties during the first 40 minutes, but with Julian Taylor’s lineout prowess providing a useful attacking platform, Devizes fashioned a superb opening try.
Fly-half Rory Brown broke tackles in midfield and, after cutting infield, an excellent long pass found Webb, who weaved between defenders to go over.
The close-range conversion was missed though and the visitors piled on the punishment when Devizes dropped the ball on their own 22 and a razor-sharp attack off a scrummage saw centre Jack Graves pile over in the corner.
Laidler gave advance warning of his prowess with the boot by landing a stunning touchline conversion and Devizes flanker Jake Richardson and opposite number Joe Klieren were both sin-binned after a dust-up soon after.
The visitors were under the cosh in the second period as Devizes, led by an outstanding forwards effort, piled forward.
Windsor lock Dom Klieren and wing Paul Nunn both saw yellow for a high tackle and deliberate offence respectively and Saddlebacks’ sub James Gaiger was held up over the line as Webb and Laidler again exchanged three-pointers.
Webb missed two more tough chances with the boot before Laidler nudged his men further in front with an excellent long-range effort.
The try Devizes merited arrived late on as Gaiger and Richardson both drove off a lineout before Collins dummied the backline to burrow over from close range, Webb knocking over the extras.
But there was still time for Laidler to smuggle the win away with his final intervention with the boot.
READ MORE FROM DEVIZES SKIPPER TOM COLLINS ON THE SADDLEBACKS' FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON, PLUS MORE LOCAL RUGBY REPORTS AND REACTION IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD
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