Exmouth are tipped to go all way to title
Exmouth coach Jon Hill insists it is too early to talk about promotion from National Three South West despite an eye-catching 13-13 draw at leaders London Irish Wild Geese.
The Cockles have gone 11 games without defeat in the division and only London Irish are ahead of them as the season reaches the halfway stage. One of two rival coaches – in particular Brixham's Ian Morgan – are already tipping Exmouth as potential champions, with Irish destined for the play-offs.
"Exmouth have what it takes to win the division," said Morgan. "I think London Irish will lose a couple on the road as the weather turns – top two: Exmouth and Irish."
Hill accepts a draw at Sunbury will have impressed everyone in the division, but he is not getting carried away.
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"The time to start talking about promotion is next April and there is a long way to go before we get there," said Hill.
"What we saw at Sunbury were two very good teams, both of whom would not look out of place in the next division up," he added.
"Was it two points lost? All I would say is London Irish were more relieved than we were to hear the final whistle."
Exmouth led 6-5 after ten minutes, trailed 13-6 at the break and got back on level terms ten minutes into the second half.
The Cockles' points came from a penalty try converted by Andrew Powell, who also slotted two penalties.
Brixham won 17-5 at Malvern despite struggling to turn possession into points.
"We must have had 85 per cent of possession and territory, but Malvern defended amazingly well," said assistant coach Morgan. Steve Worth darted over from full-back in the first half, with Tom Clarke following suit in the second. Ben Lovell converted both tries and a penalty.
Newton Abbot were forced to play the final 23 minutes against Barnstaple a man short due to injury, but still emerged 17-7 winners.
Rob Avery-Wright converted a Lloyd Radford try and four penalties for the All Whites.
"What was really pleasing was to play well in appalling conditions and win, after putting in such a poor performance at Avonmouth," director of rugby Roy Henderson said.
Taunton lost 29-10 at Canterbury in National Two South after leaving themselves too much catching up to do after trailing 22-3 at the break.
"In the second half we played and did quite well but they had already built too much of a lead," said assistant coach Keith Brooking. Gary Kingdom kicked a penalty and converted a try by Sam Prior.