Late touchdown destroys Old Cents' hopes in nervy start to life in national division
A NEW chapter in the history of Old Centralians opened in defeat after they were denied a draw right at the death at Chippenham.
Level after a frenetic 80-minute introduction to National Division Three, the Gloucester club were sent home from the windy Wiltshire plains with probably less than they deserved.
At 17 points apiece, a draw would have been a satisfactory start to the new campaign for Jack Preece's men.
But it wasn't to be for the league's newcomers as the home side scored the winning try with the final phase of play.
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As Old Cents failed to clear their lines in the dying seconds, Chippenham made their last rampage the one that counted, sending full-back Dom Riccio over through a melee of missed tackles.
Preece is now looking on the bright side although he believes a share of the spoils on Saturday would have been deserved.
The 24-year-old said: "I think on balance the game deserved a draw and it was a bit heartbreaking at the end.
"But it was a good learning curve for us as it was our first game in this league.
"We kicked the ball three times to their best player when we should have shipped it on.
"We should have kept it a bit tighter because our pack played well. But it is a big learning curve and we know where we've got to get to.
"It's not as big a scare as we thought it was going to be. We were preparing for the worst playing all these real top sides.
"We know where we're at now and we've got a long season to come."
Pre-season has been all about bulldozing the scrum machine for Old Cents and, following Saturday's display, it showed.
Loose-head Sam Preece broke the deadlock in the 19th minute after peeling off a driving maul from the lineout.
But Chippenham, who came sixth in the league last season, returned with a flurry of scoring – first sticking winger Matt Rhodes over the whitewash before cutting open space on the short side for back row Fraser Cliverd.
Lively scrum half James Knight levelled the score with a converted try four minutes into the second half.
And, although deft hands from flanker Bobby Lyons put Rhodes over again, Old Cents' Matt Humphries levelled the standings for a second time, moving the ball from hand to hand before touching down in the corner with 20 minutes to go.
As Old Cents scented a victory, they were let down overall by their handling in attack.
But it was a leak in their defence that lost them the match, which will have to be looked at ahead of the derby date with Lydney on Saturday.
Chippenham: D Riccio; M Rhodes, G Champion, R Crockett, J Squire; H Taylor, L Surrey; J Down, J Turner, L Corbett, A Ascott, T Knight, S Emery, B Lyons, F Cliverd, Replacements: A Cox, A Clark, S Williamson
Old Cents: O Locke; M Humphries, M Marwood, A Bailey, J Preece; C Gwilliam, J Knight; S Preece, N Stroud, S Fritchley, D Cookwest, P Willetts, J Huxstable, K Blackmore, R Pinkney. Replacements: J James, A Mathers, M Mathers