Western Counties West

Cullompton 20 Tiverton 15

SEAN Mardell’s late try saw Cullompton snatch a dramatic derby victory over Tiverton in front of a bumper crowd at Stafford Park.

At 15-15 and three minutes on the clock, it looked as though a draw was on the cards, but Mardell collected a loose ball and raced to the line to seal a fourth successive win for Cullompton.

Fearing poor light on a dull day, fixtures secretary Graham Beer luckily arranged a 2.15pm start for the largest crowd seen at Stafford Park since the Devon Senior Cup final against Barnstaple in 2009.

The interest was predictable as for many years Cullompton existed in the shadow of their larger neighbour, but in the 2008/9 season beat Tiverton twice in their undefeated passage through Western Counties West to South West One and usurped Tivvy’s position as the leading club in the district.

After three consecutive wins it seemed the pressure of expectation of this derby day fixture weighed on the Cullompton team as errors in the opening minutes led to a Jack Sampson penalty and Tiverton went 3-0 up.

Cully soon recovered their composure and gained a 5-3 lead with a backs try through the hands for winger Paul Baker.

Defence was tight on both sides so it was not until the 49th minute that Tivvy stand-off Mark Schofield scored a try converted by Sampson to go ahead 10-5.

Almost immediately, Cully’s Alex Brooks replied with a chip and chase score under the posts with Adam Pearce converting and later adding a penalty for 15-10 with seven minutes left to go.

Although Cullompton had kept the lid firmly shut on Tivvy’s Wayne Sprangle, replacement flanker Richard Tucker scored behind a trademark Tivvy maul equalising two minutes later and a draw looked likely, until home wing forward Sean Mardell was on hand to scoop up a defensive fumble in the wake of Cully pressure and touch down for the winning score of 20-15.

Cullompton face their toughest test of the season this weekend when they travel to current league leaders, Kingsbridge who have lost just twice all season.

Saturday’s win sees Cullompton climb out of the bottom three for the first time since September.

They then travel to Wadebridge the following week, before rounding off 2015 with a home game against Devenport Services.

Tiverton host seventh-place Devenport Services hoping to get back on track.

Tiverton are one place behind Devenport in eighth, but a win could see them climb as high as sixth in Western Counties West. Tivvy then play Truro on December 12.