Sunshine was the order of the day with no wind. Underfoot, the pitch ‘took a stud’, writes Douglas Warren.

Bournemouth got off to a good start with right-wing Ryan Morrell going over in the corner. Scrum-half Grant Hancox’s kick at goal missed to leave the score at 5-0 after just four minutes play. Striking straight back from the restart, Bournemouth couldn’t take advantage of the throw-in on the Exmouth 5m, and the visitors were able to clear to find touch beyond their own 22m. Bournemouth ‘overthrew’ the ball at the line-out and were penalised. Exmouth found touch and Bournemouth from a promising attacking position found themselves defending a line-out just outside their own 22m.

Exmouth found it difficult to make progress in the face of the Bournemouth defensive line which induced the knock-on. From the scrum, full-back Alex Sutherland kicked to find touch on the Exmouth 22m, but Bournemouth were penalised at the line-out and Exmouth found touch some 40 metres out from the Bournemouth line. Bournemouth recovered the situation by ‘nicking’ the Exmouth throw-in but an attack down the left was broken up and Exmouth had a line-out inside their own 22m. Again, Bournemouth ‘stole’ the ball and attacked right where outside centre Ashley Taylor had a good run but was forced into touch inside the Exmouth 22m. Bournemouth again stole the Exmouth throw-in but were penalised as they attacked left. Exmouth failed to find touch with their kick and the ball was fielded by Sutherland. The full-back found touch inside the Exmouth 10m for an Exmouth line-out. At this point, blindside flanker, Ben Kimber, received some attention for a cut to the head but was soon ready to resume. Exmouth were penalised at the line-out for ‘holding on’ and Sutherland found touch on the Exmouth 22. Driving off the line-out, Bournemouth were penalised for ‘being off their feet’ just five metres out from the Exmouth line. Exmouth further relieved the pressure by finding touch beyond their own 22m.

A strong Exmouth attack down their left was stopped by left-wing Oli Grainger-Williams ‘corner-flagging’ coming off his own wing with a try-saving tackle just 10 metres short of the Bournemouth line. Bournemouth were able to press Exmouth back when the visitors were penalised, and Sutherland found touch inside the Bournemouth 10m. After half-an-hour, at a Bournemouth scrum, Morrell, who had seemed to be affected by a ‘hammy’ for a little while, was forced to give way to be replaced by Sunderland. Alex Peel came off the bench to replace Sunderland at full-back. From the scrum, Bournemouth cleared to find touch and an Exmouth line-out.

Attacking off the line-out, Exmouth were awarded a scrum but were penalised under the Bournemouth scrummaging pressure and Bournemouth kicked to touch. From off the line-out, Bournemouth attacked into the Exmouth half but were dispossessed and Exmouth were able to clear to find touch just inside the Bournemouth half. Bournemouth again ‘lost’ the ball and Exmouth countered and scored a converted try to lead 7-5 after 42 minutes play. Two minutes later, referee Henry Lowis blew the half-time whistle.

It took Bournemouth ten minutes to restore their lead when outside centre ‘Ash’ Taylor went over for his second try of the season and his effort converted by Hancox to make the score 12-7. Exmouth responded with some sustained pressure and Bournemouth did well to ‘turn the ball over’ but on their own 5m line. Hancox cleared to find touch on the Bournemouth 22m. With this stoppage in play, the opportunity was taken to replace tighthead prop Luca Firetto with Tom Napier from the bench 16 minutes into the half.

Exmouth continued to maintain pressure on the Bournemouth defence and a little chip through didn’t quite go to plan and Bournemouth had a line-out on their own 22m instead. On the hour, Ben Russell replaced Kimber at blindside flanker. The respite for Bournemouth was short lived as Exmouth continued to press but knocked on for a Bournemouth scrum. Referee Lowis who had lost patience with Bournemouth’s efforts to keep Exmouth out took the opportunity to ‘bin’ lock ‘Jake’ Guildford for his collective part in his side’s misdemeanours. From the scrum, Hancox was able to clear for an Exmouth line-out on the Bournemouth 22m. Exmouth attacked off the line-out and scored a try just left of the posts which was converted to restore their former lead at 14-12 after 30 minutes play in the second half.

A promising Bournemouth attack came to nought when they were penalised, and Exmouth were able to respond by taking play back into the Bournemouth half where Bournemouth had a line-out on their 10m line. However, it was hesitancy in the Bournemouth defence who appeared to anticipate a referee’s whistle that allowed Exmouth to score a ‘runaway’ try which, crucially, for the outcome of this match was converted for Exmouth to extend their lead and make the score 21-12 with two minutes of ‘normal’ time left.

Bournemouth responded straight from the restart when Hancox kicked a penalty to claw back some of the deficit, earning, at least, a losing bonus point at 15-21. Bournemouth continued to search for a winning score and deep into extra time, Bournemouth were awarded a penalty. Finding touch to their left on the Exmouth 10m line, they secured the ball at the back of the line-out and, going right they, successfully retained possession to feed replacement right-wing Sunderland who went over in the corner to score for the second time in successive weeks. Could Hancox convert that from wide out? Unfortunately, no and Bournemouth despair as Lowis blew for no time as the ball went ‘dead’ to leave the score a tantalising 20-21.

Similar sentiments to last week, ‘Oh, what might have been’.

The loss means Bournemouth drop to fourth in the table on 21 points, with Exmouth leap-frogging Bournemouth but also on 21 points. Next week is a week off and Bournemouth are away to Hornets (WsM) the following week.