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Teams in a dust-up over state of Exmouth's pitch

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 07, 2013

Teams in a dust-up over state of Exmouth's pitch

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A WAR of words has broken out between Exmouth and Redingensians over Saturday's non-event on the Imperial Ground.

Redingensians travelled down from Berkshire for the game, then refused to play as their officials felt the pitch was unfit.

Exmouth were left fuming by the visitors' decision as the view from the Cockles' camp was the pitch was playable.

Plymouth-based referee Richard Harding was the hapless man in the middle as the clubs argued it out.

At Exmouth's level and below the referee can't rule on the fitness of the ground before a match starts, but he can stop a game once it has kicked off.

"With a bit of common sense the game could have been played, but Redingensians were not interested," said Exmouth's director of rugby Chris Wright.

"There were sticky spots around the half-way line, but we had put some sawdust down to soak them up.

"From a scrummaging aspect it is not a vital area of the pitch where you are worried about positioning or footing.

"It is a winter game for heaven's sake. To be honest I don't understand why Redingensians didn't want to play."

Gareth Rees, the Redingensians secretary, said Exmouth were trying to 'disguise' the state of their ground and it is his club who have suffered most.

Rees also claimed Exmouth said the day before the match it was unlikely to be played – claims hotly denied by Wright.

"The pitch was unplayable," said Rees. "The right-hand side of the pitch was a quagmire and unfit.

"Clearly significant work had been effected to prepare the pitch but it hadn't succeeded and a covering of wood shavings did not disguise that fact.

"In discussions with the referee it was clear that his options were that the scrummages would have to be moved but the area was such that the pitch position of the scrummage would be significantly different – the alternative was uncontested scrummaging.

"To start a game with that imminent probability is a nonsense and turns rugby union into a quasi-rugby league game.

"Frankly we consider we are the injured party – this is a very long away trip, which we have to repeat at considerable cost of around £800."

Wright was quick to dispute claims Exmouth warned Reds about the fitness of the pitch.

"I made that call and told them I was confident the game would go ahead and there would only be a problem if we had any more rain, which we didn't," said Wright.

Exmouth return to league action this Saturday – weather permitting – with a home game against Avonmouth. No date has been confirmed for the Redingensians re-match. The next free date is February 23, when both clubs have county cup games.

Newton Abbot will need to continue the improvement they showed to beat Malvern 15-14 when Old Patesians visit Rackerhayes this Saturday.

Pats, who are halfway up the table, will be a tougher proposition than lowly Malvern, although with home advantage Newton ought to start as favourites.

Roy Henderson, Newton's director of rugby, said after the 83-17 drubbing at Weston recently nothing can be assumed about any game.

"After what happened at Weston, we were just glad to come home from Malvern with a win – no matter how narrow," said Henderson.

Ed McGinley and Sam Jones crossed for tries for Newton, with Rob Avery-Wright slotting a conversion and penalty.

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