Bideford clash with St Austell set to decide Western Counties title
BIDEFORD manager Dave Harris expects the winners of Saturday's match with St Austell to claim the Tribute Western Counties (west) title.
The top two go head to head at King George's Field level on points after Bideford's defeat to Penryn at the weekend.
Bideford, unbeaten at home this season, will start as slight favourites against a St Austell side who have lost their last two away games.
With Torquay Athletic 14 points adrift in third place, Harris believes Bideford and St Austell are "virtually guaranteed" to finish as the top two.
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Now it is a question of who goes up automatically to South West One as champions and who faces a play-off against the runners-up in Western Counties (north).
"It's the biggest game we have had for a couple of years and hopefully we will get the right result," said Harris.
"It's the crucial game of the final five and the one who wins this should go on to take the title."
Bideford will have to bounce back from losing 34-19 at Penryn – their first defeat since going down 17-6 at St Austell on November 3.
The Chiefs were so furious about being penalised 33 times by the Cornish referee, to Penryn's 12, that Harris even called for "neutral" officals in fixtures between Devon and Cornwall clubs.
"It was non-stop," said Harris. "Our heads dropped a little bit because of it.
"If it had been a level playing field, we would have been closer and at least got a losing bonus point.
"Penryn played very well, you cannot take that away from them, but when we were allowed to play we scored two tries at the end."
Penryn added Bideford's scalp to St Austell's, which they claimed in January, with a run of 27 points in the second half, interrupted only by a Pat Sanders penalty.
Sanders kicked Bideford into a 6-0 lead but Penryn led at the break after a converted try by Andrew Sevior.
Four tries followed for the home side after the break through Alex Ducker (three) and Matt Williams.
It was not until the last ten minutes that Bideford got over the try line, with Pete Hockridge breaking from a scrum to set up Chris Snell.
Adam Crouch then created a try for James Buckland.
Bideford have a doubt over prop Paul Thomas for this weekend's game after he was forced off by a shoulder injury. Andrew Loosemore was taken off as a precaution against his recurring knee injury. The captain and centre trained on Monday and is expected to be fit to start against St Austell.
Bideford Harlequins recorded what is thought to be a club-record victory when they beat Cullompton III 137-3.
It was one-way traffic for 80 minutes at King George's Field as Bideford's second team ran in try after try.
Simon Mitchell, Rob Faulkner, Matt Dennis, Matt Fletcher, Sam Brown, Mike Buckland, Andy Baxter, Steve Fisher, Bobby Dyer, Mark Westcott, Richie Allin, Curtis May, Alex Hillman, Tom Evans, Matt Salterton and Richard Weston all crossed.
Brad Goaman, the Bideford player-manager, said: "Cullompton's players should take a lot of praise, they never gave up and are a credit to the club."