Bess cracks 134 as Sidmouth hit front on last bend to claim victory in three-horse race for Premier title

Josh Bess - collected a century for Sidmouth in their win over Exmouth
Josh Bess - collected a century for Sidmouth in their win over Exmouth

SIDMOUTH beat Exmouth by 80 runs to snatch the Premier Division title on the final day of the season.

It was a three-horse race going into the final round of games with Heathcoat out in front, followed by Sidmouth then Exeter in third.

Sidmouth knew a win at Exmouth on its own would not be enough to win the title: they needed relegation worriers Sandford to do themselves a favour by winning at Heathcoat.

Sandford chased down 218 to win at Heathcoat – skipper Richard Foan stroking a match- turning century – which was the favour needed for Sidmouth to grab the title.

Exeter needed more luck than a National Lottery punter to win the title from third as Heathcoat and Sidmouth had to lose for their anticipated win over relegated Hatherleigh to mean anything.

The city side have the consolation of second-place, not that it will be much comfort to them. They were top until losing to Heathcoat seven days earlier.

Devon captain Josh Bess warmed-up for a crack at Shropshire over the next three days with a run-a-ball 134 as Sidmouth hoisted 288 for seven on the Maer Ground.

Bess senior was involved in stands of 50 with younger brother Luke (26), 46 with Matt Cooke (23), 48 with Henry Gater (29) and 123 with Nick Gingell (54).

Exmouth were in an interesting position at 198 for five thanks to Dan Pyle (81), Sandy Allen (30) and Bob Dawson (28).

A combination of Will Murray (3-51), Cooke (2-49) and Max Hancock (3-41) unravelled the lower order as Exmouth tumbled to 218 all out.

Heathcoat were always aware Sandford represented a real banana skin for their title hopes, based on their recent record of four wins out of five, the odd one out being a six-run defeat.

Heathcoat made 217 for nine in their 50 overs, no on making more than Jack Dart (57). Reid Mawdsley (43) and skipper Peter Randerson (20) chipped in. Man of the match Foan took four wickets for 34 runs.

Foan opened up with Freddie Filor, who got out first ball, and settled in for the duration on his way to 109 not out.

Along the way there were stands of 78 with Charles Fitzroy (25), 44 with Neil Bettis (26), 42 with Adrian Small (27) and 55 unbroken with Chris Jelley (20no).

Exeter dismissed Hatherleigh for 138 – spinners Ed Middleton (4-36) and Dominic Tuohey (2-29) at the forefront – then knocked off the runs in 30 overs.

Ben Green made 90 not out to add to the two wickets for 15 runs taken earlier.

Sandford’s win over Heathcoat, and North Devon’s timely victory over visiting Bovey Tracey, meant Bradninch went down despite a three-wicket win at Plymouth.

There were three wickets each for Ross Acton, Eliot Acton and Gary Chappell as depleted Plymouth were rolled over for 83. Steve Luffman (22) had the best of a sorry set of scores.

Bradninch slumped to 56 for seven in reply – Dan Goodey (3-35) among the wickets – but got over the line thanks to Charlie Sheen’s 24 not out.

The difference between staying up and going down over the season? Just two points.

North Devon could have been in trouble has they lost to Bovey Tracey to as 35-run win was more than welcome.

Opener Dan Bowser carried his bat for 113 in North Devon’s 50-over total of 212 for six.

Spinner Jack Hockin then took four for 41 as Bovey collapsed from 167 for six to 177 all out. Pete Bradley (54) was among the scalps.