IVYBRIDGE were left to rue what might have been as they were beaten 13-3 at Cross-in-Hand by National Three South West leaders Barnstaple.
The Bridgers, who had already seen off fellow Devon sides Exmouth, Brixham and Newton Abbot at Cross-in-Hand this season, deserved at least a losing bonus point for a determined second half display.
But Barnstaple, who had the better of the first period, somehow managed to deny them the try they threatened in the final 40 minutes.
It was only the third time this season 10th-placed Ivybridge had not picked up at least a point from a game.
“There were lot of positives to take, but we just fell short with a bit of accuracy and decision-making,” said player-coach Lewis Paterson afterwards.
“But to lose to the top of the league 13-3 and have opportunities to get more, is still a bonus. We just have to review it and look to next week.”
He added: “I think we just came out of the blocks a little bit static.
“They (Barnstaple) started the game really well and you have to give credit where credit’s due. They have got some good players, some faces I recognise who have played a really good standard of rugby.”
After that Barnstaple, with player-coach Steve Perry influential, got on top and the home team had to really defend well. Jordan Petherbridge missed a penalty for the visitors on 19 minutes but he put his side in front six minutes later with a simpler effort.
Barnstaple, who included Hartpury’s veteran lock Steve Pape in their side after he signed on loan, upped their game after that but whatever they threw at Ivybridge the home side seemed ready for it.
However, the visitors finally got the try they threatened – the only one of a tight game – in the 31st minute when a clever one-two created a gap for winger Linford Brock to touch down and Petherbridge to convert.
Billy Pinkus pulled Ivybridge back to within seven points with a penalty on 39 minutes.
But on the stroke of half-time, the Bridgers gave away a silly penalty for a late tackle as Barnstaple kicked clear. The referee took the penalty back to where the ball landed, which was nearly 40 metres away from the offence, giving Petherbridge the chance to put his side 10 points up at the break.
That was a crucial score for the visitors in first half injury-time.
Petherbridge missed a penalty at the start of the second period, but after that Ivybridge dominated, with replacement scrum-half Ben Watts bringing more urgency to the home team.
They looked certain to score from a catch-and-drive move but Barnstaple pulled it down right on the line. The referee just gave the penalty and nothing else.
Ivybridge got three more penalties on the try-line but the referee opted not to sin-bin any Barnstaple player and, frustratingly for the home team, they were unable to turn the pressure into points.
Paterson certainly felt Ivybridge should have got more out of that spell of pressure.
“You can’t keep putting that much pressure on and the ref keep blowing his whistle for penalties, without thinking they will lose a man, but they didn’t,” said Paterson.
“We kept trying and trying, but if we knew the ref wasn’t going to do it (take action against Barnstaple) then we might have taken the three points to put us within seven points.
“We were confident that if we kept applying that pressure they would at least lose a man to the bin, but that’s the referee’s decision. We just have to back our skipper’s choice.
“It was just one those things.
“But second half we were a lot better and there were some stand-up performances.”
PLYMOUTH Argaum were another team frustrated at not turning chances into points.
They were forced to settle for a 17-17 home draw against fifth-placed Falmouth, who had beaten them by one point away earlier in the season with a late penalty.
Argaum should have had the game won before it got to the closing stages, but they missed a number of penalties and try-scoring chances.
Falmouth snatched a draw with a penalty two minutes from time, but even then Argaum could still have won, but they missed a penalty with the last kick of the game.
Argaum did out-score Falmouth three tries to two, with Nick Carter, Ellery Jones and debutant Troy Grobey going over, but they will know they should have had the win.
“I think we missed five or six penalties,” said Argaum’s director of rugby Dave Sansom.
“Last week it was our line-out that cost us against St Ives, this week it was our penalty kicking.
“It is the second game on the trot that we were the better side but haven’t won. We should have had eight points from the last two weeks but instead we’ve just had two.
“It is frustrating and I was gutted at the time, but we will learn.
“I was really proud of how well we played. Our scrum and line-out was really good. We had a lot of players missing and we showed the strength we have in our squad.”
Argaum have dropped down to seventh after Saturday’s result. Pirates Amateurs have overtaken them on points difference after they beat relegation-threatened Tavistock 31-10 at Sandy Park.
Tavistock remain second-from-bottom, five points away from safety.
DEVON ONE & TWO
TAMAR Saracens kept their promotion-push going with a 22-5 bonus point win away at city neighbours OPMs.
The home team, who are fighting to avoid back-to-back relegations, put up a good show but it was not enough to deny Saracens, who remain in fourth place but with three games in hand on the two sides immediately above them.
Saracens had beaten OPMs 56-0 at the start of the season, but there was to be no repeat of that one-sided match this time.
The visitors, who were missing a number of players who had gone to watch England play, led 10-0 at the break with tries by Tom Rigby and Joey Pook.
After the break, Pook and Aaron Webb added further scores to secure the all-important bonus point for Saracens, whose man of the match was Edd Cox.
“To say we were a bit rusty would be an understatement,” said Saracens coach Stuart Busfield, whose team had not played a match for three weeks.
“But I’m really pleased. We were on top quite heavily but weren’t finishing off our opportunities.
“They (OPMs) were in much better shape than the last time we played them. They were a lot more organised and they had three or four players I was very impressed with.”
The defeat does leave second-from-bottom OPMs in real trouble. They are three points off safety, having played two more games than South Molton, who sit just above them.
Busfield said: “I don’t think they (OPMs) deserve to go down on the display they produced on Saturday. If they can keep that team together for the rest of the season then they could stay up.”
Elsewhere in Devon One, an understrength St Columba & Torpoint side went down 36-0 at home to Totnes, who have pulled away from the relegation zone with three wins in their last four matches.
There were no joy for either DHSOB or Plympton Victoria in Devon Two.
DHSOB went down 39-8 to promotion-chasing Torrington, with only a late try and a penalty to show for their efforts, while winless Plym Vic lost 31-0 away at Salcombe.