OLD TECHS will be playing in Devon One next season after securing promotion on Saturday with a hard-earned 16-10 home win over Buckfastleigh Ramblers at Weston Mill.
Their return to level nine after a two-year break was confirmed after city rivals OPMs lost 15-6 at home to champions Dartmouth.
OPMs will have to make do with finishing third – the position Old Techs had to settle for last season.
After the frustration of missing out last term, Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith is thrilled his team have escaped Devon Two this time around.
“We finished third last year and it’s not a nice feeling,” he said.
“So it’s great to get promoted this year.
“The objections for this season were to get to the final of the David Butt Trophy – which we did, although I would have liked to have won it – and to try and get promotion, which we’ve done now.
“We have done it the hard way, but we haven’t lost a game since OPMs (November 19). We’ve actually only lost three games all season – two in the league and one in the (David Butt) cup final.
“But we want to go to Dartmouth next week and try and get a result there as well. We are also in the semi-finals of the Lockie Cup and we still have the Devon Cup to come, so there’s still a lot to play for.”
Techs did make hard work of claiming victory over Buckfastleigh at a windy Weston Mill.
Despite dominating territory, they found themselves 10-3 down before going in at half-time level at 10-10.
They then had the better of the second half and went 16-10 up, but missed the chance to increase their lead and had to survive a nerve-wracking final 10 minutes.
“We made hard work of it,” admitted Bedford-Smith. “At half-time I said to the team ‘we’ve had 80 per cent possession but it’s 10-all – you’ve got 40 minutes now to save your season.’
“We then kicked off and it didn’t go 10 metres and I’m thinking ‘here we go again’.
“But we got control of the game yet it was a nervy last 10 or 15 minutes as they could have scored and we could have lost 17-16, which could have changed the season.”
Bedford-Smith added: “We came out of the blocks really quick at the start but we needed to calm down a little bit as we were a bit too hyped up for the game.
“We do have to close games out better. When we have the majority of possession we have to score points. We just have to be more clinical.
“It was a relief at the end, but I said to them afterwards that we just have to move on to next week now – let’s go up to Dartmouth and try and get a result.”
Techs dominated the opening 10 minutes but could not score. Paul Ansell missed a penalty and they wasted another going for the corner.
However, they did go in front in the 24th minute when Ansell did kick three points, but almost straight away, Buckfastleigh scored the game’s opening try with scrum-half Harry Laity going over under the posts after a good break down the right.
The impressive Laity also converted and added a penalty two minutes later to put the Ramblers 10-3 up.
Techs, though, did not panic. They dominated the scrums and line-outs and just before the break they pushed Buckfastleigh off a scrum on their own line and powerful flanker Bryan Milford picked the ball up and drove over for a try (pictured below), which Ansell converted.
The Plymouth side had the wind advantage second half and two early Ansell penalties looked to have put them on the way to victory.
He had a chance to put Techs nine points up, but he missed a kick at goal in the 69th minute after Matthew Pike was sin-binned for a high tackle. Then nerves seemed to creep into Techs’ game and they had to defend hard in the dying minutes to keep hold of the vital win.
But whereas Techs were celebrating on Saturday evening, there was disappointment for OPMs, who must spend another season in the bottom tier.
They knew they had to win at home to champions Dartmouth. They were 6-0 up at the break thanks to two Gavin Rae penalties, but Dartmouth had wind advantage second half and they scored 15 unanswered points to seal the win.
“It is upsetting,” admitted OPMs captain Henry Matthew. “We knew if we wanted to go up we had to beat them (Dartmouth).
“At the end of the season we did not quite do enough. We have to accept that, but it has been an exciting league.
“At the start of the season, we said we just wanted to consolidate (after two successive relegations) and enjoy our rugby and that’s what we have done.
“We have got some very young players, especially our front row. Their average age is probably 21 and it is a learning curve. It is all about the journey. You have ups and down, but we’ll keep on going and keep enjoying the rugby.”
He added: “Everyone played with so much heart (on Saturday). Unfortunately the weather played its part. In the first half we got two penalties, but then spent a lot of time on our five-metre line-out. The amount of driving mauls and scrums we stopped was incredible.”
Elsewhere in Devon Two, DHSOB had to come from behind to earn a hard-fought 17-7 win over Plympton Victoria at Marsh Mills.
Plym Vic were leading 7-0 at the break thanks to a converted Dan Warne try, but DHSOB changed tactics second half and it worked.
A Shawn Mucunabitu penalty reduced the gap to 7-3 before Samuela Cola went over for a try under the posts, which Mike Walkden converted to put the Old Boys in front for the first time.
Mucunabitu sealed the win with a fine individual try, which Walkden converted.
St Columba & Torpoint pulled out of their home match against Salcombe.
NATIONAL THREE SOUTH WEST
IVYBRIDGE dropped down to fifth in the National Three South West table after losing 20-6 at home to in-form Bracknell.
It was the South Hams side’s third straight defeat, but they are still only four points off second place.
However, the teams below them are creeping up, with just nine points now separating Dings in second to eighth-placed Newton Abbot.
Ivybridge’s season could now rest on two away games against seventh-placed Brixham in the next fortnight – one in the league and one in the semi-finals of the Devon Cup.
In tricky conditions on Saturday, the Bridgers led 6-3 at the break thanks to two Billy Pinkus penalties.
Ivybridge had finished the first half strongly and they continued that after the interval, but Bracknell kept them out and then took the lead with a try by prop Harry Challenor.
That gave the visitors encouragement and they went 15-6 up when centre Pecili Nacamavuto scored following a series of powerful drives.
And Bracknell put the game beyond doubt in the closing stages when centre Ian Burch crossed the whitewash to secure the Berkshire side their sixth straight win, which has moved them up to sixth in the table.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services’ promotion hopes are looking slim after they lost 24-12 away at mid-table St Austell.
Although Services, who have now lost three of their last four games, stay third in the Western Counties West table they are now eight points behind second-placed Cullompton with five matches to go.
Fourth-placed Truro are also now level on points with them and have a game in hand.
“It was a disappointing day at the office,” said Services team manager Kieran Leach. “And other results went against us.
“We’ve got five games left and we just have to keep going. We can’t lose confidence.”
Services, who handed a debut to Fred Dalton at hooker, had the slope and the elements in their favour first half.
And they took the lead when Joe Daley scored a try following a penalty, which Matt Anstis converted.
But the visitors had prop Jack Martin sin-binned for what the referee deemed a late tackle and while he was off St Austell responded with a converted to try to pull level.
The hosts then kicked a penalty just before half-time to go in at the break 10-7 up.
Two quick converted tries at the start of the second period by St Austell decided the game.
Services did hit back with a touch-down by Brandon Andrews after he charged down a kick after a good scrum by the visitors.
Devonport piled the pressure on after that but St Austell kept them out.
TAMAR Saracens’ return to Devon One was confirmed on Saturday when they lost 29-5 at home to Tavistock.
On a heavy pitch, eighth-placed Tavistock scored five tries to secure their first win of 2017.
The visitors claimed three tries in the first half to lead 17-5 before adding two more after the interval.
The influential Andrew Schuttkacker and Mark Friend both crossed the whitewash twice, with Aidan Mason getting their other touch-down.
“We were clinical in what were horrendous conditions,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill.
“Considering the conditions our handling was very good. There was a lot of positively and defensively we were sound.”
Chris Cox, playing at centre instead of his usual number eight position, scored Tamar Saracens’ only points.
Despite now knowing they will definitely be relegated back to Devon One after just one season in the Cornwall/Devon League, Saracens spokesman Marc Cioffi says morale is still high.
They are already planning for Devon One, where they will be joined by their big city rivals Old Techs.
“Everyone is now concentrating on building for next season,” said Cioffi.
“General morale is good and we have players like Chris Cox and Richard Bush back playing.
“We have also got some new guys and it’s just about building for next season now.
“We now know what’s happening and we can just go out and enjoy our rugby.
“I believe with the players we have got we can have a good season next year.
“We congratulate Old Techs on their promotion and we are looking forward to playing them again.”
Second-placed Saltash were unable to stop leaders Falmouth claiming win number 20 at Keyham on Saturday, but the Moorlands Lane club did at least pick up a bonus point for scoring four tries in a 32-22 defeat.
Saltash took an early lead with the prolific Will Morton scoring before he had to go off injured.
And, if Morton’s injury was not bad enough, the Ashes soon found themselves 27-5 down.
Visiting fly-half Justin Irons kicked a penalty before scrum-half Tom Spiller scored back-to-back converted tries to put Falmouth 17-5 up.
The gap soon became 22 points when full-back Tom Edmunds crossed and Irons converted before also adding a penalty.
Saltash, though, got one try back before the break with Olly Mulberry scoring a fine individual effort.
After the interval, Edmunds extended Falmouth’s lead but the Ashes came back with Phil Eatwell and Tom Rixon crossing.
Plymstock Albion Oaks have moved up to fourth in the table after beating Bodmin 34-10 at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
Oaks produced an impressive display and scored 17 points in each half.
Richard West collected their first 10 with a try, penalty and a conversion before Mat Neyle-Opie went over for a converted try to put his side 17-3 up at the break.
Jack Green, Corey Jamieson and Brad Hart crossed after the interval.
“It was good,” said Oaks coach Tim Mathias. “It is really pleasing when we score good tries from open rugby.
“We had two good sessions this week and it just showed how much better prepared they were for a game.
“The stuff we worked on went well. They are a really receptive bunch and if they put the effort in on the training paddock it shows on a Saturday.”
He added: “We are up to fourth which I’m pleased about. It is where we kind of see ourselves really this season, but we just have to hold on to it now.”
Plymouth Argaum’s game at Topsham was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.