IVYBRIDGE showed their strength in depth as they kept alive their hopes of a promotion play-off place with a bonus point home win over Lydney in National Three South West.
The Bridgers were missing a number of key players, including player-coach Lewis Paterson, captain Jordan Anderton and props Matt Finn and Nathan Reeves, but they still managed to run in five tries.
Four of those touch-downs came in a decisive first period which left 11th-placed Lydney up against it second half.
The victory keeps Ivybridge fourth in the table, just three points behind second-placed Dings Crusaders with just three games to go.
With fifth-placed Bournemouth having to settle for a draw at Bromsgrove, the battle for runners-up spot – and a promotion play-off place – appears to be a three horse race now between Dings, Camborne and Ivybridge.
Old Redcliffians secured the title and promotion to National Two South on Saturday by beating Newton Abbot.
“We really targeted five points at home and to put some of wrongs right,” said Ivybridge player-coach Jamie Tripcony after Saturday’s win.
“We had a game-plan and we stuck to it very, very well for 80 minutes, so we are very pleased.
“We were very clinical and chose the right options at the right time but I still think we left some points out there first half.”
Ivybridge, who had lost to Lydney away in the league and to Brixham the week before in the Devon Cup semi-finals, had to juggle their squad around on Saturday.
But Tripcony said: “That’s what this team is all about. It didn’t feel any different at all. It was just another Saturday, another battle, and the whole squad did extremely well.”
Ivybridge, though, could not have made a worst start on Saturday. They conceded a try in the first minute.
Lydney, coached by former Albion captain Rhys Oakley, kicked off and won the ball back. They kept it for a couple of phases and then box-kicked to the corner and out of nowhere winger Tai Lakabuka pounced to score.
Ivybridge levelled 10 minutes later when young prop Marcus Prout scored from a catch-and-drive move.
And on 21 minutes, the home team went 12-5 up when Tripcony touched down from another good drive from a line-out and Mitch Pinkus added the conversion.
It got better for the South Hams side when they added a third try from the restart. Lydney messed up the kick, giving Ivybridge a scrum on halfway. And from it, Ben Watts put Tom Scoles away and he ran in from 40 metres to score under the posts. Mitch Pinkus added the conversion to make it 19-5.
Eleventh-placed Lydney, desperate for points, hit back with an impressive converted try by flanker Kurt Brown.
But Ivybridge, with Charlie Briant impressing in a makeshift centre partnership with Billy Pinkus, were not done for the first half and with the last play of the period, Justin Rogers touched down for try number four, which Mitch Pinkus converted.
The Cross-in-Hand club extended their lead to 29-12 after the break when young fly-half Mitch Pinkus kicked a penalty after Lakabuka was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Scoles.
Scoles was not injured and six minutes later he scored his second try of the game in the right corner to make it 34-12.
Lydney added a third try on 58 minutes through Tom Page. They then threw everything at Ivybridge looking for an all-important fourth score that would at least secure them a bonus point. However, the home team defended really well, with Damon Akerman denying Lydney what appeared a certain try two minutes from time.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services paid the price for a poor first half display as they lost 24-17 away at Burnham-on-Sea.
Third-placed Services, without captain Matt Anstis, found themselves 15-0 down at the break.
They then went 18-0 behind just after the interval before making a game of it. However, it was just too little, too late then.
The defeat means their faint hopes of claiming runners-up spots are all-but mathematically over, with Cullompton now 13 points ahead of them with just three games to play.
Their battle now is to try and keep hold of third spot, with games against fourth-placed Truro and fifth-placed Wadebridge to come in the next couple of weeks.
“In the first half, everything we could do wrong we did,” said Services team manager Kieran Leach.
“Our tackling was weak and we gave away far too many penalties, but second half we took the game to them.”
Services had Andy Pond yellow carded in the first period for a number of team penalties. At the time the score was 7-0 but Burnham took advantage of the extra man to make it 15-0.
However, in the second half, it was Burnham who struggled with their discipline and had three players sin-binned to Services one.
Flanker Joe Semple got Services back in the game with a try after a good break by prop Liyam Laraba and an off-load by fit-again Jack Norris.
Norris then pulled Services to within eight points with a try.
The visitors had chances to score again but didn’t take them and Burnham went up the other end and made it 21-10.
Devonport, though, hit back with Joe Daley going over for a five-pointer, which Phil Greenside converted to make it 21-17.
But late on Burnham kicked a penalty to put them seven points clear.
TAMAR Saracens ended their home fixtures in the Cornwall/Devon League on a high note by claiming only their second win of the season against Bodmin.
Already-relegated Sarries came back from 9-0 down to beat their struggling Cornish visitors 12-9.
It was their first win since the opening day of the season and their first at their Parkway home ground, with their other victory against Lanner coming at Brickfields.
“It was a really good win,” said Saracens player and spokesman Marc Cioffi. “It was a very disciplined win.
“The structures we played were brilliant.
“It was on the cards that we would upset somebody. We knew it was going to come. There was so much self-belief.
“It was our last home game of the season and we wanted to prove something.”
He added: “Everyone played brilliantly and we’re all buzzing from it.
“The win was a ‘team’ victory and it was not just on the field but off it as well. The whole club has been working hard to get things back on track.
“It may only be a win in some people’s eyes but for us it means a whole lot more.”
Jason Stead, who along with Joey Pook made a real impact coming on as a replacement, scored their opening try to get them back into the game. He shrugged off three players to run in from 30 metres.
The match-winning second try came from Kyle Andrews after some good backs play. Rob Hall converted.
Saracens were boosted by coach Chey Bryce turning out for them.
“Chey Bryce came in and was a calming influence,” said Cioffi.
“The majority of the season we’ve lacked discipline but this week out discipline was brilliant and that was led by Chey.
“Ed Cox, though, was our man of the match. He had an absolutely brilliant game. He was turning over ball left, right and centre and was literally putting his body on the line. He’s a true club man and he was phenomenal.”
Saracens’ victory was certainly a boost to Plymouth Argaum and Tavistock, who are both looking a lot safer, despite not winning at the weekend.
Ninth-placed Tavistock, who are nine points clear of the relegation zone with three games to go, suffered a predictable home loss to runaway league leaders Falmouth, who made sure of the Cornwall/Devon League title by winning 67-14 at Sandy Park.
“We held them in the pack for much of the game, but after the first phase it was clear they had too much out-wide,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill.
“It didn’t help that we only had three genuine backs due to injury etc, but even full strength we would have struggled.”
Tavistock’s tries came early in the game when Andrew Schuttkacker levelled the match at 7-7 and late in the match when Ben Hadfield went over for a consolation effort. Mark Webber converted both touch-downs.
Plymouth Argaum, in 10th spot, did pick up a valuable bonus point in a 22-16 home defeat to Lanner, but they were 13-0 up after 35 minutes.
However, in-form Lanner did dominate possession at a sunny but windy Bickleigh Down with Argaum struggling to win any set-piece ball.
The home team took the lead in the 22nd minute when John Ireland stole the ball in his own 22 and made a great break before feeding John Fulton, who ran in from 60 metres. Al Murray converted and then he added two penalties to put Argaum 13-0 up.
Lanner pulled that back to 13-12 before Murray added another penalty to make it 16-12, but that was to be the last of Argaum’s scoring.
Argaum remain eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Plymstock Albion Oaks also did them a favour by beating 11th-placed Honiton 23-20 at Horsham Field.
A Richard West penalty from out wide two minutes from time decided the fixture at Staddiscombe.
“We played well,” said player-coach West. “We had quite a lot of second team players playing and everyone put in a good performance.
“Honiton played well. You could tell they are fighting hard at the bottom. If they keep playing like they are doing then they should be okay.”
West put Oaks 6-0 up with two penalties but Honiton responded and went 10-6 in front with a converted penalty try and then a penalty.
But Joe Brearley scored a try for Oaks as they retook the lead.
In a tit-for-tact match, Honiton went 15-13 up only for West to score a try under the post, which he also converted to make it 20-15.
However, Honiton again levelled only for West to make a difficult kick from out wide in a tricky wind to win the match.
The victory keeps Oaks fifth in the table.
National Senior Vase semi-finalists Saltash stay third with a 62-17 hammering of second-from-bottom Topsham at Moorlands Lane.
The win, which came courtesy of eight tries, keeps the Ashes six points behind second-placed Paignton with three games to go.
Saltash will be hoping they can reduce that gap to four before they travel to Paignton on the final day of the season.
Topsham, fighting hard for survival, managed hold the Ashes for 50 minutes and were only two points behind at that point, but the home team ran riot in the final half-an-hour.
Saltash did go 19-3 up in the first half thanks to tries by winger Dom Mulberry, number eight Steve Hillman and flanker Rob Eatwell.
But after the interval, Topsham hit their Cornish hosts with two quick tries through Luke Edwardson and Ed Smale.
However, any hopes of Topsham pulling off a major surprise were short lived as Saltash found their killer edge. Replacement centre Nick Blake (2), fellow centre Kieran Down, prop Simon Nance, Eatwell, full-back Ryan Cruickshanks and Ben Stean ran in tries in the final 30 minutes.
DEVON JUNIOR CUP
IT was third time lucky for DHSOB against Salcombe on Saturday as they booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Devon Junior Cup with a 17-5 victory at Stonehouse Creek.
However, there was disappointment for Devon Two runners-up Old Techs, who narrowly lost 17-10 at home to Devon One side Totnes.
DHSOB had 13-12 and 14-12 in their two league meetings with Salcombe, but they were fired up for the cup game.
They got a good start and went 10-0 up courtesy of tries by number eight Jack Jones and Shawn Mucunabitu.
Salcombe pulled a try back before half-time, but the Old Boys went 17-5 up with a touch-down by Jone Keni.
The home team had Samuela Cola sent off for picking up two yellow cards but they defended well with 14 men.
The game, unfortunately, ended slightly early when a Salcombe player suffered a head and neck injury which required an ambulance.
DHSOB were frustrated though at lack of access to the pitch and water due to the closure of the Stonehouse Creek Community Centre. They had arranged after-match hospitality at Plymouth Cricket Club, but had been told their changing facilities would still be available as normal.
Old Techs, meanwhile, suffered their first defeat since November when they went down by one score to Totnes.
Totnes were keen for revenge after losing in extra-time at their place in the semi-final of the David Butt Trophy at the start of the season.
The match was level at 10-10, with Ryan Tunnicliffe scoring Techs’ only try and Paul Ansell kicking the rest of their points. But Totnes sealed the win with a second half try.