IVYBRIDGE suffered late heartbreak in their final home match of the National Three South West season against Dings Crusaders.
The Bridgers were leading 17-11 with 79 minutes up on the clock and it looked like they were going to take the race for the runners-up spot into the final weekend of the season.
But Dings scored two late tries – the second one in the eighth-minute of added on time – to win 23-17 and secure second place in the league.
Ivybridge stay fourth in the table, but they could drop as far down as eighth if they do not win their final match of the season at Hornets and other results go against them.
Fifth-placed Newton Abbot are now level on points with them, while sixth-placed Brixham are just a point behind. Those two south Devon clubs meet on the final weekend in a match that could decide the county’s final pecking order.
Ivybridge will be kicking themselves after Saturday’s defeat as they looked in control at 17-8 up midway through the second half, but they wasted two gilt-edged chances to increase their lead.
And Dings, who have Bristol’s former Plymouth Albion full-back Luke Arscott on their coaching staff, refused to give up, even when the game looked lost after they failed to convert their second try in the 80th minute.
Afterwards a disappointed Ivybridge player-coach Jamie Tripcony said: “It was a tough day at the office.
“I thought we had a grip of the game. We were going through our phases and sticking to our game-plan, but full credit to Dings they came right at us at the end and threw the kitchen sink at us.”
He added: “Rugby is a funny game and it is all about taking your opportunities. Fair play to them, they found a winning ingredient.
Had Ivybridge won they could still have finished second, but now the best they can hope for us fourth.
“We are really fighting,” said Tripcony. “We have got some personal goals as a team and they are under the cosh now. We’ll address things in training next week and prepare for Hornets (on April 22).
“There were loads of positives, but a few things to address and we’ll do that next week.”
The first half at Cross-in-Hand was far from memorable, with the referee not helping with his management of the scrums and both teams making plenty of errors in the hot sunshine.
Ivybridge had three five-metre line-outs in the opening 12 minutes. On the first two, Dings conceded penalties as the Bridgers drove but Ivybridge messed up the third one.
Dings scrum-half Steve Plummer, who didn’t have a good day with the boot, missed a penalty on 14 minutes and six minutes later Ivybridge took the lead when Lewis Paterson went over in the left corner after good play by Charlie Briant and Mitch Pinkus.
The visitors had some pressure afterwards but could not make it tell.
However, in the 31st minute Ivybridge had Justin Rogers sin-binned for preventing a quick tap penalty. Plummer went for goal from the second penalty and he put it over to reduce the gap to 5-3.
It looked like that would be the score at the break in a half of little action, but deep in injury-time Mitch Pinkus kicked a drop-goal to give Ivybridge a five point advantage at the interval.
The second half was much better. Pinkus kicked two penalties early in the period to give the Bridgers a 14-3 lead.
On 57 minutes, Dings centre Matt Smith scored a fine individual effort on the left, dancing around three players. Plummer surprisingly missed the easy-looking conversion.
The home side went 17-8 up with another Pinkus penalty, although they felt they should have had a try. Ivybridge thought the referee was playing advantage from the penalty and Charlie Briant kicked through and won the race to the ball ahead of Dings full-back Harry Tovey, but the referee had already blown up.
The Ivybridge crowd were more aggrieved as Tovey appeared to aim a knee and a kick at Briant while he was on the floor, but incident was unseen by the referee, who just gave both teams a warning for reacting.
With so much at stake, the game was getting quite feisty.
Dings wasted a good chance on 66 minutes but a minute later Plummer kicked a penalty to reduce the gap to 17-11.
Ivybridge then had two great chances. First, Paterson was stopped just short of the line after good run and then eight minutes later Ivybridge broke through Dings’ line again, but Billy Pinkus was just unable to cleanly gather Paterson’s pass on the wing.
Dings had struggled to create clear-cut chances, but in the 80th minute they threw everything at Ivybridge’s line and eventually Smith got over in the left corner from close range.
Plummer missed the tough conversion and it looked like Dings would suffer a one point defeat.
But six minutes into injury-time they got a penalty from a scrum that allowed them to get up field. Tovey, who was lucky to still be on the field, came close on the left. Ivybridge defended well but Dings kept the pressure on and after nearly two minutes camped on the try line Plummer squeezed over to win the game and a promotion play-off spot for his team.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services are secured a top four finish, despite losing 27-20 at fifth-placed Wadebridge Camels on Saturday in Western Counties West.
The bonus point Services picked up in Cornwall was enough to make sure they finished ahead of Wadebridge.
They could still finish third, if Truro are unable to win their two games in hand. They are currently five points ahead of the fourth-placed outfit.
Services’, though, were again frustrated to lose a tight match, despite missing key backs.
Poor re-starts cost them at Molesworth Field. Nearly every time they scored they let Wadebridge back in.
Services were not helped by disruptions to their back line, due to injuries and unavailabilities.
Centre Toby Knowles had to drop out the day before when he was told he needed an operation on a nose he had broken the Saturday before.
Fly-half Matt Anstis was again unable to travel with his wife due to give birth.
With other backs away or injured, Services had to play number eight Matt Gregory at centre. However, Gregory impressed there with his power and caused Wadebridge problems.
Services took the lead in the fourth minute with a try by Max van Gorkum.
But Devonport could not gather the restart kick and Wadebridge instantly replied with a try by Matt Ballard.
Services responded with a penalty by the experienced Jamie Shone, but yet again Wadebridge scored when the game resumed, with Ben Hawken going over.
In an end-to-end encounter, the visitors went 15-12 in front when Phil Greenside scored after good play by Gregory. Shone added the conversion.
But once again Wadebridge hit back to take a 17-15 lead with Dom Hawkey crossing.
“We just kept going to sleep from kick-offs,” said Services team manager Kieran Leach. “They were hanging them really high up in the air.”
And Wadebridge scored again just before the break through Ben Humber to take a 24-15 lead into half-time.
The visitors did have the better of the second period, even though the home side kicked an early penalty through James Grubb to go 27-15 up.
Devonport, who handed a first team debut to winger Morgan Gilbert in the second half, pounded Wadebridge’s line but the only try their got for their efforts came from scrum-half Brandon Andrews.
Services will end their campaign on April 22 with a home game against Bude.
“We really want to finish with a bang,” said Leach.
SALTASH will have to settle for third place in the Cornwall/Devon League, despite beating Lanner 24-14 at Moorlands Lane on Saturday.
The Ashes needed to win and hope that Plymstock Albion Oaks could do them a favour and beat second-placed Paignton at Horsham Fields.
Oaks had only lost once at home before the weekend, but due to injuries and unavailabilities they struggled to get a team out and crashed 61-0.
That guaranteed that Paignton would finish second above Saltash, despite what happens in their meeting on the final day of the season.
The Ashes, who next weekend will play Farnham in the RFU Senior Vase semi-finals, were made to work hard for their win against an in-form Lanner side.
Fly-half Harrison Reburn put Saltash ahead with a penalty, but Ben Prout levelled for Lanner on 18 minutes.
The home side then built some pressure and eventually flanker Phil Eatwell cut through the narrowest of gaps to score the game’s first try, which Reburn converted.
And Saltash went 17-3 in front when Reburn danced around Lanner’s defence to score under the posts for a try he also converted.
Prout kicked a penalty before half-time for the visitors to make the scoreline at the break 17-6 to Saltash.
Lanner cut the gap with a penalty after the interval before winger Bevin Stone scored to leave them just three points behind at 17-14 with 20 minutes to go.
The home team, who handed a senior debut to Ryan Kean, had picked up two yellow cards second half, but they sealed the win when a centre Shaun Crawford dived on the ball for a try following a clever chip by Reburn, who also converted.
Meanwhile, Plymstock Albion Oak coach Tim Mathias was disappointed his team could not do Saltash a favour or make Paignton work harder for their win at Horsham Fields.
Oaks had a day to forget. They had four players drop out either the night before or on Saturday morning and then had two more – one key fly-half Richard West – get stuck in traffic at Exeter on their way to the match.
West had been coaching the Devon Ladies side in the morning and was picking up a team-mate at Exeter railway station, but they weren’t able to get to Plymouth in time for the game because of the traffic jams caused by the M5 closure.
With other players away, unavailable or injured, Oaks were only able to field one replacement.
Although they had their issues on Saturday, Mathias is disappointed with how his side’s season has fizzled out.
“It was a bit the same last year,” he said. “As soon as we had nothing to play for, we have dropped off.
“We were probably out of the promotion race earlier than we wanted to be really.
“It was just a frustrating day really, but fair play to them (Paignton) they are a good side. However, it was just disappointing we did not give a better account of ourselves.
“We are much better than that scoreline suggests.”
Another side who were disappointed with their scoreline were bottom side Tamar Saracens, who lost 59-0 at relegation-threatened Honiton.
They, like many teams this weekend, were also struggling for players but were determined to visit Honiton and fulfil the fixture.
Honiton needed to win to move out of the relegation zone.
“We had an absolute nightmare getting there,” said Tamar Saracens spokesman Marc Cioffi.
“Most of us left between 12noon and 12.30pm to give ourselves plenty of time to get there, but there was an accident south-board on the M5 and there was traffic just everywhere. We tried taking a detour, which took us everywhere and we got there with five minutes to go.
“They delayed the kick-off 10 minutes, but pretty much the whole team did not have a warm-up and the ground was just solid, so we felt every knock.
“But they (Honiton) were definitely up for it. You could tell it was a must-win game for them. They were brilliant.
“We have had a few injuries and we had players unavailable to travel because it was supposed to be a home game, but it was rearranged to theirs because we didn’t play them earlier in the season.
“But we just wanted to get a team out regardless of what happened. “
Saracens did call on a few old heads like Jon Wheatley and some non-regulars like Curtis Turpin.
“Curtis came in and was outstanding,” said Cioffi.
“But we didn’t take our opportunities and Honiton played some really good rugby.
“Like I said before, every game for us is a training session and we learnt a lot and you couldn’t fault anyone’s effort.”
Plymouth Argaum are safe in the division, despite losing 38-31 at home to Penryn.
The two bonus points they collected coupled with Bodmin’s 103-0 defeat at champions Falmouth, means Argaum will definitely finish outside the bottom three.
They are currently 10th but need one more point to stay there.
Argaum had struggled for players the week before but they had enough for two teams on Saturday for their Past Players’ Association Day, but it was their visitors, Penryn, who were struggling for numbers and arrived with just 13.
In an end-to-end match, Argaum managed four tries courtesy of Taff Fulton, Matt Bankhead, Tom Holiday and Mason Edwards, with Ali Murray kicking the rest of their points.
However, Argaum’s day of celebration at Bickleigh Down ended in disappointment with one of their past players and city boxer Courtney Richards taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg suffered in the social match on the second team pitch.
Meanwhile, Tavistock ended their home fixtures on a high with 45-26 win over Topsham.
It was the first time since November 2015 that Tavistock had scored more than 40 points in a league game.
The match, though, nearly did not go ahead as the exchange referee got stuck in the traffic chaos in Devon.
Both teams wanted to play and agreed to local official Kirk Lewandowski stepping in for a match that eventually kicked off at 3.45pm.
“Topsham were superb in agreeing for the game to go ahead as a league fixture, subject to league approval,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill.
Despite the delayed start, Tavistock got off to a flyer with a quick double from Kyle Maslen before Jack Easton, stepping up from the colts, crossed outwide.
Martin Budden impressed for Tavistock, breaking through the line on a number of occasions, as did George Hillson, another player stepping up from the colts.
Hillson ended a memorable day with four tries – his pace causing Topsham all kinds of problems. He also kicked the rest of Tavistock’s points.