DEVONPORT Services coach Bryan Critchon was given the perfect send off by his team on Saturday as they secured a 33-10 win over Bude at the Rectory.
The five-point victory means Services are guaranteed to finish third in Western Counties West, even though fourth-placed Truro still have two games to play.
Critchon is stepping down from coaching the team after six years due to family and business commitments.
Mike Lewis came in to share the workload with him last summer, but Critchon has decided that now, with another child on the way, is the right time to take a back seat.
“It was quite an emotional day and it was the perfect send off for him,” said Services team manager Kieran Leach.
“It was a good win and we played really well second half. He was chuffed to bits. It was a good way for him to finish.”
Services did not make the best of starts and were not helped by losing key forward Matt Gregory after five minutes with a suspected broken foot.
The home team found themselves 10-0 down in the first 20 minutes, with Bude scoring a converted try and a penalty.
“It was scrappy game,” said Leach. “And the first half was littered with penalties.”
Services got back into the match after Bude were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes following a late tackle and from the resultant penalty, Services went for the corner and scored – Jack Martin getting the ball down. Matt Anstis converted to leave Devonport just three points behind.
Not long later Services scored an almost identical try through Martin again after another high tackle and Anstis also converted to give the home team a 14-10 half-time advantage.
Almost straight after the break Devonport made it 21-10 when centre Toby Knowles went over under the posts after a great break by fellow centre Callum Perkins.
Perkins was rewarded with a first team start after impressing in the second team’s 55-16 RNEC Cup win over Saltash IIs in midweek and he produced a man-of-the-match performance.
Anstis converted the try and the experienced fly-half then played a major role in Services’ fourth touch-down. He made a great tackled and turned over the ball, which found its way out to Luke Stannard on the left wing who scored to make it 26-10.
The home team continued to threaten and should have had another couple of tries before they did claim a fifth courtesy of a 50-metre effort from veteran forward Andrian Montague, which Phil Greenside converted after Anstis had gone off injured.
NATIONAL THREE SOUTH WEST
IVYBRIDGE had to settle for a sixth-placed finish in National Three South West after losing 27-19 away at Hornets in their final match of the campaign.
The Cross-in-Hand side had been in the top four nearly all season, but on the final weekend were overtaken by Newton Abbot and Bournemouth.
Fortunately, for them Brixham’s Ben Lovell did not have his kicking boots on against Newton Abbot or they would have finished seventh.
In the end all three Devon sides were separated by just four points. Newton Abbot, who beat Brixham 29-23 away on Saturday, finished on 75 points, with both Ivybridge and Brixham ending on 71.
Sixth spot was an improvement on their eighth-placed finish last term, but the Bridgers will feel they should have finished higher.
After going 12-0 down early on against Hornets, injury-hit Ivybridge responded with two tries before half-time to go in at the break 14-12.
A penalty and two tries by Hornets in the second period put them 27-14 up.
Ivybridge threw everything at Hornets but could not get over the whitewash again until the last minute.
Ryan Dingle, Billy Pinkus and Tom Scoles scored Ivybridge’s tries, with Mitch Pinkus kickign two conversions.
PLYMOUTH Argaum ended their season on a high with an impressive 26-12 away victory against the Pirates Amateurs at Mennaye Field.
It was a perfect way for Mark Sullivan to begin as Argaum’s new director of rugby.
Sullivan was appointed ahead of their trip to Cornwall as part of new-look Argaum coaching set-up ready for next season.
He will be assisted by Mark Albiston, with Calum Mills and Tom Holiday making up the new team at Bickleigh Down.
“Mark Sullivan has a very good head on him and knows how he wants to play rugby,” said Argaum chairman Nick Hancock. “That was shown on Saturday.
“We were well structured and I think we shocked the Pirates a bit.
“We led 21-12 at half-time and they came out for the second half very fired up, but we scored off their attacking play. Our defence was very strong and we got good turnovers and counterattacked effectively.”
He added: “It has been a long, difficult old season for various reasons, mainly due to lots of injuries at the beginning of the season, then players coming back and getting injured again.
“With 26 games in a season you need a big squad.
“But we survived the season and are staying in the Devon/Cornwall League.
“The buzz in the changing room after Saturday’s game was immense. It was like we’d won the league.
“We knew this would be a difficult game, but for the last two weeks we’d trained to a game-plan and we stuck to that and pulled it off.
“More importantly for us was that we had three ‘Return to Rugby’ players on the bench to give them a little taste of Devon/Cornwall rugby.”
Argaum, who have finished 10th in the league, made a great start and took an early led when Dan Bolt scored after a good break by John Ireland. Al Murray converted to make it 7-0.
That soon became 14-0 when after some good defence work, Murray kicked clear up field and John Fulton chased and picked up before side-stepping a defender to score under the posts. Murray added the simple conversion.
And it got better for Argaum who then went 21-0 in front when front-row forward Mills produced a stunning break to beat the full-back and cross the whitewash for a third converted try.
The Pirates hit back with two tries before the interval to make the half-time score 21-12 to the Plymouth side.
The home team really pressed in the second half but Argaum kept them out and added a fourth try when Fulton went over again after a good turnover.
Plymstock Albion Oaks also came close to returning from Cornwall with a win.
They pushed fifth-placed Penryn, who have a good home record, all the way before losing 17-7.
Coach Tim Mathias, in his last match in charge of Oaks, was full of praise for his team’s performance.
“That was probably the best side we have been able to put out in seven weeks and it just shows when we are close to our first team, we are a better side than some of our recent results have reflected,” he said.
“We have not really trained together for three weeks, but we looked sharp and scored a good try to go 7-0 up.
“But the bits that were going to be rusty when you don’t train – our defensive shape and first up tackles – did let us down a little bit.
“We thought we should have scored another try, which was a bit frustrating.
“It was a shame we didn’t finish on a win, but it has been enjoyable season – stressful, but enjoyable.”
Mat Neyle-Opie scored Oaks’ only try, which Richard West, who is expected to move to Devonport Services this summer, converted.
Oaks did finish their second season in the Cornwall/Devon League in sixth place. They were still in the running for promotion at the start of January but have fallen off in recent months.
Bottom club Tamar Saracens’ trip to Cornwall was not quite as positive, as they lost 92-14 at in-form Lanner.
Lanner were one of only two teams Sarries had managed to beat in their season in the Cornwall/Devon League but the Cornish club have been the form team in the second half of the campaign and have finished seventh.
There was also disappointment for third-placed Saltash, who lost 39-0 away at second-placed Paignton on Saturday.
Last week’s agonising RFU Senior Cup semi-final defeat at Farnham and a number of injuries took their toll on the Ashes, especially in the second half on Saturday.
They were only 12-0 down at the break but further injuries disrupted the visitors and Paignton took full advantage to celebrate their promotion in style.
Tavistock were also unable to end their season with a win, narrowly losing 18-10 away at Honiton.
Honiton needed the victory to guarantee their safety and it resulted in a cracking match at Allhallows, watched by a big crowd.
Although frustrated his team could not end their season with three straight wins, Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill knows the club have made big improvements this term.
“If we had have won it would have doubled our wins from last year,” said Kerswill.
“It was disappointing as we set our wanting to end with three wins, but when you look back at the season we have won five more games than last year.”
He added: “And it really was a cracking game of rugby. It was a good, hard game to finish on.”
Tavistock were 10-8 up at the break. They came out flying and took the lead early on when Kyle Maslen went over out wide after some good phases and then some good hands by the recalled Mark Friend.
Teenager Hillson added the conversion before Maslen had to go off injured, as did Danny Oner.
Honiton, though, hit back with an unconverted try before 17-year-old Hillson kicked a penalty.
Two minutes before half-time Honiton added a penalty to leave them just two points behind at the interval.
Tavistock got in a great position at the start of the second period, but two metres from Honiton’s line they were penalised and the home side went up the other end and scored a try to put them 15-10 in front.
“Then it became a really good battle,” said Kerswill. “But they then got a crucial penalty. We then had 12 minutes to try and bring back two scores. We got very close at the end, but couldn’t do it.”
He added: “They had good support but the game was played in a cracking spirit with a fantastic ref.”
DEVON JUNIOR VASE
FOR THE second time this season Old Techs suffered cup final agony.
Back in October they narrowly lost the David Butt Trophy final 21-15 to Devon One side New Cross at Barnstaple.
On Saturday, they lost 12-10 to another Devon One outfit, Exeter Saracens, in the Devon Junior Vase at North Tawton.
Techs, who lost Paul Ansell early on with a suspected broken arm, dominated large spells of the game and could have drawn the match with the last kick of the game.
The Devon Two runners-up scored a late try and had the conversion to level the game and take it into extra-time, but Billy Evans’ kick from out wide, taken with people shouting, was missed.
“We should have won,” said Techs chairman David Evans. “We were by far the better side.
“But we gave away a really cheap try in the first five minutes and the other try they scored was a charge down from a kick.
“It was a tight game but we could easily have won it, so it is disappointing.
“Sometimes you have to hold your hands up when you lose, but on this occasion we had most of the possession yet just didn’t convert it. It was just one of those games.”
He added: “But this has given us more incentive to win on Wednesday (in the Lockie Cup final) and finish our season on a high.
“We have reached three cup finals this year, but the two we have already played we have lost.”
Matt Simmonds crashed over to score in the first half for Techs, with hooker Steve Wilkinson claiming their second try at the end.
Lockie Cup holders Techs will attempt to defend the trophy against DSHOB at the Rectory on Wednesday (7.30pm).
Before that game, Saltash IIIs will play Plymouth University IVs in the Ellis Trophy (6pm).