DEVONPORT Services and Tavistock were both happy with their pre-season displays at Brixham on Saturday.
The clubs played a three-way fixture with hosts Brixham at Astley Park. Each side played two 40-minute matches.
Western Counties West outfit Services ended the day unbeaten. They impressively overcame Brixham 24-0 in the second match of the afternoon and then came from behind to beat Tavistock 26-10.
Cornwall/Devon League side Tavistock lost 26-5 to Brixham in the first fixture of the day, but they did defend well in that game, and also pushed Services hard in their second match before Devonport pulled away in the final quarter.
All three clubs were missing players, with many of Brixham’s Devon Cup-winning squad at a wedding, but all the sides were happy with a run out.
Services coach Mike Lewis was particularly satisfied with his team’s performance.
“I was really pleased,” said Lewis. “It was our first 15-a-side game we’ve played. We played those 10s games a few weeks ago and we were a bit rusty then. You could see a progression from then to now.
“We are starting to look a bit more structured and creative.
“Most of the tries we scored weren’t just simple ones, they were multiple phases and it’s great to see that.
“The Brixham game was the most aesthetically pleasing. We played some good rugby, but probably more pleasing was the Tavistock game as they were a bit more physical than the Brixham team. We knew they would be and you can get complacent when you are tired.
“You want to make sure you are still doing the right things when you are tired. We managed to hold our own – just – and had that heart and desire to battle at the end.”
Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill knew it would be a big test for his team, with Brixham three leagues higher than them and Services one above.
But he was encouraged, especially as like the rest of the sides, they were without some key players and only accepted the fixture late on.
“Paignton let us down at the last minute, but probably having higher league opposition was a better run out for us, especially away from home,” said Kerswill.
“It’s good to come away from home as in the Cornwall/Devon League that is where the league is almost decided.
“We only had four named backs, but if you asked anyone in the crowd it was probably not noticeable that we were short of backs. Everyone put a really good shift in.”
Kerswill was particularly happy with how his team defended against Brixham, who fielded probably their strongest side in the opening game against them.
“Organisation in defence is a lot about fitness and we have worked on that a lot more,” said Kerswill.
“I thought prop Darren Guppy was outstanding in defence. I was really happy with that.
“We had a lot of players who were second teamers last year who want to push for the first team this year and they’ve all put their hands up.
“I was over the moon with our set-piece first game. I know Brixham were a bit short of front-rowers but to dominate the scrum like we did against them and then hold our own against Devonport was good.
“It was a real good work-out.”
Brixham might have been missing some of their high-profile players, but they did include former Tavistock scrum-half Keir Murphy and Plymouth-based forwards Malcolm Onsando and Shek Sheriff in their squad.
Onsando and Sheriff particularly stood out against Tavistock.
However, the Cornwall/Devon League side defended really well to keep Brixham out until the 13th minute when Kenyan lock Onsando finally opened the scoring with a converted try.
Two minutes later scrum-half Murphy, back from a long-term injury, scored against his former club.
Tavistock did not have too many opportunities but they did keep Brixham from adding to their tally until the 27th minute when Jamie Hext went over from close range and fly-half Jack Akery converted to make it 19-0.
That became 26-0 three minutes later when Sheriff produced a storming run. He made 50 metres and pushed off tackle after tackle before off-loading to replacement scrum-half Noah Nash to score.
But Tavistock kept going and were rewarded in the last minute with a good team try scored by Ash Toll after good work by Ben Hadfield.
Brixham stayed on pitch, but made some changes to face Services, who dominated all areas to convincingly win 26-0.
Services had all the territory early on, but it was not until the 20th minute before they finally managed to get over the try line when Callum Perkin showed good strength to cross on the left.
Unlike the first game, where Brixham had played the entire game up the slope, the teams did switch around on 20 minutes in the second match.
Two minutes later, Devonport, two divisions lower than Brixham, made it 19-0 with Perkin collecting his second try.
And on 38 minutes, Morgan Andrews crossed on the left after good pressure to secure a four-try win for Services.
However, Devonport, who made a few changes, were brought back down to earth a bit in the opening period against Tavistock.
Tavvy dominated the opening exchanges and it was no surprise when Jack Glover gave them a 5-0 lead when he broke off a maul and went down the blind-side to touch down in the corner.
Services did hit back with a strange try by Jack Norris from a Tavistock scrum on their own line.
Tavistock, though, responded with a good touch-down by Andrew Schuttkacker after a powerful run and great off-load by Hadfield.
After changing ends, though, Services, now playing down the slope, managed to get control of the game.
The influential Daley kicked forward a loose ball from a line-out and won the race to pick it up and score on 24 minutes. That made it 14-10.
Then Andrews added another try four minutes later before Arran Webb scored with the last play of the game give Services a 26-10 win.
Meanwhile, a Plymouth Argaum XV lost 40-10 away at Liskeard-Looe on Saturday, while Plymstock Albion Oaks’ first team lost 33-12 to higher league Kingsbridge but their seconds beat Plympton Victoria 40-13.