PROMOTION-hopefuls Devonport Services picked up another important five points at the weekend with a 38-12 victory over Crediton at Keyham.
They stay second in Western Counties West, but now have a seven point gap between themselves and third-placed St Austell.
And, although they remain 11 points behind leaders St Ives, who beat Kingsbridge 27-14 at the weekend, they do have a game in hand and the Cornish side still have to visit Plymouth.
They ran in five tries on the artificial surface at Keyham, where Saturday’s match was played after the Rectory pitch was put out of bounds.
However, Devonport coach Mike Lewis felt relegation-threatened Crediton made it tough for them.
“We had to work really hard for it,” said Lewis. “We made a few errors in the middle 40 which let them back into the game a little bit and put us under a bit of pressure. But we started superbly and finished incredibly, so that sort of makes up for it.”
Services took the lead after just four minutes when Andy Pond scored a well-worked try, which Richard West converted.
The hosts continued to be on top for the next 20 minutes but could not add to their tally.
“We played some really good, high tempo rugby, but just could not get over the line,” said Lewis.
However, they did finally increase their lead on 31 minutes when West kicked a penalty in front of the posts.
And then right on the stroke of half-time, scrum-half Ben Wadham scored a second converted try under the sticks from the base of the ruck to put the hosts 17-0 up.
“It was really positive that we got that try,” said Lewis. “It was a bit demoralising for them. If they had kept us out then, I think they would have had a bit more of a sniff.”
After the interval, Rhys Williams claimed a third try for Devonport when he touch-down in the corner after some good play. West converted well to make it 24-0.
However, struggling Crediton kept going and they reduced the deficit with an interception try by Devon Under-20 player Josh Davey.
They then quickly added another through Oli Down, which was converted to put them to within two scores.
“They were really pressuring us then and really made us work hard,” said Lewis.
But Services ended any hopes of a Crediton comeback with a try in the corner by hooker Joe Daley after a great break down the pitch. West once again added the conversion.
And with time almost up, Ben McGowan put the gloss on the win with an 80-metre interception try.
On Saturday at a muddy Weston Mill they gave promotion favourites South Molton a real work-out.
There was only nine points in the game for 65 minutes – and that was only after the visitors had scored twice while Techs had a man in the bin – but in the final quarter South Molton used their impressive scrum to pull away and win 33-5.
Techs are no mugs themselves when it comes to set-piece work, but even they could only admire the north Devon side’s scrum.
South Molton have inflicted Techs’ two biggest defeats on them this season – Saturday’s 33-5 loss and a 29-0 defeat in north Devon – but they have been two of the league leaders’ harder games.
The week before South Molton had put 86 points on New Cross and had also run up big scores against many other teams.
“They just had that scrummage,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith after Saturday’s defeat. “When a team has that power, you just can’t defend it. They are probably the best side in the league.
“They are very powerful up front and they have a good set of backs, but it was only 14-0 at half-time and that was after they had made a really great try-saving tackle to stop Matty Simmonds going in. I thought he was in and that could have been 14-5. We then we scored a good try after the break.”
The previous week, Techs had lost 20-0 at Topsham, who are level on points with South Molton at the top. Those two teams are 14 points clear of anyone else and only need one more win to seal promotion.
“It was always going to be a tough two weeks, but we’ve played them now,” said Bedford-Smith.
“We have got four games left now and if we want to stay up they are four we probably have to win, which will be tough. But we have played the hard teams now.
“The last two weeks against the top two we have been good losers, but I don’t want us to be good losers, I want us to be good winners.
“Both weeks we have been beaten by better teams, but it is good when those teams are asking us how are we where we are in the league.”
There was no score in the opening half-an-hour at Weston Mill, but Techs had Rudi Baker yellow carded on 28 minutes and the visitors pressed. It looked like South Molton had wasted their chance when they were penalised at a scrum, but then they stole Techs’ line-out from the penalty and scored through lock Tom Clark. Callum Stone converted to make it 7-0.
Four minutes later than became 14-0 when George Whiting crossed near the posts.
It did look like Techs were going to reduce the deficit before half-time when powerful centre Simmonds made a great break down the left, but he was stopped just inches short and Techs failed to then take advantage of pressure on the line.
Techs lost winger Jack Williams at half-time after he got called into work. However, after the break they scored a really impressive try – the best of the game. From a line-out on the right near their own 22, they went wide and Simmonds again made a great break before off-loading for Joel Dickin to score and make it 14-5.
With the game getting a bit too close for comfort, South Molton brought on powerful back-row forward Dan Smith and he scored two tries in the final quarter from five metre scrums. Then in injury-time, Harry Kingdon went over for another for the visitors.
Techs, already without Billy Evans and Jack Courtney, were not helped by losing Tony Luxton in the second half with a serious looking shoulder injury.
OPMs have put themselves right back in the race for promotion in Devon Two after overcoming previously unbeaten Buckfastleigh 20-7 away.
With Ilfracombe also defeating second-placed North Tawton on Saturday, it is now a four-horse race at the top.
OPMs are six points behind leaders Buckfastleigh and five behind North Tawton, who, like Ilfracombe, still have to visit King George V Playing Fields. And the Plymouth side do have the best points difference in the league by a long way.
“It has given us a chance,” said OPMs player Mark Hardie. “North Tawton and Ilfracombe still have to come to us and after this performance we have to be confident that we can get results on our pitch.
“It is doable and we just have to keep our confidence up and keep the effort going.”
On Saturday’s match, Hardie added: “It was hard-fought. They really pushed us, but we played the conditions better.
“It was 10-7 at half-time, but second half we had the slope and we kicked to the corner and played the game in their half.”
The win went somewhere to making up for Buckfastleigh’s 6-5 win at King George V Playing Fields, when OPMs missed a last-gasp penalty to claim victory.
“If we had scored that penalty we probably would not be in the position we are now,” admitted Hardie. “But it happened and you have to learn from it and go forward as a team.
“They were unbeaten, but we’ve gone to their place and made sure we’ve won and not given them a losing bonus point. That’s testament to our coaches and our defence really.”
OPMs do have the league’s best defence by far. Buckfastleigh did become only the third team to score a try against them when they took an early lead on Saturday through Ryan Currie, which Harry Laity converted.
But the Old Boys hit back to take a 10-7 half-time lead with a try by fit-again winger Martin Skelly and a conversion and penalty by Matty Thompson.
OPMs, with Craig Walker impressing on his first start and Pete Regan influential at fly-half, then took command with tries by Harry Green and Lewis Harmer.
Elsewhere, Plympton Victoria dropped down to sixth in the table after losing 23-7 at Salcombe.
There was nothing in the match in the first half. Plym Vic took an early lead with a try by Connor Turner, which Jordan Mitchell converted.
But Salcombe responded with a Lee Clarke penalty and a try by Craig Julian to go 8-7 up at the break.
After the interval Salcombe took the five points with further tries by Schalk Herselman, Dafydd Bonar and Oli Masters.
“It was very, very close in the first half,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “But then we suffered a host of injuries.
“Before kick-off our full-back twisted his back and so couldn’t start, so that left us with just two subs, both forwards, which I was one.
“We’d already had to move Connor (Turner) from the second-row to the centre and had a winger who had not played for three-and-a-half months due to injury. So we were a bit shy on numbers.
“We picked up a couple more injuries during the game and we found ourselves subbing injured men for injured me. We also picked up a couple of yellow cards that didn’t help us as well.
“We certainly ran them hard and the tries they scored they had to go all the way round the outside. Forcing them out-wide shows our defence is getting sounder. Last year they would have just run straight through the middle of us.
“I think if we’d had a few more backs we might have stopped a couple of them tries. It would have helped us in attack as you can only run so much with it in the forwards.”
All other matches involving Plymouth area teams at the weekend were postponed due to the bad weather.