SOUTH WEST PREMIER LEAGUE
IVYBRIDGE had to make do with just a losing bonus point in a closely-fought Devon derby match with promotion-hopefuls Newton Abbot at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday.
Newton Abbot came from behind to win 17-10, which has moved them up to third in the table.
Ivybridge, having had five points deducted, are now five points from safety, but they do have a game in hand and confidence remains high at the South Hams club that they will stay up.
Although they lost on Saturday they were encouraged by their performance against a side that have been averaging 34 points a game this season.
“It was disappointing not to get the four points, but we put in a very good performance,” said captain Matt Finn.
“It is just tight margins at the moment. But it is clicking and everything seems to be in the right place so I don’t doubt we are going to stay up.”
He added: “I felt we were on top for quite a lot of the game really. The only reason they got points was through us letting them in. It was just a couple of silly mistakes that cost us.”
Ivybridge coach Jamie Tripcony, a former Newton Abbot player, added: “It was frustrating really as we defended really well.
“But we just made a couple of blips and, fair play to Newton Abbot, they took their chances well. That’s why they are near the top of the league.
“They also brought on a Tongan international and that calibre of player is pretty tough to come up against in this league.
“The frustrating thing was that we were always in the game, but, fair play to Newton Abbot, they have a lot of experience in their team and they used that to close the game out.”
Tripcony added: “I think we kicked the ball a bit too much. We didn’t really follow our systems consistently, which gave them points. You are not going to break a team like Newton Abbot down in four or five phases. We just needed to string more phases together and have a bit more sting in our carries.”
Youngster Jay Toogood, making his first league start for Ivybridge, gave them the lead when he scored following a kick forward by player-coach Lewis Paterson. Mitch Pinkus converted that effort.
But Newton Abbot hit back with a penalty by Rob Avery-Wright before Kyle Browne scored a converted try to put the visitors 10-7 up.
Avery-Wright then scored a try himself, which he converted, to put them 17-7 ahead before Pinkus kicked a penalty to bring Ivybridge to within seven, which was how it stayed.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services could have a fight on their hands to secure a play-off place in Western Counties West after losing 12-8 away at Falmouth.
Their defeat coupled with St Austell’s bonus-point victory over Chard means Services have dropped down to third in the table.
They do have a game in hand on both St Austell and leaders St Ives and still have the two to play, but Devonport have certainly made it hard for themselves with seven games to go.
Despite not playing well in Cornwall, Services thought they had scored a late winning try through Matty Anstis, but the referee ruled it had not been grounded.
They now really need to win their game in hand next Saturday away at fifth-placed Kingsbridge.
“Falmouth deserved to win,” admitted Services team manager Kieran Leach. “They were straight at us from the start.
“We made a lot of mistakes that we wouldn’t normally make, but what can we do? We just have to move on.”
Services were without a number of players and handed debuts to youngster Lewis Swatton and prop Steve Sedgeman.
Swatton needed to make a try-saving tackle within the opening couple of minutes as Falmouth put the visitors on the back-foot straight away.
But it did not take long for Falmouth to eventually get the try they threatened to go 5-0 up.
Richard West did reduce the gap to two points with a penalty but Devonport went in at the break 12-3 down after the hosts scored a converted try on 27 minutes.
Services should have scored before the interval. They had three five-metre line-outs but failed to make any of them tell.
After the break they lost flanker Joe Semple with a shoulder injury, but threw everything at Falmouth.
“We tried everything, but the line breaks we made they always seemed to have someone in defence,” said Leach. “We also knocked the ball on too many times and lost our shape.”
But with 10 minutes to go, Services gave themselves a lifeline when Joe Daley scored after a good carry by debutant Sedgeman, who had come on as a replacement.
Services then camped in Falmouth’s half looking for a winning score. Matt Anstis thought he had got the ball late on but the referee disagreed.
SALTASH kept their league and national cup hopes alive with a 41-27 win over Withycombe at Keyham on Saturday.
The clubs were playing a league and RFU Senior Vase double-header.
The original league game was postponed in January and then the rearranged double header was also called off last week, leading it to be moved to the artificial pitch in Plymouth this weekend.
It proved a good move for Saltash, who have kept pace with Penryn and Wellington at the top of the table and also secured themselves a South West Senior Vase final away at Gordano’s next weekend.
The Ashes were out of the blocks quickly and took the lead in the 11th minute with a try by prop Adam Coutts.
But the visitors, who had beaten Saltash at their place at the start of the season, hit back with a try by number eight Alex Taylor.
Centre Jason Carroll put Saltash back in front with a try, which Kieran Down converted.
Withycombe closed to 12-8 with a Taylor penalty before Saltash scored two quick tries before half-time to take a grip of the game.
The first came from centre Tom Crofts, with scrum-half Ollie Mulberry going over straight after. Both tries were converted by Down to give the hosts a 26-8 lead at the break.
After the interval, Saltash went 36-8 up with a touch-down by number eight Steve Hillman and a conversion and penalty by Down.
But suddenly Withycombe came back into the game with three tries. However, Will Morton settled any nerves with a sixth try for Saltash.
Plymouth Argaum have moved up to ninth in the table after a vital 33-16 home win over third-from-bottom Hayle.
The Cornish side had started the day just seven points behind Argaum, but now the Bickleigh Down club have a 12 point gap between themselves and the relegation zone and have games in hand.
Argaum ran in five tries against Hayle to leapfrog above the Pirates Amateurs and Tavistock in the table. They now find themselves just two points behind eighth-placed Oaks.
“It does give us a bit of a cushion now,” admitted fit-again hooker Dan James. “We really wanted a big win and we dug deep for it. It was an enjoyable game.
“They (Hayle) came back a little bit in the second half but we calmed it down and just stuck to our guns and kept possession of the ball. It was just a brilliant day of rugby.”
Key to their victory was returning forward Mike Hunt. The experienced player recently re-signed for Argaum after a spell at Oaks and he marked his first appearance back at Bickleigh Down by scoring two tries and making another.
“It was my first game back for Argaum,” said Hunt. “I have struggled with my confidence a bit after coming back from a broken leg, but I felt really good.
“It was just really good to get out there and be back playing.”
Argaum made a really good start. Calum Mills had a try ruled out in the fifth minute before the hosts did take the lead seven minutes later with a try by Tom Worboys after Hunt had put him clear. Al Murray converted the try.
Dan Lello kicked a penalty for Hayle but Argaum added a second try on 24 minutes when Tom Holliday made a good break before off-loading to Hunt, who scored next to the posts. Murray again converted.
Another Lello penalty reduced the gap to 14-6 but in first half injury-time, Argaum added a third try through full-back John Fulton, who looked sharp all game. He pounced when Lello failed to gather a kick forward and scored near the posts for another easy conversion for Murray.
The game got a bit heated in the second half and both sides were given warnings by the referee before Argaum went 28-6 in front when another new signing, Joe Walker, scored under the posts.
In the closing minutes, Argaum were reduced to 14 players after picking up a yellow card and Hayle scored tries through Alex Thornton and Tolan Daniels.
But the last word in the match went to Hunt, who scored his second with the last play of the game.
Plymstock Albion Oaks suffered their first defeat in four league and cup games when they were beaten 29-10 at home by fifth-placed Bude.
After going 7-0 down early on, Oaks came back and the match was level at 10-10 at the break.
Player-coach Callum Cload scored Oaks’ only try with Tom Richards kicking a conversion and a penalty.
But Bude won the match in the second half as Oaks just ran out of steam.
“They are a classic Cornish side with a big lumpy pack and we thought they might tire, but credit to them they kept coming at us,” said Oaks coach Cload. “In the last 20 minutes we just had nothing left to give. Not for the first time this season, fitness let us down a bit.
“But we stuck at it and it was only 17-10 until 65th minute. But like I said, credit to Bude they came down and played a game suited to them. They carried well. They had some very good players in the core of their side and they used them suitably.”
Tavistock’s wait for a win in 2018 goes on, but they took positives out of their 40-7 home defeat to title-chasing Wellington.
Tavistock held the Somerset side for much of the first half and also never let their heads drop against a side unbeaten since September.
“It was a great game,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill. “We held them out for 30 minutes and put some real good phases together.
“Second half they (Wellington) utilised the slope well but our effort was second to none and we were rewarded with a try and conversion from colt Jack Easton five minutes from time.”
Wellington scored two quick tries before the break courtesy of tries by Nev Pitman and Danny Lee, which were both converted by Alex Davey.
After the interval, Chris Batts, Paddy Jarman, Tyler Hart and Joe Dyke added further tries for Wellington before Easton’s try and conversion late on.
TAMAR Saracens and Old Techs have both given themselves hope of staying up after claiming vital wins in Devon One on Saturday.
Second-from-bottom Tamar Saracens beat the team immediately in front of them, Exeter Saracens, 29-15 away. It means they are just three points from safety with two games in hand.
With Totnes set to be deducted five points for failing to travel to leaders South Molton on Saturday, Tamar Saracens could easily still finish in the top half of the table now.
“We firmly believe we will stay up now,” said coach Chey Bryce. “We have four games left and they are all winnable. If we hadn’t started on minus five we’d be fourth now.”
They led 10-0 at the break in Exeter with tries by Ryan Deacon and Jamie Lavill-Harris.
The hosts came back into the game in the second period, with both teams scoring three tries each.
Chris Cox, Marc Cioffi and James McFarlane went over for the visitors, with Kieran Bromell, Joe Burden and Niall Cooper touching down for the home club.
“The boys defended really well,” said Bryce. “Exeter Saracens attacked quite well to be fair and they had a lot of pressure, but we dug deep. We defended for about 60 per cent of the second half, but when we attacked we used our big ball carriers and got over the line.”
Old Techs’ task to stay up is much tougher, but they do have hope after claiming their first league win of the season with an 18-12 home victory over third-placed Dartmouth.
They are 10 points off safety with just three games to play but those matches are against Exeter Saracens, Totnes and Tamar Saracens, who could all still be relegated.
If they could beat Exeter Saracens next weekend then they would be right back in it.
“It’s been a long-time coming but we have won a match now,” said chairman David Evans.
“We know we are in a bit of trouble, but we are looking at it and thinking we are not playing Topsham or South Molton in our remaining games. We’ve got a win now and all we can do is try to keep winning.”
He added: “This weekend was one of the first times this season we have had nearly everyone available and we have also signed three new players.
“We beat the third-placed team and there are other games we should have won, but didn’t. When you look at the league we could have been quite comfortably in mid-table.”
New flanker from Hull, Sam Courtney, was handed a start, while fellow new arrivals, Manx forward Stuart Ansell and former DHSOB prop Mike Walkden, started on the bench.
All three made an impression, with Courtney scoring a try and also getting the man-of-the-match award.
Techs went 8-0 up with a try by Steve Wilkinson and a penalty by Billy Evans.
Dartmouth, though, closed the gap to 8-7 before the interval with a fine try by scrum-half Henry McCready, which was converted by David Champion
The visitors went 12-8 ahead after the break with a score by Richard Lobb, but Techs were in determined mood and claimed their first win with tries by debutant flanker Courtney and prop Rudi Baker.
OPMs will go into their final league match against North Tawton knowing they can still claim promotion after seeing off DHSOB 54-7 at King George V Playing Fields on Saturday.
OPMs knew they just had to claim a bonus point victory against their city neighbours to set up a possible winner-takes-all clash with North Tawton next weekend.
North Tawton are top of the table, but just four points ahead of OPMs. If OPMs could pick up a bonus-point victory and deny Tawts a point then they would be guaranteed a top two finish.
“We couldn’t do anymore on Saturday,” said OPMs captain Henry Matthews. “We have put ourselves in a position we want to be in. It will all hang on next week now.
“The club is really looking forward to it. We just have to get focussed and train hard this week.”
Saturday’s match should have been played at Stonehouse Creek but had to be switched to King George V Playing Fields due to a waterlogged pitch.
OPMs did the damage in the first half, scoring six tries to lead 37-0.
They ended up scoring nine tries in total with Shaun Grundy getting two and Matt Thompson, Joe Bennett, James Davidson, Matt Glastonbury, Billy Garrett, Henry Matthews and Phil Roberts getting their others.
DHSOB did battle hard all afternoon and were rewarded for their efforts with a second half try by James Marley, which Lewis Jeffery converted.
St Columba & Torpoint did make the trip to leaders North Tawton, albeit it with 14 players.
Saints had hoped to make it a friendly fixture but North Tawton did not want another walkover so a league match was played that the leaders won 99-7.
Plympton Victoria also made the long trip to Ilfracombe but gave their hosts a walkover so that a more competitive 13-a-side ‘friendly’ match could be played.
Ilfracombe outscored Plym Vic five tries to two but were grateful the Marsh Mill clubs made the journey.
“We did go to Ilfracombe,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “We went up with reduced numbers so played it as a friendly. They had a vice-presidents’ day or something on and they really appreciated us going considering the distance. We went up and had a game and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.”