IVYBRIDGE moved out of the relegation zone in the South West Premier League with a 34-31 away victory at Weston-super-Mare.
The Bridgers knew they needed a bonus point win in Somerset to close the gap on the teams above them.
That looked like it was going to be relatively simple to achieve when they went 21-7 up and then 34-19 up against Weston-super-Mare with Charlie Briant getting a hat-trick. But they found themselves desperately hanging on at the end.
However, they managed to see the game out and have move above Newbury in the table, with the Blues losing to Dings Crusaders, who secured the league title with a 24-0 win at Monks Lane.
“It was a relief to get the win as it got a bit close towards the end,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson. “But we did really, really well. The boys really stuck at it.
“We said we would not come off the pitch without a five-point win and that’s a credit to the boys. It was a massive collective effort.
“We didn’t play great, although we started tremendously well with three tries in about 15 minutes. But we did let ourselves down a bit in certain areas – our discipline was really poor – but our hunger and attitude was second to none. The boys worked probably as hard as I have ever seen.
“To see out that win when Weston-super-Mare had made such a great fight-back was a credit to the boys’ attitude. Our want and work-rate was the deciding factor.”
Ivybridge could have made the game a lot easier had they been more disciplined. They had to play 30 minutes of the game with 14 men after Marcus Prout and Ben King were sin-binned in the first half and George Wilson in the second.
Weston went in front with an early converted try before Briant, playing on the wing, got his first of the game on eight minutes. He quickly added two more tries to put his side 21-7 up, with Mitch Pinkus converting all three.
Weston reduced the gap to 21-14 before Pinkus kicked a penalty to put Ivybridge 10 points up. In a thrilling match, the hosts scored again before half-time to go in the break just five points behind at 24-19.
Ivybridge, though, upped their game again and hooker Jay Geraty scored after a good charge down by Robin Luscombe to make it 31-19. Pinkus, having a great day with the boot, kicked a long-range penalty to put his side 34-19 ahead, but then Weston’s revival started and the home club scored two tries to leave Ivybridge hanging on.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services suffered their first home defeat of the season when they were narrowly beaten 18-13 by Sidmouth at Keyham on Saturday.
If losing a game they should have won was not frustrating enough, Services would have been kicking themselves even more when they saw that play-off rivals St Austell could only manage a 12-12 draw at Falmouth.
It meant Devonport would have moved up to second place with three games to go had they just been able to show a bit more composure against Sidmouth.
They were the better team on Saturday, but they gifted Sidmouth two tries in the second half on and then wasted a host of good opportunities at the other end. Mistakes, like knocking on at crucial times, losing key line-outs and not find touch when going for the corner instead of the posts at a penalty, cost them big time.
Head coach Mike Lewis admitted afterwards his team were probably trying too hard.
“We had said before that we needed to be patient in our approach and get through 10 or 15 phases,” said Lewis. “But we would get to five or six phrases and then start panicking. We were almost trying too hard.
“We just needed to be calmer and more patient in our approach rather than frantic. Franticness caused those drop balls and that was the major issue.”
He added: “I think Sidmouth only broke our gain-line once in the game and the only times they scored were off our mistakes. That was probably the most frustrating part.
“I also think we should have had five or six penalties at scrums, which could have turned the game. Their front-row was standing up left, right and centre, but we didn’t get one scrum penalty. We got loads of resets, but that didn’t help with our front-row getting tired.”
Lewis continued: “We went into the game and I don’t think we were thinking about promotion. We were just focused on enjoyment.
“But the boys’ heads were down at the end. Even though we were only five points off, it felt like 50 to those boys because of the amount of effort and energy they put into it. They didn’t mean to drop those ball or make those mistakes – it just happened on a wet day.”
However, all is not lost yet for Devonport as St Austell’s failure to win their last two games has kept the door open for Lewis’ side. They are only three points behind and Saints have some tough fixtures.
After going behind to an early Dan Retter penalty, Services scored two tries in 12 minutes to go 10-3 up.
Ben McGowan got their first after the lively Dylan Daley had just missed out on giving his side the lead a minute early when he just failed to gather a kick forward. McGowan’s try came from a good cross-field kick while the referee was playing advantage. He was unmarked on the wing and just collected the ball in the in-goal area and touched it down to score.
Services’ second try came from scrum-half Daley, who was at the centre of most things in the first half. He stole the ball on the halfway line and managed to run into the right corner, sliding over the line after he was tackled.
Retter kicked a second penalty on 24 minutes, while Richard West missed one at the other end before half-time, meaning Services only led 10-6, despite having out-scored their visitors two tries to none.
McGowan came so close to adding an identical try to his first early in the second half, but this time he just could not gather West’s cross-field kick cleanly. The referee went back for a penalty but Services lost the five-metre line-out and Sidmouth almost immediately scored after the hosts allowed a high clearing kick to bounce and Zac Bess gathered and broke before off-loading to Ethan Mead to score a converted try.
If that was bad enough, it got worse five minutes later when Bess picked up a poor Services pass in his own half and ran in to score and put his side 18-10 up.
Matt Anstis reduced that gap with a penalty on 63 minutes, but try as they might, Devonport could not add to that, despite camping in Sidmouth’s half for the remainder of the match.
CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE AND DEVON ONE
SALTASH’S title hopes suffered a blow when they were beaten 18-11 away at fourth-placed Honiton.
The loss leaves them nine points behind leaders Wellington with one game in hand and eight points behind second-placed Penryn with two games in hand.
The Ashes still have six league games left but they know now that they are relying on Wellington to slip up if they want to claim the title.
It was also not the best preparation for this coming weekend’s RFU Senior Vase semi-final against Old Cranleighans. To add to their woes Todd Crofts was sent off in the second half on Saturday, which will almost certainly rule him out of the cup match.
Saltash had been in impressive try-scoring form, but they found Honiton well organised and a different calibre to their recent opponents.
The hosts took the lead on 22 minutes when Will Goulden scored from a catch-and-drive move and Ollie Cave added the conversion.
Saltash, though, hit back and closed the gap to 7-3 before half-time with a Harrison Reburn penalty.
Reburn kicked another after the interval to leave the visitors just one point behind before they took the lead with a try in the corner by Crofts after a good break by Will Morton.
That put Saltash 11-7 up, but Honiton then upped their game. Cave kicked a penalty to make it 11-10 before Olly Highland scored to put the east Devon club back in front. Cave then added another penalty to move them seven points in front, which was how it stayed.
Plymstock Albion Oaks were left disappointed, despite earning a 27-27 away draw at mid-table rivals Lanner.
Oaks, who had been 20-12 up at the break, were leading 27-22 with the referee ready to blow up for full-time, but Lanner scored with the last play of the game to pull level.
The Cornish club, who had started the day two places above Oaks in the table, nearly snatched the win, with only the post denying Nick Prout the conversion from the touchline.
“A neutral would probably say it was a fair result, but we kind of let the game get away us,” said Oaks coach Callum Cload.
“It feels more like a loss than gaining two points as we 20-12 up at half-time and they scored with the last play of the game.
“In the first half we had the pressure on them with front-foot ball and good carries – everything was working – but it changed a bit in the second half. They only scored two tries but we gave them a lot of penalties. We should have adapted quicker to the way the ref was refereeing the game, but we gave away about 20 penalties.
“The result was a bit disappointing, but it was another positive game just like Wellington last week. Hopefully, we can build and build.”
Oaks, who have now not lost in three away games, made a really good start in Cornwall, with Tom West controlling the game well at fly-half.
Andy Porter scored from a maul and Tim Coats from a dominate scrum in the first half for Plymstock, who also had West converting both and kicking two penalties.
Lanner’s point in the opening 40 minutes came from a Reynolds try and a conversion and penalty from Prout.
Second half, Prout kicked two more penalties for the hosts, with Oaks’ player-coach Callum Cload crossing for a try before forward Reynolds bagged his second in the dying seconds.
Tavistock’s wait for an away win goes on as they narrowly lost 13-10 at Hayle, who are fighting hard to get out of the bottom three.
Tavvy were 5-3 up at half-time and were also leading in the second half but gifted Hayle a try.
“It was a good, hard game in an utter mud bath,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill. “Either side could have won.”
Hayle went ahead with an early penalty but Tavistock responded with a try by Martin Budden just before half-time. He fended off two defenders to get over the whitewash.
Hayle kicked another penalty at the start of the second period to go 6-5 up but almost straight away Tavistock scored a second try when Mark Friend put Ben Milligan in to score in the corner.
Tavistock continued to attack and keep the pressure on Hayle but they lost the ball and the hosts kicked up field and won the race to score and win the game.
Plymouth Argaum battled really hard in Cornwall but could not stop promotion-chasing Penryn claiming another big win.
The Cornish club triumphed 64-0, which was the fourth consecutive league match they have scored 50 or more points. The previous week they had put more than a 100 on Wessex at the same venue.
Most of the damage on Saturday was done in the second half as Argaum tired.
Penryn had been 24-0 up at the break, with Sam Hitchins scoring a first half hat-trick and Ross Hancock also touching down.
Hitchins added another after the break, with Adam Hughes getting two and George Mitchell, Andrew Seviour and Tom Townsend also going over for tries.
In Devon One, Old Techs conceded two late tries to lose 20-0 in a mud bath at Totnes.
The scoreline was harsh on Techs, whose relegation had been confirmed the week before.
The Weston Mill-based club totally dominated the opening 20 minutes but could not score. They should have taken the lead when they were awarded a penalty almost in front of the posts, but Paul Ansell missed it in the mud.
The match had been in serious doubt, but both clubs just wanted to get the game out of the way and so battled through terrible conditions.
Gradually, Totnes got to grips with the game and Techs’ pack and they went 5-0 up at the break with a try from scrum-half Aaron Bartlett.
The hosts kicked a penalty after the interval to make it 8-0, which was how it stayed until the closing minutes when Alex Percival and Jacob Orchard scored tries for Totnes.
Tamar Saracens’ match with Dartmouth was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, while DHSOB were given a walkover in Devon Two by Ilfracombe.
Meanwhile, OPMs will have taken a lot of heart out of narrow 18-14 away defeat to Ivybridge seconds. OPMs are waiting to play the winner of St Columba v Old Techs in the quarter-finals of the Devon Junior Cup.