DEVONPORT Services narrowly missed out on reaching the Devon Intermediate Cup final.
The Western Counties West side lost 33-29 to South West One outfit Cullompton in the semis at the Rectory on Friday evening.
It was a frustrating defeat for Services, who could have easily won game. They gifted Cullompton three tries by losing the ball in their own 22, while at the other end they were ruled to have been held up twice over the line when it looked like they had scored and they also wasted a couple of great opportunities.
“I think frustration is the right word,” said Services coach Mike Lewis afterwards.
“We did make a lot of uncharacteristic errors and if we’d just lowered our penalty count a little bit we may have been five points in front rather than four behind.”
He added: “It is just little things at the moment and we are learning the hard way. At the start of the season we would be able to play our way out (of our own 22) but now we are not finding those gaps and we need to go to plan B.
“But the endeavour and grit from the boys was great, but maybe just the execution wasn’t there.”
Lewis, though, said his team should take heart from how hard they did push a team who sit fifth in South West One.
“They (Cullompton) literally jumped up and celebrated at the end of the game. As Sam Bennett said afterwards we are 13 places below them but they were celebrating that they had beaten us.”
Cullompton started off well and put Services under a lot of early pressure but the hosts defended well and on their first real foray into the opposition half they nearly scored. They drove over from a line-out and looked to have scored but the referee was unsighted and so ruled they had been held up.
Eight minutes later Cullompton got the opening try of the night when flanker Sean Mardell scored from close range after a bit of good fortune earlier in the move.
Services, though, levelled straight from the restart when they charged down Cullompton’s clearing kick and Liam Jarvis touched down.
And the hosts quickly added a second score when scrum-half Dylan Daley touched down after a great break by Matt Gregory and good work by Ben Wadham in his own half. Matt Anstis converted to make it 12-5.
Cullompton levelled on 34 minutes when they pushed Devonport off a scrum on their own 22 and Jeremy Turner scored from close range and Josh Luxon converted.
It looked like the teams would go in at the break level at 12-12 but in the seven minute of injury-time Cullompton scored a third try when Services lost the ball trying to play out of their own half and Ross Toms scored. Luxon added the conversion to make it 19-12 to the visitors at half-time.
They went 26-12 up after the break when Services again dropped the ball in their own 22 trying to play out from a line-out rather than kick clear. That led to Adam Jarratt crossing for Cullompton, with Luxon again converting.
Services then turned up the pressure. They wasted a couple of great chances before Ben Wadham scored after another good break and off-load by Gregory.
Anstis added the conversion and he also kicked a penalty to close the gap to 26-22.
They should have had another try in the 60th minute with a great drive from a line-out but the referee again said they were held up. They then dropped the ball right on the try line from the resultant scrum.
To rub salt in their wounds, Cullompton scored again on 74 minutes when Marcus Bush got the ball down following a series of scrums on the line.
However, Services refused to give up and threw everything at their higher league visitors, who were reduced to 14 men in the closing stages.
Matt Gregory got a fourth try for Devonport, which Anstis converted. They then had a great chance right at the death but took the wrong option with an overlap on the right.