A LAST-gasp Hayden Coles try may just keep Ivybridge in the South West Premier League.
Replacement Coles scored with the last play of the game on Saturday as the Bridgers snatched a vital 20-18 victory away at Cleve.
Had Ivybridge lost their penultimate game in South Gloucestershire then their hopes of staying in the fifth tier of English rugby would have been out of their own hands as third-from-bottom Newbury claimed a narrow 25-24 win over Exmouth.
Ivybridge have moved up to 10th with their win at Cleve, with Exmouth dropping below them. They are now also just one point behind ninth-placed Brixham. However, Exmouth and Newbury do have a game in hand on both Ivybridge and Brixham, meaning it is still all to play for next weekend.
“It was a real crucial win,” admitted Ivybridge coach Jamie Tripcony after Saturday’s nail-biting victory.
“The character the team showed to keep on at it and come back was fantastic. We are very happy with that.
“We camped in their 22 for the last 10 minutes and had a few scrums and line-outs. We just kept going and luckily from a scrum after the referee had called last play we scored.
“We do focus a lot of our efforts during the week on scenario plays and how to finish off or keep in games. The boys have really bought into that and they applied that extremely well as the result shows.”
He added: “We were 15-5 down at half-time, but in the first half we had a lot of opportunities in their 22 but just weren’t quite clinical enough with our decision-making and execution.
“However, despite being 15-5 down I think we always felt in control. We felt we had a grip on the game. Fair play to Cleve, they are a pretty good outfit and caused us a few problems.
“Half-time could not come quick enough for us as it was a chance to get together and reset our heads a little bit and we came out and played for our lives, which we needed to.
“There’s lot of teams in it (the relegation battle) now. It is going to go right down the wire.”
Cleve scored an early converted try, but Ivybridge hit back with a touch-down by Luke Martell.
However, the hosts, who started the day in fifth, kicked a penalty and then added a second try to lead 15-5 at the break.
Mitch Pinkus cut that gap with a penalty before George Wilson scored a try to leave his side just two points behind.
Cleve moved five ahead with a penalty before Coles last-gasp effort, which was coolly converted.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services are dreaming of promotion again after producing a stunning performance to beat Western Counties West champions St Ives 39-25 at the Rectory.
The bonus-point win, coupled with St Austell’s defeat at Kingsbridge, means Services have moved back into second place with just one game to go.
If they can pick up a win of any kind next week at Tiverton then they will be in the play-offs for promotion to South West One.
Services coach Mike Lewis was thrilled with the victory over St Ives, who scored four tries in the final 15 minutes to make the scoreline look closer than the game was for much of the match.
“That was a game for the neutrals,” said Lewis. “It was certainly a decent match.
“They (St Ives) started off really strong and I think it took us five or 10 minutes to come out of the blocks.
“But then we just kept the ball. The idea was to try and tire them out because we knew they had a few big boys in the side.
“I think we could have had a couple more tries. We had a couple of chips in the first half that could have put us a little bit further in front.”
Services did let in four late tries, but even that could not quite take the gloss off the victory for Lewis.
“I think the veins are still pulsing outside of my head!” said Lewis about St Ives’ late comeback. “But you could just tell how much effort and grit our boy had put in just to get into that position and defend that lead.
“From one to 18 you could not fault the effort or performance .
“We didn’t give away as many penalties as we usually do and we are just really proud of the team.
“It (the play-off spot) has been ours to lose all season and then it looked like we had lost it. But against St Ives we showed how good we are in attack when we keep the ball.”
Services final game will be away at Tiverton.
“Tiverton are a tough team and are fighting for the lives,” said Lewis. “But we have to win next week to make sure we stay in that play-off spot.”
St Ives came flying out of the blocks on Saturday and had two great efforts to score before they did take the lead on six minutes through Jamie Hoskin.
At that point it was looking like it might be a long afternoon for Services against a far bigger St Ives side.
But all of a sudden Services came to life and on 17 minutes they took the lead when centre Eddie McGinley scored under the posts following a scrum. Matt Anstis converted and the hosts never looked back.
Five minutes later they scored a second try when Toby Knowles went over in the left corner after some great team play by Devonport. Anstis again converted to make it 14-5.
The home side had a couple of good chances before they added a third when inside centre Callum Perkins scored on the left after a chip kick over the defence.
Anstis missed a penalty three minutes later, while St Ives wasted two great chances from line-outs in first half injury-time.
And Services well and truly took hold of the match by scoring two tries in the opening five minutes of the second period.
First, McGinley went over for his second of the afternoon after good play from a driving maul. Anstis converted that to make it 26-5.
And within three minutes the score had become 31-5 when Joe Page went over on the right after Joe Daley had done well on the left.
On 57 minutes, Services added a sixth try to make it 36-5 when Jack Martin went over from a catch-and-drive move.
But then the Rectory crowd were left stunned by St Ives scoring three tries inside seven minutes through Matt Nichol, Chris Quick and Martyn Lawrance. Fortunately, none were converted and Services stemmed the flow with a Anstis penalty on 78 minutes to make it 39-20.
St Ives, though, did keep going and in the 80th minute added a fifth try through Tom Nicholas.
WILL MORTON and Lewis Wells celebrated their selection for Cornwall’s Tamar Cup squad by scoring tries to help Saltash to a vital 25-22 win over Penryn on Saturday.
Had the Ashes lost against the Borough then their hopes of snatching a top two place would have been slim. But now they are favourites to join Wellington in the top two.
They stay third, but are now only four points behind Penryn with two games in hand. One of those games in hand is on Wednesday when they travel to bottom club Wessex.
The Ashes could even still snatch the title, if Wellington were to lose to either Honiton or Torrington.
Wellington need just one more point to guarantee a top two place but the title-race could go down to the final week.
Penryn, unbeaten since the start of January, made a really good start on Saturday and went 10-0 up with a converted try and a penalty by Mitch Vague.
But Saltash cut the gap with a Kieran Down penalty before flanker Wells scored their first try to leave them just two points down at the break.
That was how the game stayed until midway through the second half when winger Morton scored two quick tries to put his side 18-10 up.
The Ashes then secured the try-scoring bonus point and went 25-10 ahead when Ollie Mulberry crossed for their fourth touch-down, which Down converted.
Penryn did get two late tries, but could not stop Saltash from returning home with five valuable points.
Plymstock Albion Oaks continued their good away form in 2018 with a 59-33 win at Pirates Amateurs.
Oaks took just a minute to open the scoring in Penzance when Joe Brearley scored from a scrum.
Unfortunately, he suffered a hamstring injury in the process and had to go off, but Oaks kept the tries coming. They added nine in total with three going to player-coach Callum Cload, who also added seven conversions. Fellow backs Tom Jordan and Joe Rider were also among the try scorers.
“It was really good,” said Cload afterwards. “We took the train down and everyone was a bit jolly and thinking about a social after the game. So I was a bit worried in the warm-up, but we came out flying and got four really quick tries.”
He added: “Some of the stuff we had been working on training came off. We have always said if it is dry we would be able to play the rugby we want and the conditions suited us down to the ground.
“We played some really good running rugby and ran riot.”
Oaks have got a busy couple of weeks coming up. On Wednesday evening they will play Withycombe away in the semi-finals of the Devon Intermediate Shield before hosting Plymouth Argaum next Saturday in the league and then playing Devonport Services II in the Lockie Cup final the following Wednesday.
Argaum had a day to forget on Saturday when they were crushed 82-0 away at Withycombe.
The Bickleigh Down club had beaten Withycombe at home in December but struggled badly to get a team to travel to Exmouth on Saturday.
Two of their team also did not make it to the ground in time, leaving them with just 14 players, two of whom were in their 50s.
Tavistock also had another disappointing away trip. They lost 41-14 away to Lanner.
The match was level at half-time, with Andrew Craddock and Rich Cann scoring tries for Tavistock, with Mark Webber converting them.
But it all went wrong for them after the interval. They were not helped by player-coach Hammy Kerswill injuring his back on seven minutes and Jack Easton his ankle just minutes later.
Kerswill had been quite happy until half-time.
“They dominated possession and territory throughout but we did look very good in attack when we had the ball.”
However, Tavistock did not see much ball in the second period as Lanner piled on the points.
“We were poor second half,” said Kerswill. “There’s no real excuses, but for many it was six games in 14 days and the boys are knackered.”
DEVON JUNIOR CUP SEMI-FINAL
OPMs could not cause an upset against Devon One runners-up Topsham and book a place in a county cup final.
But they did give their higher league hosts a bit of a scare and Topsham needed two late tries to put the game beyond OPMs and win 27-5.
“The score does not reflect the game,” said OPMs’ Henry Matthews. “It was just the last 10 minutes that killed it.
“It was 15-5 for most of the game. They are a good side, but we are pretty sure we scored three tries that were disallowed.
“It was pretty frustrating for us. We also had two players sin-binned at the same time so we were down to 13 for 10 minutes in the second half, but we had the ball for that 10 minutes.
“We played some really good rugby. Luck was not on our side, but all credit to Topsham they pulled a result out of the bag.
“We are pleased with it as they are in the play-offs for the Devon/Cornwall League and if they get into it they will do okay. It shows there’s not that much between the Devon/Cornwall and the top of Devon Two.”
Matt Naylor scored OPMs’ only try at Bonfire Field, with Matt Slee (2), Chris Ellor and George Holwill scoring for Topsham. Slee and Holwill scored in the last 10 minutes.
Topsham will now play Devon One champions South Molton in the final next weekend.
OPMs will have another chance of cup success on Wednesday when they play Cornwall/Devon League side Tavistock on the RNEC Cup final at the Rectory.