A FIRST half hat-trick by scrum-half Ben Watts helped Ivybridge claim a nerve-wracking 28-24 win over champions Dings Crusaders and guarantee their South West Premier status.
The Bridgers went into the match knowing they needed a five-point victory to be totally certain of staying up and they managed to do just that.
However, after going 28-0 up after just 34 minutes, Ivybridge were desperately hanging on at the end as Dings came back strongly and dominated possession and territory second half.
But the Bridgers’ early lead proved to be just enough to see them home as a large bang of thunder brought an end to the game and Ivybridge’s league season.
Had they not won they would have been in trouble as third-from-bottom Newbury pulled off a surprise victory over second-placed Bournemouth.
Ivybridge will finish ninth in the table, above Devon rivals Brixham and Exmouth. Such was the tightness of the league, Ivybridge would have finished in the top five had they not had five points deducted for not following proper procedures when calling off a match for a waterlogged pitch.
They now can turn their attentions to the Devon Senior Cup final, which they will host on Monday, May 7 against either Brixham or Exmouth, who are in danger of suffering a second successive relegation after losing to Lydney on Saturday.
After his side’s win, Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson, who dislocated his thumb in the game, said: “We just hit the first half flying. I think even we were a bit surprised how well it went.
“We were definitely up for it and definitely hunting that result.
“Dings are champions for a reason and we knew they were going to come big in the second half, which they did.
“We probably settled when we could have probably gone an inch higher, but it was just a massive effort and a great result – five points and we stay up.
“It was really good and it was great that we had a big crowd. It was a well-deserved win as we worked really hard in the week after doing well at Cleve.”
Ivybridge were really hanging on at the end as Dings mounted one last attack to try and win.
“We do train for those scenarios,” said Paterson, who had to play at number eight on Saturday due to injuries. “Trips (Jamie Tripcony) and I install it a lot and it was good that we were prepared for a tight finish to a game.
“We missed two penalties so we could have been further ahead, but full credit to Dings.
“We did have to shuffle the squad around, but we are such a tight unit and everyone did really well.”
Ivybridge made a tremendous start to the game on a baking hot day with Watts giving them the lead in the ninth minute when he ran in under the posts after good play by Ben King. Mitch Pinkus easily converted.
Their lead was doubled nine minutes later when Harrison Legge produced a great run down the right wing to cut in and score near the posts after good play by Charlie Briant. Pinkus again converted.
And straight from the re-start Ivybridge scored again with Watts running through under the posts for his second.
Watts was having a game to remember and he claimed his hat-trick on 34 minutes after more good work by Briant. Pinkus, as he had done with all the other tries, added the conversion.
But five minutes into injury-time, Dings, with former Plymouth Albion, Bristol and Exeter star Luke Arscott in their side, got a try through George Nowell, which Ben Bolster converted.
That try on the stroke of half-time seemed to inspire Dings and they came out and hardly let Ivybridge have the ball in the second period.
Nowell added a second try on 56 minutes after Arscott had been stopped just short. Bolster again converted to make it 28-14.
The gap was cut again seven minutes later when Marcus Brooker crossed on the left after pressure.
Pinkus had two chances to edge Ivybridge further ahead with long-range penalties but he was off-target and in the 75th minute Dings closed to within one score when Josh Lloyd scored.
Some at Cross-in-Hand could hardly watch the final few minutes as Dings threw everything at a tired, injury-hit Ivybridge side. But somehow the hosts managed to hang on, sparking celebrations as the rain storm arrived.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
EDDIE McGINLEY scored with the last play of the game as Devonport Services clinched a 34-30 win at Tiverton to book their place in the promotion play-offs.
As it happened they would have secured runners-up spot even had they lost as St Austell were hammered at Sidmouth, but Services players did not know what was going on in that match and so dug deep to snatch the victory at Coronation Field.
“The game went right to the wire,” said Services team manager Kieran Leach. “We knew on the touchline what was going on with St Austell, but the players didn’t.
“The players were not aware of anything. You could not relay that to the players as it would take away their focus.
“There were some strong words after Tiverton’s last try which put them in the lead, but we reacted really well and came back and scored a try with the last play of the match.”
Services will now travel to Western Counties North runners-up Chew Valley next Saturday to decide who will be promoted to South West One.
Chew Valley reached the play-offs last season but lost at home to Cullompton.
Services made a terrible start at Tiverton, conceding a try in the first three minutes. But they did hit back when the hosts messed up a line-out on their own line and threw it straight to Services hooker Sam Bennett, who happily accepted the gift to score. Matt Anstis converted to put his side in the lead.
But the visitors then went to sleep and Tiverton went 18-7 up before Services woke up for the last 10 minutes of the half to go 20-18 ahead at the turnaround.
Anstis kicked a penalty before Bennett scored again and then Toby Knowles added one on the stroke of half-time.
After the break, Services played some really good rugby to go 27-18 up with scrum-half Dylan Daley crossing under the posts and Anstis converting.
But Tiverton, with former Albion players Wayne Sprangle and Ed Lewsey in their starting line-up, were fighting for their lives to stay in the division and they hit back with two quick tries to go 30-27 ahead.
It did not look like there would be time for another chance after Lewsey had scored for Tiverton, but the referee decided there was another minute to play and from kick-off Services went down the other end and scored through McGinley.
SALTASH will be able to secure promotion on Wednesday if they beat Tavistock away.
The Ashes were handed another walkover on Saturday when the Pirates Amateurs were unable to field a side of registered players due to injuries. The Penzance-based club did offer to play a friendly, in accordance with the regulations for levels eight and below, but Saltash opted against it with a game on Wednesday and the RFU Senior Vase to look forward to.
The five points they were awarded means a bonus-point with against Tavistock would guarantee them second spot.
Wellington have secured their return to Western Counties West by beating fourth-placed Honiton 43-24 on Saturday. They need just one point from their final match at home to Torrington to claim the title.
Penryn look destined to finish third, despite beating Tavistock 47-12 on Saturday.
Tavistock were in the game until the final quarter but then Penryn ran away with it as the hosts tired in the hot conditions and after playing a cup final on Wednesday.
“For 60 minutes it was a really good competitive game,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill.
“We looked really good in attack and the scrum was promising, but we weren’t really up to their counterattacking. When they got the ball they just spun it and they had a bit too much pace for us.
“In attack we were very good, but in defence we were quite poor.”
Tavistock scored first when a quick-tap penalty by George Hillson put captain Andrew Schuttkacker in to score. Penryn, though, responded with three counterattack tries to go 19-7 up at the break.
Tavistock closed the gap after the interval with a great team try, which was started by Andrew Craddock down the wing and finished by Cam McKie.
But then it all went wrong for Tavistock as Penryn turned up the pace.
The big derby match in the Cornwall/Devon League at Horsham Fields produced a thrilling contest with Plymouth Argaum coming back from 19-0 down to beat Plymstock Albion Oaks 37-31.
Argaum had lost at home to Oaks in both the league and the Devon Intermediate Shield this season but they produced an great performance to beat their rivals this time around.
Oaks dominated the opening 30 minutes and Jack Green, Matt Neyle-Opie and Cory Jamieson scored tries to put them 19-0 ahead. They could have gone further in front but did not take their chances and Argaum then came to life and scored 27 unanswered points.
Ten of those came at the end of the first half when Matt Bankhead scored a try in the corner which Al Murray brilliantly converted. He also kicked a penalty.
After the interval they went 27-19 ahead with two tries by Jake Turfrey and one from Mason Edwards.
Oaks hit back with two tries through Aiden Taylor and Andy Porter, but Argaum were not to be denied and Tom Bradshaw scored to put his side 32-31 in front before Tom Holliday sealed the win with a great try from 25-metres out.
“Our boys were very, very happy,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “We went 19-0 and then we were under the cosh, but the lads really dug deep.”
DEVON JUNIOR PLATE
DHSOB saved their best performance for their final game of the season as they made higher league side New Cross worked hard to win the Devon Junior Plate at Stonehouse Creek.
Devon One outfit New Cross triumphed 28-10 but it was the performance of the Old Boys that caught the eye.
DHSOB have struggled all season and had only managed to beat fellow strugglers St Columba & Torpoint during the league campaign.
But boosted by some of their colts and the return of Fijians Shawm Mucunabitu and Atu Kovula, DHSOB produced a performance they were proud of.
“I was dead chuffed,” said DHSOB’s Mike Freeman afterwards.
“We were 14-0 down after 10 minutes and it looked like we were on course for another hammering. As always we were disorganised at the start and it took us a while to get going.
“But after conceding those two early tries we got people we wanted on the pitch and we matched them toe-for-toe for 70 minutes.
“Not only did we win the second half two tries to one, but we thoroughly matched them. If we had played like that in the first half, who knows what the outcome would have been.”
He added: “The colts played well, they really stepped up – they were really up for it, but the key difference was having Shawn Mucunabitu back. He only came off ship in the morning and got there as soon as he could.”
New Cross led 21-0 up at the break with tries by Sam Staniforth and Sean Bayliss (2), which were all converted by Ryan Wotton.
But DHSOB really impressed in the second half. They defended brilliantly and only allowed New Cross to score one try through Lewis Griffiths, which Wotton converted.
And the hosts ended the game on a high. Lewis Jeffery scored a well-deserved try before Mucunabitu made a great break and put fit-again Kovula in to score.
“It was a real credit that we won the second half,” said Freeman.
“I was absolutely overjoyed for the team. Sean Gates was outstanding up front, Alfie Coakley must be in his 50s but he picked up his first medal in adult rugby and he was chuffed. He’s been a stalwart for us this season, playing when he can. Dan Bulley, a long servant of the club, was outstanding. Lewis Jeffery had been our club captain and deserved the try he got. Certain individuals needed that game as it has given them some belief.”