IVYBRIDGE and Devonport Services played out a cracking pre-season match at the Rectory on Friday night.
South West Premier side Ivybridge narrowly won 14-7 but the physical and highly-competitive game could easily have ended in a draw.
It might have been billed as a ‘friendly’ but it turned out to be a full-blooded fixture with some massive hits and neither side giving an inch.
There was no scoring for 39 minutes and there was only three tries in total, but there was no lack of entertainment for the decent-sized crowd at the Rectory.
It was certainly a perfect test for both clubs as they prepare for their respective league campaigns.
“It was a really good game,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“We still have tons to work on. We know we are not going to be the complete article after just two games, but that is no criticism of Devonport, who really raised their game and really tested us in all areas of the pitch – our defence out wide, our defence up the middle, our scrums and our line-outs.”
Paterson added: “It is always a pleasure to win. We went through about 30 players, but only conceded seven points. When you are on your try line but hold out – well that shows a lot of character in the squad.
“I am really proud of our boys. We are still learning and progressing and still have a lot of things to go through, but we beat a team who are on the back of a promotion and who were unbeaten in pre-season.
“It was a really good test. It is better to have that physical encounter early on because we don’t want to be going into the Camborne match having won games by 30 or 40 points. You need that physical test to really work that body.”
Devonport Services coach Mike Lewis added: “I think it was 7-0 until the 60th minute or so but that was probably one of the best 7-0 games for that length of time you will have seen.
“I said to our boys afterwards that the character they showed was one of the best things. We did play some good rugby and so did Ivybridge, but we also have some fire in our bellies.
“We could have got it (a win or draw) at the end, but we are not really thinking of results at this stage; we are just thinking about how we are performing and what we are doing and when we are doing it. But I think this was a really positive experience for us.”
Lewis, like Paterson, admitted it was certainly a physical encounter.
“It was almost too physical for a pre-season test,” he said. “We did pick up a few knocks and we just have to make sure the players recover as it was a really physical game. But it was Ivybridge v Services and a few years ago that was the biggest game of the season for both clubs.
“I think this game has set a tone for us. The players now know where they have to be to be able to compete in our new league.
“I think we have a really good team here. I think we have a great bunch of players and we have a great spirit.”
Ivybridge started quite well but Services’ defence was up to the test, as was the visitors when Devonport got down the other end.
The breakdowns were particularly competitive with both back-rows impressing.
Just when it looked like there would not be any scoring in the first half, Ivybridge centre Matt Grieveson managed to run in under the posts after some good play from a scrum. Luke Martell added the conversion to give the higher league side a 7-0 lead.
Defences continued to be on top again in the second half, with more hard-tackling, but in the 67th minute Ivybridge managed to get a crucial second score when winger Billy Pinkus scored a good converted try under the posts.
Against Kingsbridge and Plymstock in their other pre-season games, Ivybridge ran away after going two scores up, but Devonport did not let them do that and really put them under pressure.
Tempers flared in the 68th minute but it seemed to inspire Services, who three minutes later pulled a try back when Keir Muphy jinked his way over under the posts and also added the conversion.
In the dying minutes, Devonport threw everything at Ivybridge and the impressive Matt Gregory, who seemed to be everywhere on the night, was inches away from scoring. Services did get a five-metre scrum but knocked on going wide and the Bridgers were able to clear the danger and seal the win.