SECOND-placed Ivybridge suffered their first home defeat of the season on Saturday when they were narrowly beaten 31-25 by third-placed Barnstaple in the South West Premier League.
The match between the two high-flying Devon sides proved to be a thriller at Cross-in-Hand and could have gone either way in the closing minutes.
Ivybridge took the lead in 72nd minute but Barnstaple, inspired by player-coach Jake Murphy, hit back five minutes later. Yet the hosts earned two penalties close to the line in injury-time that could have easily have given them the platform to snatch victory back, but they failed to make them tell.
The Bridgers did out-score Barnstaple five tries to four and the two bonus points they did collect keeps them five points clear of their county rivals. However, Ivybridge have now fallen seven points behind leaders Bournemouth, who they play this coming weekend.
“The game could have gone either way come the end,” admitted Ivybridge player-coach Jamie Tripcony, who made his first start in nine months.
“I think there was a stage there where we gave ourselves a lot to do.
“Fair play to Barnstaple, they took their chances. We talked a lot in the week about what they would bring and they didn’t disappoint with that. They played exactly the way we thought they would, especially in the second half, but we are very disappointed as a club.
“What is key now, is what we do from now on in. We must stay tight, get together and work hard. Bournemouth away next is where all our focus goes.
“Like I said, hats off to Barnstaple, they took their chances, but saying that we were able to get right back into the game and be within a score. It was a great shift from our guys it was just frustrating really how we weren’t as clinical as we would have liked to have been at critical moments.
“We will have to ask some questions of ourselves defensively, but we’ll let the dust settle and then crack on.”
Tripcony was also frustrating that Ivybridge did not get more advantage from their scrum, where they were dominant.
“It was very frustrating at scrum time,” he said. “I’m not sure what is going on with the scrum and whether it is even part of the game. Hopefully, we will get a bit of information from the referee, so we can learn.
“We got four penalties (at a five-metre scrum) just before half-time but nothing happened – there was no yellow or nothing. I’m sure there’s a reason and we’ll take whatever that is on board and go from there, but it is frustrating.”
Barnstaple, who had spent the past two seasons in National Two South, made an impressive start and dominated the opening 10 minutes.
Former Albion captain Jake Murphy missed a penalty in the second minute but then kicked one five minutes later to edge his side ahead.
However, Ivybridge scored with their first real opportunity when top points scorer Billy Pinkus went over in the right corner to make it 5-3.
But Barnstaple then went 17-5 ahead. First, Murphy scored a brilliant try for the visitors from a scrum on their own 22 before they crossed on the right through Tom Clarke. Murphy converted both with his left foot.
Ivybridge, though, reduced that to just two points before half-time with two tries in the closing stages of the half. Lock George Wilson powered his way over before Pinkus went over in the right corner after five scrums on the left.
Early in the second half Barnstaple went 24-15 in front following a good drive before Ivybridge hit back with a try on the left from Ben Watts following a good scrum, which was an area the hosts dominated.
Both teams had great chances to score before Barnstaple were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes following a high tackle. Within two minutes, Ivybridge had gone in front when Damon Akerman scored in the left corner after another good scrum.
Barnstaple, though, did not panic. They played their structures and systems well and in the final minute of normal time they scored near the posts though Winston James after more good pressure and Murphy converted.
Ivybridge, though, refused to give up. After wasting a five-metre line-out, they got another penalty and opted for a five-metre scrum. With the strong wind making kicks difficult from out-wide, Ivybridge knew they needed to score close to the posts and that appeared to play on their minds from the scrum and they were unable to make it tell.
SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
MIKE LEWIS’ return to Polson Bridge proved an unhappy affair as his Devonport Services side were beaten 66-15 by leaders Launceston.
When Lewis was at Launceston they were four divisions higher than Services and the Cornish club appear determined to start re-climbing the rugby pyramid.
They finished third in South West One last season but are looking on course for a top two finish this term. They are already 13 points clear of third-place St Ives.
Launceston and Okehampton, who beat Teignmouth by 53 points on Saturday, do appear to be a class above everyone else in the division this season.
Services have dropped to seventh spot following their loss but are only four points off fourth place.
They paid for a terrible first half at Polson Bridge. They went in at the break 47-5 down after taking an early lead through a Toby Knowles try.
“The first two minutes were great. The rest of it wasn’t,” said team manger Kieran Leach.
“I think we gave them too much respect and we missed too many tackles. We let them run towards us without putting them under pressure. Everything went wrong.
“We conceded seven tries in the first half and heads dropped.
“At the end of the first half the game was over. We didn’t play our game first half and everything was off. We just said at half-time we either knuckle down or we are going to lose by 100 points.”
Services were better in the second half and hooker Sam Bennett and centre Luke Kenny scored tries.
“We were pounding at their line trying to get a bonus point but they did not want us to come away with anything,” said Leach. “We were held up twice over the line. The second half we a lot better, but take nothing away from them, they were a good side.”
Former Saltash player Shaun Crawford scored two of Launceston’s 10 tries.
Meanwhile, Saltash made it three wins out of four in Western Counties West with a 12-3 home victory over Falmouth, who had started the day in fifth spot.
It was the Ashes second victory this season over their Cornish rivals, having also beaten them in the Cornwall Cup last month.
Although the Ashes stay in the bottom three they are only one point off 11-placed Winscombe and only six behind six behind seventh-placed Truro.
It might have been a low scoring game at Moorlands Lane on Saturday, but it was still an entertaining match.
Falmouth went in front in the 11th minute when full-back Lee Humphreys kicked a penalty.
But the Ashes hit back on 17 minutes with a try by centre Max Venables after good play by Ryan Cruickshanks and Jay Moriaty. Fly-half Harrison Reburn added the extras to make it 7-3, which was how the game stayed until half-time thanks to some good defending by both teams.
The second period produced much of the same, but eventually Saltash increased their lead when scrum-half Olly Mulberry scored from close range.
Falmouth did have the chance to rescue a bonus point late on but they failed to take it.
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks secured a record 10th straight win in one season when they beat bottom side Hayle 48-23 at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
It is Oaks’ best-ever start to a league season in their short history and they stay three points clear at the top of the table.
They ran in eight tries in total, with both Corey Jamieson and David Byng scoring hat-tricks, but player-coach Aiden Taylor was not satisfied with their performance on Saturday.
“That’s 10 out of 10 and we’ve made history at the club,” said Taylor. “But I am not a happy man. We did not play very well at all.
“I didn’t play myself as I was rested ahead of the next two games, but we just did not play how we have been playing all season.
“We were poor for most of the game, but to put 48 points on a team despite playing awful is good.”
Oaks were 27-9 up at the break but Hayle did come back in the second half and closed to within 10 points at one point.
“Credit to them, they were very good around the breakdown and they had a big ball carrying eight and we didn’t want to tackle him,” said Taylor.
As well as Jamieson and Byng, Oaks also had Dale Thompson and Jake Hardman and scoring tries. Full-back Byng scored three conversions and Al Murray one.
Oaks now have big games against fourth-placed Honiton and second-placed Bude coming up as the halfway point of the season approaches.
“We have got our heads on the next two games,” said Taylor. “If I’m honest, the next two games are very important and we will realise where we are at after these next two games.”
Tavistock were ‘gutted’ to narrowly lose 17-12 at home to much-fancied Torquay Athletic.
However, Tavvy, took plenty of positives from the defeat and did collect a valuable bonus point that moves them out of the bottom three.
“We are gutted,” said player-coach Hammy Kerswill. “It was probably our best performance of the season.
“It (the game) could have gone either way second half and I don’t really have an answer as to why we lost it but maybe we just lost a bit of steam or just a lack of experience towards the end. But it was a cracking game and we are in good spirits.”
Tavistock, who are set to boost their squad with some new additions this week, went 12-0 up on Saturday at Sandy Park.
Josh Birch scored a good early try after a host of phases by the hosts before Leion Cole then added a second, which Ed Nettleship converted.
But Torquay, who were in Western Counties West last season, got a crucial try back just before half-time and then added two more after the break and were then able to hang on for the win.
“We dominated the set-piece, which was pleasing,” said Kerswill.
Plymouth Argaum found fourth-placed Honiton too strong for them at Bickleigh Down, with the visitors winning 53-10.
Although Honiton’s pack provided the platform for the win, it was back Jake Smith who stole the headlines by scoring 28 points, with a hat-trick of tries, five conversions a penalty.
The visitors led 34-0 at the break, but injury-hit Argaum did improve after the interval and managed two tries courtesy of Karl Sullivan.
Argaum, who are still missing key players like Dan James, Joe Walker, Mason Edwards, Calum Mills and Chris Perkins, face a tough trip to Bude next week before hosting Liskeard-Looe in a vital match at Bickleigh Down.
Liskeard-Looe, one place and one point below Argaum in ninth, lost 53-0 away to promotion hopefuls Penryn on Saturday.
Old Techs moved up to seventh in the Devon One table with an eye-catching 22-12 victory over fourth-placed Buckfastleigh on Saturday.
Buckfastleigh had only previously been beaten by high-flying North Tawton and Exeter Saracens, but Techs, boosted by the return of a couple of players from injury, went 22-5 up before showing some impressive defence to hang on for a second successive home win.
The visitors actually went in front with a try by Harry Laity, but Techs hit back to go 7-5 ahead at the break with a try by Dave Clack, which Billy Evans converted.
“I thought we were in control first half but we were giving away silly penalties,” said coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“At half-time I just said we had to cut the penalty count down and if we did that we should go on to win.”
And Techs did that. They started the second half very strongly and went 17 points ahead with tries from Rudi Baker and fit-again centre Matt Simmonds. Evans converted one of those tries and also added a penalty.
Buckfastleigh turned up the pace in the final 20 minutes but could only score one try courtesy of Josh Gale, which Laity converted.
“The last 10 minutes they put us under a lot of pressure, but our defence was good,” said Bedford-Smith. “We defended really well.”
However, there was home disappointment for both OPMs and Tamar Saracens.
OPMs lost 24-15 to Dartmouth, who ended up playing most of the second half with 13 men.
The visitors travelled with just 15 players and then lost two players with injuries, but they were still able to pick up a full five points.
OPMs lost the game in the first half when they went 17-5 down, with Harry Kandampully scoring their only points. Stuart Massey, prop Tom Clarke and captain John Dingle scored tries for Dartmouth in the opening 40 minutes.
Sammie Matts kicked a penalty for OPMs after the break to reduce the gap, but then Clarke added a second try for Dartmouth. Mark Wratton scored a late touch-down for OPMs but it was little consolation for them.
“It was very disappointing,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “Especially as they went down to 13 men and we still could not finish the game off.
“They have got some decent players and have four very big carriers, but it was just individual tackling again that let us down. People were just slipping off tackles to let allow them past the gain-line and then we struggled to get any kind of foot into the game after that.
“We also lacked a bit of clinicality at certain points of the game. But you have to take these losses and learn from them
“We are not going to win this league, but we would like to be in the top half at least.
“It was frustrating, very frustrating, but, like I said, you have to learn from defeats, keep going forward and stay together as a team.”
Tamar Saracens were also frustrated at losing 7-5 at home to Totnes.
Saracens’ indiscipline again proved costly. They had three players sin-binned, while Totnes had two.
The hosts had led 5-0 at the break with forward Joey Pook scoring a try after 25 minutes.
But Totnes won courtesy of a penalty try in the second half.
“We started off really well for the first 25 minutes,” said Saracens player and spokesman Marc Cioffi.
“It was looking so promising at the beginning but we let ourselves down. We were absolutely gutted after the game.
“It was a game we really needed to win and so we are gutted.”