IVYBRIDGE snatched a dramatic victory over Devon rivals Brixham at Astley Park on Saturday to keep up the pressure on Bournemouth and Barnstaple at the top of the table.
The Bridgers had been 12-0 down at half-time in south Devon, but came back to win 13-12 thanks to a last-gasp penalty by Luke Martell.
Brixham thought they had won the game with 80 minutes up on the clock. They kicked a clearing kick out thinking the match was over, but the referee decided there was still more time to play.
From the resultant line-out, Ivybridge pressed and with the last move of the match the hosts were penalised for an intentional knock on, giving Martell the chance to win the game for the visitors, much to the displeasure of the home crowd.
“It was a very, very close game,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“But we were relentless in the second half. To hold out Brixham and not let them score a try at all was really impressive, especially in the first half when they had the wind and momentum.
“We were just relentless in defence, although we did give away some stupid penalties.
“In the second half we just kept plugging away and played very smart. We have really progressed as a side.”
On the closing minutes, Paterson said: “We were in our 22 and they are winning 12-10. They kicked for the corner when I think they should have gone for goal. We got the ball back and the referee said there was a bit of time. Luke Martell hoofed the ball down field and they kicked it out thinking it was full-time but it wasn’t.
“We took the line-out and just kept the ball and then eventually Mitch Pinkus went for an interception but slapped the ball down. It was a penalty and we kicked it to win the game.
“We were very composed and did not panic. It was a very mature performance. It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win.”
Former Ivybridge player Mitch Pinkus kicked four first half penalties to put Brixham 12-0 up.
But after the break the visitors closed the gap with a try by Adam Northcott from the back of a maul and a conversion and penalty from Martell before he kicked the last-minute winner.
Ivybridge did drop down to third after Barnstaple picked up a bonus point win against Old Patesians, but the two Devon teams are level on points.
SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services ended their mini losing run in style by scoring six tries to beat North Petherton 43-24.
However, Services had to do it the hard way after going 12-0 down in the opening few minutes.
But once they got going and their confidence started to flow they proved too strong for North Petherton, who had started the day in fifth spot.
Services had gone into the game in 10th place but in a tight league they have moved up to sixth, ahead of their opponents on Saturday, who have dropped down to seventh.
“It was very good. We will certainly take scoring six tries at home,” said Services team manager Kieran Leach.
But in their last home match of the year, Services could not have made a worse start. They conceded a try almost straight from kick-off. And then three minutes later North Petherton scored again to make it 12-0.
“At that point we thought it was going to be one of the days,” added Leach.
But Services got back into the game within 15 minutes when young centre Jonah Moore intercepted a North Petherton pass and ran in to score. Richard West, back in first team action after injury, added the conversion.
And Devonport were soon on level terms when Andy Pond scored from a maul following a line-out.
But North Petherton hit back when they also scored from a drive to go 19-12 ahead.
The hosts then lost flanker Liam Jarvis following an off-the-ball incident that was not seen by the official.
The visitors did pick up a yellow card not long later for slapping the ball down, having received a warning for that early on, and while Services had the extra man they levelled when lock Adrian Montague, on his return to the first team, scored from a line-out and West converted.
The teams went into the break all square at 19-19.
But straight after the interval, Services went ahead for the first time when replacement lock Richard Goffin scored under the posts and West converted.
In an exciting game, the visitors cut the gap to 26-24 with a fourth try, but that was to be their last points of the day as Services finished the game strongly.
West kicked a drop-goal from just outside the 22 to make it 29-24. West then set up Rhys Williams for a try under the posts after some good play from a line-out. That made it 36-24.
And Services finished the afternoon off when replacement prop Joe Daley scored from a maul following some good forward play from a scrum.
“We wanted to put on our show in our last home game of the year and everything that we had worked on in training during the week in terms of defence paid off,” said Leach. “Everyone was happy with the win.”
Saltash suffered heartbreak in Western Counties West as they lost 24-21 away at Winscombe.
It looked like the Ashes had mounted a superb comeback having gone 21-0 down to level the match at 21-21 going into the closing stages.
But in the last minute, Saltash gave away a penalty and Winscombe went for the posts and popped it over to win the match to make sure they stayed ahead of their opponents.
Despite losing, Saltash stay in 11th spot. They are now four points behind Winscombe, but do have a game in hand.
The Ashes, though, will be frustrated that they did not win as it would have put them in a much better position going into the second half of the season.
Not for the first time this season, Saltash made a slow start. The hosts conceded two tries under the posts in the opening 13 minutes to trail 14-0.
That was how it stayed until half-time, but it got worse for the Ashes when Winscombe were awarded a penalty try eight minutes after the restart after a series of scrum penalties.
But in the 52nd minute, Saltash’s comeback started when prop Adam Coutts, back from a short spell at Tamar Saracens, scored from a catch-and-drive move. Kieran Down added the conversion.
Eight minutes later the Ashes added a second when Olly Mulberry scored after good play by Phil Eatwell and Coutts.
And by the 65th minute the Cornish club were on level terms when Down broke through and put Jay Moriaty in to score under the posts for an easy conversion.
Winscombe threw everything at Saltash in the closing minutes, but it looked like their defence had held firm until giving away the late penalty that enabled the hosts to win the game.
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks returned to winning ways with a hard-earned 14-0 win over Liskeard-Looe in horrible conditions at Lux Park.
Oaks, having led the Cornwall/Devon League for the opening 10 games of the season, had lost their last two games to fellow high flyers Honiton and Bude.
A trip to Liskeard-Looe on a horrible wet and windy day would not have probably been their first choice fixture if they could have picked one, but they dug really deep to pick up four points.
It certainly was not pretty and they really had to defend hard in the second half as Liskeard tried everything to get back into the game after going in that break 14-0 down. The Lions probably deserved at least a bonus point for their efforts, but Oaks did really well to keep them from crossing their try line.
“The pitch did cut up and the ball was like a bar of soap, but we got the win,” said a relieved Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor.
“It’s a monkey off our back after two losses against Honiton and Bude. It was good to get back to winning ways.
“They (Liskeard) really came out at us second half but I thought our ‘D’ was really on point – we didn’t give them much.
“Our discipline again – we had two yellow cards – remains our Achilles heel. We really need to work on our discipline, but to get up and defend like that as a unit was brilliant and impressive.”
Taylor, who dedicated the win and performance to Oaks’ injured former Liskeard centre Will Booth, added: “It was frustrating not to get a bonus point, but we didn’t really get in their half second half so we can’t be too picky. A win is a win and it’s away from home. We are just buzzing to get back to winning ways.”
Heavy rain and a strong wind in the first half meant chances were few and far between at Lux Park. Liskeard nearly caught Oaks out with a kick to the corner on 12 minutes but Al Murray was ruled to have grounded the ball before Liskeard.
A minute later Oaks picked up a yellow card, but Liskeard missed touch from the penalty and never made the extra man tell.
And just before Plymstock returned to 15 players they scored after some good forward play from a line-out. Hooker and player-coach Taylor was the man that managed to dive over and Murray added the conversion.
Five minutes later Oaks doubled their lead when Taylor scored a second from close range and Murray converted.
Liskeard impressed in the scrums and in the second half had all the territory and possession. Oaks again found themselves down to 14 men for 10 minutes, but the Lions just could not break them down.
Despite the win, Plymstock have dropped down to fourth place in the table with Honiton moving ahead of them by one point.
Honiton beat Tavistock 30-12, but they were made to work hard for it against a Tavvy side who really appear to be finding some form.
Tavistock, who have been boosted by two arrivals from Australia, paid for a slow start in east Devon. Playing up the slope, Tavistock found themselves 18-0 down at the midway point of the first half.
“We produced a great performance and the difference was very much the opening 20 minutes,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill. “After that the game levelled out.”
Trailing 18-0 at the break, Tavistock went further behind after the interval before getting back into the match when Jack Glover scored out wide after good play by Australian scrum-half Dawson and Jasper Cameron.
Glover added a second 15 minutes later in almost a repeat of his first.
“We threatened for much of the remainder of the half but couldn’t quite get over the whitewash,” said Kerswill.
“But it was really positive to see us beat our demons of a poor start and maintaining a positive mentality against the best side we have played this season.”
Plymouth Argaum had another trip to Penryn to forget, losing 72-0.
The Bickleigh Down club have not managed to score a single point on their last three league trips to the Cornwall club. They lost 64-0 last season and 34-0 in 2016-17.
Argaum conceded 12 tries on Saturday as they suffered their fifth straight defeat. They are only five points clear of the relegation zone now. They will, though, be hopeful of returning to winning ways next weekend when they travel to bottom side Withycombe.
DEVON ONE & DEVON MERIT TABLE
OPMs claimed their most impressive win of the season by overcoming high-flying Exeter Saracens.
Saracens arrived at King George V Playing Fields with just one league defeat to their name this season, whereas OPMs had only won three of their eight matches before yesterday. But it was the Old Boys who ran out victorious by three tries to two.
The hosts led 14-7 at the break with tries by captain Billy Garratt and Jake Neville, which were both converted by Sam Matts.
In the second half Matts scored a try, which he also converted, and added a penalty to give OPMs the win.
“It was a very good win,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “Especially as we had a few selection issues this week. We had a flanker starting on the wing, had someone who had retired come on for the last 10-15 minutes and had our nine playing in the centre to start off with, but everyone’s heads were definitely there. Everyone was ready for it and up for a game of rugby.”
It was OPMs’ first win since the end of October.
“We had gone a few games without a win and our second half performances have been poor,” said Garratt. “The losses have come because of our second half performances, but this time our second half performance was the same, if not better, than our first half. We came out firing.”
Old Techs had been in good form going into their game with leaders Exeter Athletic. They had won their last two games, beating Dartmouth and Buckfastleigh, but Exeter turned up in inspired form and beat them 36-0.
Exeter played with the extremely strong wind first half and used it to build up a 24-0 lead and take any sting or momentum out of Techs, who had a number of late drop-outs.
“They were very good – very well drilled,” said Techs’ chairman David Evans.
“Second half we were better, but they were a very good side and sometimes you just have to say you were beaten by a better side.
“They capitalised on any mistakes we made and their defence is very good.
“We fancied giving them a good game, but we didn’t. It is disappointing, but they have shown us where we have to be to be at the top of the league.”
Tamar Saracens were given a home walkover by Dartmouth, who were unable to raise a side to travel to Parkway.
The five points they were awarded has lifted them from second-from-bottom up to sixth, one place behind Techs. OPMs are seventh.
In the Devon Merit Table, Plym Vic took positives out of their 39-10 home defeat to unbeaten leaders Salcombe.
Salcombe dominated the first half but Plym Vic were much better in a much more even and entertaining second half. They were rewarded for their efforts with a try by Dan Warne, which was converted by Chris Barret and a penalty by Mike Hagan.