TAVISTOCK retained the RNEC Cup after overcoming Devon One side Tamar Saracens 19-14 in a hard-fought final at the Rectory on Wednesday night.
The Cornwall/Devon League outfit enjoyed a great first half and led 12-0, but Sarries came back second period and really caused Tavistock real problems, despite having Lewis Swatton sent off on 63 minutes.
“We always knew they (Tamar Saracens) were going to be up for it,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill. “And it was a physical game.
“They put us under pressure and we were on the back foot in the second half. To defend as long as we did was cracking but we probably should have got ourselves out of our half a little bit sooner and made the most of the ball we had.
“When we did get the ball and spun it we looked deadly – our off-loading game was really good.”
Tamar Saracens’ players were frustrated by some of the decisions made by the officials in the second half, but head coach Pete Lethbridge praised their character for the way they came back after their slow start.
“Tavistock started really fast and you can see the difference in leagues with their pace. They are a well-drilled, very good side and I thought their backs were fantastic,” said Lethbridge.
“But we got back into it. There were probably some silly mistakes by us, but I can’t fault the players as they really put everything into it, especially second half.
“I thought it was a debatable red card. I couldn’t see anything but the officials did, so we have to take that.
“The amount of pressure we had in their 22 and the amount of penalties (giving away by Tavistock) was frustrating, but the boys never gave up and I am proud of them. We just have to move on to next season now.
“It would have been nice to have won, but I am sure they (Tavistock) knew they had been in a battle.”
Tavistock came out of the blocks flying and scored a brilliant try through fly-half Ed Nettleship on seven minutes.
The higher league outfit dominated the scrums early on and Sarries struggled to get any real territory or possession.
Rob Pratt missed a penalty for Tavistock before they did extend their lead four minutes before half-time when flanker Jake Crabb scored after good pressure following a scrum. Pratt converted to give his side a 12-0 lead at the break.
But the game turned around totally in the second period. Sarries upped their game and really took the match to their higher league opponents.
Josh Heath was ruled to have been held up over the line on 48 minutes by the referee but Sarries kept the pressure on. They were better in the scrums but from penalties twice went for line-outs and lost them when in good positions.
After a series of penalties, Tavistock were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes but Tamar Saracens could not get the try they threatened for camping in the 22.
On 63 minutes, Tavistock finally got out of their half and as they attack the officials ruled that Swatton had committed a foul at a ruck and sent him off.
Sarries, though, continued to press and after a host of penalties on Tavistock’s line they were eventually awarded a penalty try after Tom Hicklin looked to have scored anyway.
That made it 12-7 and Sarries sensed they could sneak the win with 10 minutes to go.
However, Tavistock woke up and on a rare attack Nettleship scored a second try under the posts in injury-time that Pratt converted.
With a lot of stoppages there was still plenty of added-on time to play and Sarries set up a nervous late minute when scrum-half Tom Rigby scored and also converted.
Tavistock, though, were able to just see out the final play, despite initially failing to gather the restart.
The Pedrick Cup final was also a game of contrasting halves.
Plymouth Argaum Wanderers won 22-15 after surviving a comeback from Plympton Victoria.
Argaum had been 22-0 up after 42 minutes but then suddenly Plym Vic woke up and threw everything at their opponents, despite having two players sin-binned.
The first half was all Argaum. They went ahead in the 17th minute when flanker Dan Sargent scored from close range after good pressure.
Seven minutes later centre Karl Sullivan scored an interception try, which Ben Baggott converted. He also kicked a penalty on 32 minutes.
Straight after the restart, Sullivan scored a second try, which Baggott converted.
It looked worrying when at 22-0 down Plym Vic picked up a harsh yellow card and also lost a player with an injury, but suddenly they came to life.
They cut the gap on 50 minutes with a Chris Barrett penalty and then Argaum had Dan Smith yellow carded. Two minutes later Plym Vic got their first try when Nathan Couzens powered over.
In a game that the referee never really allowed to flow, Plym Vic were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes in the 73rd minute.
However, despite being a man down, they got a second try with two minutes of normal time and injury-time to go when Martin Hough showed good speed and strength to charge through Argaum’s defence from 15 metres out. Barrett added the conversion to pull Plym Vic within a score.
Plym Vic tried desperately to grab a third try to take the game into extra-time but they were unable to do so and they were left to rue their slow start.