Services triumphed 31-22 but it was a far from easy victory as Devon One outfit Techs really upped their game, especially in the second half.
The likes of Matt Simmonds and Billy Evans really caused Services some problems with their strong running, but Devonport’s set-piece was impressive and provided them with the platform to go on and win.
Plymouth University fly-half Alex Mawdsley, getting a chance at 10 with Matty Anstis ruled out with injury, also had his kicking boots on, putting over four penalties and two conversions for Services.
It was a good match to watch, even when the heavens opened, with lots of big hits and collisions as both teams showed their desire to win the top Plymouth Combination trophy.
“It was a very tough game,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis afterwards. “Both sides were very competitive and tried to play a bit of rugby.
“It was unfortunate that weather came in as that created a few mistakes and made it more of a tighter game, but I thought both teams tried to play quite good rugby.
“When each team had the ball they made good yards which made it exciting and end-to-end. I think for a neutral it was a pretty decent game to watch until that rain came.
“I thought the defensive performance from Techs was fantastic. Even though we were making a yard here and there, they had such energy to come around and cover the space. They did really well at that and should be commended for it as we struggled to break down their defensive line.
“We had long periods of possession in the first half but could not quite go through.
“But we nullified their set-piece, which is a hell of a thing to do. We were quite proud of that as we work hard on our set-piece.”
Services’ second team have enjoyed a good year finishing in the top four the Devon Merit Table and winning the Lockie Cup.
“The second team have had such a successful season and they have been fantastic this year,” said Lewis. “They have trained hard and been committed throughout the year and you can see that in our performances and our shape. You wouldn’t see many second teams with shape like ours around the county.
“Jim Moss has put some much effort it, as has Andy McBeath, and that has helped changed it this year. With these two guys at the helm they have plenty of direction and they have so much enthusiasm to get players to training and to play and they have been instrumental in making the team successful.”
“It was a great game all-round,” he said. “Services bested us in the line-out and scrummage first half and they played well on the ball. We were starved of ball basically first half and didn’t get a lot of go-forward.
“But I just said to the guys at half-time they just had to tighten up their defensive line, get in front of them on the line-out and when we get the ball to support in numbers. They did that and look at the turned it around second half.
“I am so proud of those guys as they worked their backsides off. They were playing a club a number of leagues above them. People will say ‘yeah but it is only their Lockie Cup team’, but they work and train with the first team and their level rugby is so much higher. That is why I am so proud of our guys, as they took our level of rugby up to theirs. It was not a case of them coming down to us – we went up to their level and played some really good rugby.
“But at the end of the day Devonport deserved their win. They have got some good players there, they scrummaged well and they moved us into defensive areas and then moved the ball away – they were very good. I can’t take anything away from them as they played really well.
“But our defensive line got better and better to the point where they just couldn’t break through us and we were forcing them out wide and then they were making errors. I was really pleased with our overall performance.”
Evans kicked a penalty for Techs to cut the gap to seven points, but then Mawdsley kicked two to edge his side 16-3 ahead.
Evans missed one penalty before putting over one on 35 minutes but Services went in at the break 19-6 ahead with another Mawdsley penalty.
Techs took less than two minutes to cut the gap at the start of the second half when Simmonds burst through to score and make it 19-11.
Techs then got a penalty for a high tackle, which saw Services reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes, and Evans put it over to make it a five-point game.
Despite having a man less, Services scored their second try of the night when Andy Tillbrook crossed on the right to make it 24-14.
But Techs, despite struggling in the scrums, continued to threaten and they got another penalty on 63 following a great counterattack and Evans put it over to pull his side to win one score.
However, in the 75th minute Services got the deciding try. After a series of five-metre scrums they eventually scored in the corner when Elliot Lupson went over after a quick tap penalty. Mawdsley brilliantly converted from the touchline to put his side 14 points up.
Techs, though, refused to give up and in injury-time the dangerous Simmonds ran through three tackles to score a consolation try.
Ashes’ young centres Freddie Davies and Kristian Davis were outstanding and looked dangerous every time they got the ball. Between them they scored 30 points, with Davies getting a hat-trick of tries and Davis also getting a try and kicking five conversions.
Saltash went 14-0 up after five minutes with two great tries from set-play moves by Davies, both converted by Davis.
Tavistock had the better scrum and maul but just kept getting caught on the counterattack. However they did cut the gap on with a try by James Lovering before Saltash added a third try through Davis, who also converted.
After going 21-5 down in the first 22 minutes, Tavistock finished the first half the strong and added two tries through Nick Piper and Duncan Law to leave the half-time score at 21-17 to Saltash.
But a try by half-back Christian James, converted by Chris Watts, pulled Tavistock within four points.
Saltash’s Ethan Cox and Duncan Law exchanged converted tries to leave the score a 35-31 before the Cornish club sealed the win in the final 20 minutes with three penalties from replacement Steve Down.