FOR the second home game running, Ivybridge upset one of their main Devon rivals.
After beating league leaders Barnstaple last month, the Bridgers got the better of in-form Brixham on Saturday at Cross-in-Hand in the South West Premier League.
Brixham arrived in the South Hams on the back of a six-game winning run, which had seen them pick up England Rugby’s level five club of month award for February.
And to add extra spice to Saturday’s clash, which also doubled as a Devon Senior Cup game, a third of Brixham’s starting line-up were ex-Ivybridge players, with Lewis Paterson, Mitch and Billy Pinkus, Nathan Reeves and Scott Puleston playing for the Fisherman.
There were plenty of big tackles and strong defence but little scoring action in the first half.
There was just one try in the opening 40 minutes and that came five minutes before the break when Ivybridge prop Jon Morgan, back in the starting line-up after missing last week’s heavy defeat at bottom side Bracknell, forced his way over the whitewash. Matt Grieveson converted to give the hosts a 7-0 lead at the interval.
Brixham cut the gap in the 57th minute when Mitch Pinkus kicked a penalty. But eight minutes later Ivybridge went 14-3 ahead when flanker Ben Collins scored and Grieveson converted.
The visitors set up a thrilling ending when replacement Joel Ashworth scored a try, which Pinkus converted.
However, despite the Fishermen’s late comeback, Ivybridge were able to hold on for a crucial win, which keeps them 10 points clear of the drop zone and moves them to within six points of a top five place.
SOUTH WEST ONE
DEVONPORT Services’ hopes of promotion to the South West Premier suffered a blow on Saturday when they lost 38-10 away at league leaders Hornets.
It means they now trail the Hornets by 10 points, although they have got a game in hand.
However, Services do stay in second spot as Thornbury, who were third going into the weekend, lost at Sidmouth.
This weekend’s results in that league now mean that just five points separate second from sixth, with Lydney now up to third.
Services were not helped by losing key players Matt Gregory and Kyle Browne before the game and then losing front-row cover due to the suspected coronavirus case at Marjon University.
They also then suffered four injuries during the match, which hampered their hopes of trying to claw back a 25-10 half-time deficit.
Backs Jake Inglis and Corey Jamieson scored tries for them in the opening period, but head coach Mike Lewis felt they made too many silly mistakes in the first half.
“When you play the top of the league it is going to be about fine margins and there were a few things that contributed to us having a scoreline like that,” said Lewis.
“Losing Matt Gregory and Kyle Browne did not help. That’s your captain and one of the top try-scorers in the South West Premier for the last five years. That does make a difference, but it shouldn’t adjust the score that much.
“In the first half we were probably on top for the first 20 minutes, but then we just started to do uncharacteristic things. We missed two kicks for touch off penalties, kicked the ball down their throat, even though in all our meetings we’d said not to do that.
“They then got a serious amount of momentum. They have got some huge players – not sluggish blokes, but real good players – and you can only keep them out for so long. And when we did get the ball back we just gave them it back easily in the first half and that cost us about 15 or 20 points. Then it is a massive uphill battle.
“We just made some poor decisions and had a couple of yellow cards that were yellow cards.”
He added: “If you look at Hornets’ results since Christmas they have been winning by considerable margins, but they still have to play Thornbury and Lydney, like we do. They have probably got the toughest run in of the lot and we’ve probably got the second.
“All the top teams still have to play each other so there will still be opportunities.
“We have to look at it optimistically. We are second in South West One and we have never done this before. It is unknown territory for us.”
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST AND CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE
SALTASH boosted their hopes of escaping the drop after edging out fellow strugglers Cullompton 33-31 in a thrilling game at Moorlands Lane on Saturday.
Although the Ashes stay bottom of the table they are within a point of Cullompton and within four of 12th-placed Wiveliscombe with two games in hand on both clubs. However, Tiverton and Honiton, who are also in the fight to stay up, pulled off shock wins over promotion-chasing Wellington and Kingsbridge.
Playing their first game for a month, Saltash went 3-0 up early with a penalty from Kieran Down.
But Cullompton, who are trying to prevent a second successive relegation, took a 12-3 lead with tries from Ollie Schuster-Wood and Chris Grant.
Saltash, though, responded in fine style and took a 23-12 advantage in to the break. Winger Jay Moriarty got their first try, which was quickly followed by one from full-back Ryan Cruickshanks.
Scrum-half Lewis Stuart then went over for their third before prop Adam Coutts claimed the bonus point try before the interval.
Cullompton started the second period better and reduced the deficit with a try from Ross Oaten before Danny Snook scored a well-worked try to give Saltash some breathing space again.
But that did not last long as Cullompton came back again with another try from Grant which put them within six points.
A Down penalty looked to have sealed the win for the hosts but Cullompton refused to give up and another Schuster-Wood try secured them two bonus points.
In the Cornwall/Devon League, Tavistock were unable to cause a surprise and beat in-form Bude on a heavy pitch at Sandy Park.
However, Tavistock did deny their fourth-placed opponents a bonus point and did cause the north Cornwall club some problems in a 19-3 defeat.
Bude did go 14-0 up before Tavistock reduced the gap before half-time with a penalty from James Lovering.
After the break, Tavistock were pressing hard but Bude got the ball and kicked it high. The hosts were not able to gather and the visitors picked up the loose ball that enabled them to attack and eventually score a third try.
Tavistock threw everything at Bude in the closing stages but the visitors defended well.
“It was a positive effort and really nice to see we have plenty of bodies to call on when we are missing a lot of regulars,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.
Plymstock Albion Oaks were without a match at the weekend, while Liskeard-Looe suffered a heavy 62-12 defeat at the Pirates Amateurs.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
OLD TECHS made it three wins a row on Saturday as they beat Dartmouth 23-14 at Weston Mill.
It followed on from victories away at Buckfastleigh and Torrington and has lifted them up to seventh in the table.
Techs went 13-0 in the first half. They kicked two penalties before they were awarded a penalty try.
They extended their lead after the break when powerful centre Matt Simmonds picked up a loose ball and ran in from 25 metres.
Dartmouth closed the gap with a converted try by Ricky Seymour before Phil Ingleson cross for Techs.
The visitors did finish strongly and Luke Chase added a try and a conversion but it was not enough to take anything away from Weston Mill.
The teams could yet meet again in the Devon Junior Plate.
Whereas Techs are on a three-game winning run, second-placed Tamar Saracens find themselves on a three-game losing run.
Sarries lost again on Saturday as they were beaten 19-15 by Totnes at the Parkway in a game that they lost at the death after failing to kick the ball out when they were leading 15-12 with time up.
That defeat followed on from losses against Torrington and leaders Withycombe and means third-placed OPMs, whose game was postponed on Saturday, could still catch them.
Sarries were left frustrated at losing on Saturday against Totnes, who had also beaten them earlier in the season.
Joey Pook and Adam Corbett had scored tries and Scotty Sheldon had kicked a penalty as they led 15-12 in a feisty clash.
They were not helped by having full-back Frazer Tatchell sent off 10 minutes into the second half for a second yellow card, but they looked to have done enough to win. They got a penalty with time up, but rather than kick it out initially, they tapped it and then passed it to someone else to kick but it did not go to touch and Totnes gathered and eventually scored to win the game.
“It was just bad luck,” said player Marc Cioffi. “We were the better team.
“Our forwards played really well and dominated the scrums, but Totnes did show a never-say-die attitude.
“It is annoying but we just have to move on to the next game.”
Plymouth Argaum bagged a much-needed win when they edged out Buckfastleigh 7-0 at Bickleigh Down on Saturday.
Argaum really battled for everything in a game where defences were on top.
“It was an awesome performance, especially as our team changed about four times over night,” said Argaum’s Stuart Quarterman.
“It was a real war of attrition where every tackle counted. Players really stepped up and played above themselves. We are very happy.”
The only try in the game came in the second half when hooker Dave Ewers scored a pushover try and fly-half Andrew Jones converted.
Argaum were held up twice as well, but Buckfastleigh missed a penalty and then were only denied at the death by a great try-saving tackle by home full-back Brad Harris.
Argaum, who had the likes of Keirion Humphries and Giddeon Berened impressing alongside senior players like Tom Bradshaw and Tom Holliday, did have to play the last 15 minutes with 14 men after Ben Baggott picked up a debatable red card.
In the Devon Merit Table, DHSOB continued their impressive winning run by overcoming city rivals Plympton Victoria 47-20 in a game that kicked off early, while St Columba & Torpoint lost 41-3 at Plymstock Albion Oaks II.