SOUTH WEST PREMIER
IVYBRIDGE had to make do with a point from their opening day away trip to newly-promoted Hornets on Saturday in the South West Premier.
The Bridgers lost 39-24 in Weston-super-Mare as they made their long-awaited return to competitive rugby.
Former Plymouth Albion star Cameron Setter scored a late try – his second of the game – to secure them a try-scoring bonus point. Their other tries came from Adam Northcott and Ben Watts.
Afterwards Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott said: “We came up against an organised side and they looked pretty good.
“But we gave them a lot of opportunities to hurt us, especially in the first half. We were a bit frail defensively. They were on the front-foot a lot, which made it easier for them to get their off-loading game going and use some of their quicker backs outside, which they did well.
“We never really gained control of the game defensively, which is why they kept ticking the scoreboard over.
“That is too many tries to concede if you want to be successful in any game really.
“But it was a really good show of heart in the second half to get back into the game and salvage a point from it.”
He added: “We now know where the level is. The guys said themselves that they know where the bar is and it is up to them to keep raising it.
“Everyone agreed this wasn’t good enough, but there were reasons for that, including a little bit of a disjointed pre-season, but now we have had a proper test we can refine what we need to be doing and really pin-point some of the areas that will make us better for next week.
“At times we made them look good, but you could see they are a good well organised side, although it is difficult to say where you would place them as there’s no gauge.”
Ivybridge have to visit the same Somerset town again next week when they play Weston-super-Mare RFC.
SOUTH WEST ONE
TOM RICHARDS enjoyed a dream league debut for Devonport Services as he scored a hat-trick of tries in their 33-5 home win over newcomers St Austell.
Richards has spent the last few years playing for Plymstock Albion Oaks and Plymouth Argaum but appears keen to make his mark at a much higher level.
St Austell arrived in Devonport will high hopes having re-signed Cornwall and England Counties full-back Matt Shepherd from Plymouth Albion.
He started for the Saints in a side that also included another former Albion favourite, Kyle Marriott, who is player-coach at the Cornish club.
And the visitors started strongly with a try in the opening four minutes.
Services really had to defend hard for the next 10 minutes, but they did it brilliantly and on 18 minutes centre Harrison Reburn scored a try, which Richard West converted, to put the hosts in front for the first time.
It was a lead they would never give up and Richards got his first try five minutes later, which West again converted, to put Services 14-5 and that was how it stayed until half-time.
Straight after the interval the powerful Keane Whittaker, who has moved to the wing from the pack, added a third try for Services.
Richards got his second on 58 minutes before completing his hat-trick in injury-time.
Stuart Busfield, who has joined Services’ backroom staff this summer, said: “The biggest takeaway for us was our defensive performance.
“In the first 12 minutes it did look like it was going to be St Austell’s game as they came out really strong, but our team got the psychological advantage by holding them out. They were on our line a couple of times but we were really strong in defence and we held them out.
“The guys on debut were outstanding. We dominated the scrum against what on paper is a good side. We don’t look like a big side, but the work Mike Lewis has done with their shape in the scrum has really paid dividends.
“Our maul was also exceptional, which was good, and Tom Richards, on his debut, was outstanding. He runs majestic lines and sees the game like a top-level player.
“Westy at 10 was also exceptional and some of the kicks he put in really tore into them.
“And Tom Goodman came on and he really orchestrated the defence from 15. He did a great job.”
TAVISTOCK were the only Plymouth Combination side to get an opening day win the Cornwall/Devon League on Saturday.
They narrowly beat nearly-promoted Newquay Hornets 21-19, despite suffering injuries to key backs George Hillson and Ethan Lamerton.
“It was a very good result away from home,” said player-coach Hammy Kerswill. “I think it is about six years since we won our opening game, and it’s even more impressive to do it down in Cornwall.”
Tavistock started poorly and found themselves 5-0 down after less than two minutes.
But they gradually got going and highly-rated scrum-half Hillson got them off the mark when he kicked through and was able to collect the ball to touch down.
Tavistock then scored two push over tries through flanker Jamie Legg, which Hillson coverted.
But then the visitors lost Lamerton and Hillson and were playing against the wind and slope second half.
“We were up against it,” said Kerswill. “They (Newquay) came back quite strong but we were able to hold on for a cracking result. We are very happy, apart from the two injuries.
“Our twos also won against Plympton Victoria so we have got strength in depth.”
But whereas Tavistock were able to secure a narrow win in Cornwall on Saturday, Plymstock Albion Oaks were on the wrong side of a narrow loss. They went down 26-25 at Pirates Amateurs.
Two years ago on the same weekend, Oaks had won by one point at the Pirates, but they were left to rue what might have been on Saturday. A penalty try in the end proved the difference between the sides on a hot afternoon in Cornwall.
Harvey Courtis, Mike Hunt and Corey Jamieson scored Oaks’ tries, with Al Murray kicking two conversions and a penalty and Duncan Bibby adding a conversion.
Tom Nicholas, Joe Norways and Rhys Brownfield cross the whitewash for the Pirates to go with a penalty try, while Brownfield added two conversions.
Saltash, who have come down from Western Counties West, had a tough opening day trip to North Tawton.
The new-look Ashes went down 26-6 at Taw Meadow, despite taking an early lead through Danny Snook.
But North Tawton, who have brought in Okehampton’s captain and Devon player Tom McGrattan over the summer, showed their strength by scoring two tries in each half to secure the full five points.
Saltash did hand debuts Reece Sargent, Jack Pritchard, Lewis Woolaway, Colm Richards and Andrew Walsh.
Liskeard-Looe had an opening day of the season to forgot with a 41-0 home defeat to a strong Topsham side.
DEVON ONE & DEVON MERIT TABLE
OPMs were the only Plymouth winners as they triumphed 33-10 over city rivals Old Techs at a windy King George V Playing Fields.
There was nothing really between the teams in the first half, with both scoring two tries apiece. But in the second period, OPMs’ scrum got on top and they were awarded two penalty tries to go with another touch-down from a hopeful kick and chase.
Techs started the better and camped in OPMs’ half for the opening 10 minutes but they were not able to make their territory tell and the hosts scored on their first foray into Techs’ 22 when Corbin Turner touched down after a quick tap penalty.
But Techs hit back straight away after OPMs totally messed up the restart and gave their visitors a five-metre scrum. From it the visitors pressed and eventually Billy Evans forced his way over.
OPMs went back in front when prop Tom Gigg showed a turn of speed to score and Sammie Matts converted.
Techs, though, had suffered a couple of front-row injuries and they found themselves on the back foot in the scrum after the interval.
On 56 minutes, OPMs were awarded a penalty try before Callum Morgan scored after a big clearing kick by the hosts swirled in the wind and caught out two Techs players.
Six minutes from time and the hosts were awarded another penalty try after another strong five-metre scrum.
OPMs coach Rick Orkney said: “We were very pleased with the result. We played pretty well considering we are not fully organised and don’t have a full team out yet.
“For our first competitive run-out in a year-and-a-half, I thought we did pretty well.
“I thought we were comfortable in the first half as we were playing against a strong wind. They (Techs) had a lot of ball but I thought we defended very comfortably. I didn’t think they offered an awful lot, so I was pretty confident we were going to turn around second half and pull away.
“On the whole, I thought we defended very well and certain parts of our game came together. Our scrummage was strong, our catch-and-drive worked well and we got around the outside a few times in the backs, so we’re pretty pleased.”
Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith said: “I think in the first half it wasn’t a bad game and was fairly even. I thought our scrummaging was going well, but then our prop had to go off as he did his shoulder and then (hooker) Steve Wilkinson also came off and that’s made a big difference to our scrum.
“We then had to put people in the front-row who are not used to playing there and our set-piece went. And trying to win a game when you are going backwards is very hard.
“In the first half we were driving them back, but then you lose a prop and your hooker and have to put a second-row at prop and a back-row at hooker.
“It was a bad day at the office and we just have to re-set and try and keep people’s heads up.”
Tamar Saracens, who finished as runners-up in 2019-20, did not get the start to the season they wanted. They went down 22-10 away at Exeter Athletic, who have come down from the Cornwall/Devon League.
Sarries were trailing 15-3 when player-coach Davy McGregor came on and scored a try from a catch-and-drive move, but any hopes they had of snatching something out of the match ended with a late try by Exeter Athletic’s Joesph Harker.
Tom Rigby kicked the rest of Sarries points, with Ethan Barnashone scoring Exeter’s other try and Dan Hayward kicking Athletic’s other points.
Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge said: “It was a bit disappointing really.
“It was 8-3 at half-time and I think in the second half they visited our half three times and scored each time.
“When we were in their 22 we didn’t convert our chances.
“It was quite an even game. I felt if we had got an early try at the start of the second half that might have turned it, but we just couldn’t convert our pressure.”
There was also disappointment for Plymouth Argaum, who lost 29-5 away at New Cross.
To add to their frustration, centre Jack Morris ended up in hospital with a shoulder injury.
Argaum had some chances in the first half but did not take them and just before the break New Cross broke the deadlock with a converted try to take a 7-0 lead into the interval.
Despite having the better of the scrum, Argaum found themselves 29-0 down before hooker Tom Mann forced his way over for a consolation try.
In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria took plenty of positives out of a 26-12 defeat to a strong Tavistock II side at Sandy Park.
Plym Vic had not been able to find any warm-up matches and so the game, which was also an Ellis Trophy clash, was their first run-out in 18 months.
“It wasn’t too bad at all,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “But if we weren’t as ring-rusty as we were with a nearly two-year break from rugby, I think we would have done a lot better.
“There were quite a lot of dropped balls and passes and defence not as accurate as they should have been. A couple of their tries were just our defensive errors.
“Don’t get me wrong, overall they deserved the win, but I think we could have made an even better game of it if we just weren’t quite so rusty.
“But saying that, the Plym Vic of old would have been knocked all over the park by Tavistock.
“The lads acquitted themselves well and they worked hard on a hot day to play rugby in.
“We did play some half-decent rugby. Our scrummage was quite strong, we won most of our own line-out and stole a little bit of theirs, they just capitalised on mistakes a bit better than us. Generally our defence was pretty good but when we made a mistake they were able to capitalise better than we were.
“But I think the lads all round were pleased with the day.”
Dan Warne touched down for Plym Vic with their other score coming from a penalty try.
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