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RUGBY REPORTS: Services win top-of-the-table clash, while Oaks cause an upset

IVYBRIDGE head coach Gareth Elliott feels his team are on the right track, despite suffering yet another narrow defeat in the South West Premier.

The Bridgers were beaten 24-20 at home by Old Centralians at wet Cross-in-Hand after the visitors scored a late try to take the victory.

It followed another four-point loss the previous week at Launceston.

Ivybridge have been hit by injuries and unavailablities in recent weeks. Among those missing on Saturday were Charlie Briant, Tom Scoles, Matt Burns, George de Mendonca, Jon Morgan, Marcus Prout and Adam Northcott, who has joined Albion on a month’s loan.

Elliott hopes his team will keep believing these narrow defeats will turn into wins soon.

“With the conditions the way they were it was always going to be a tight game and I said to the guys afterwards that they did a lot of things right,” said Elliott.

“Everything we said we wanted to do we did. We stuck to the plan and played pretty well, to be honest.

“We dropped a couple of high balls, which put us under pressure. That was how their last try came. It was pressure after a bomb which was pretty hard to gather.

“Yeah, we needed to be better, but I wasn’t frustrated as I was quite happy with the performance – and I said that to the guys afterwards.

“It is important we don’t try and look for too many ways of trying to improve things that don’t need to be changed. I think we are on the right track, but the league is pretty competitive.”

Old Centralians arrived at Cross-in-Hand with two draws and a one point defeat to their name from their opening four games.

They were three points behind going into the final five minutes, with Ivybridge 20-17 up.

“It looked like they were going to get a third draw as we were 20-17 up and they had a penalty but they went for the try instead of taking the points. I think they were sick of drawing,” said Elliott.

The positive for Ivybridge was youngster Archie Bryan and debutant Sam Wilmington scored their tries on the day.

Wilmington was playing for Plympton Victoria in the Devon Merit Table before the coronavirus pandemic, but since has decided to take his rugby more seriously.

“He is a good lad,” said Elliott. “He works hard and always enjoys it at training and is always keen. He is a good little player.”

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

DEVONPORT Services made a massive statement on Saturday by beating previously unbeaten Chew Valley 17-9 in a top-of-the-table clash at a rain-soaked Rectory.

Chew had been averaging 50 points a game in their opening four games, but Services did not even allow them to score one try in an enthralling game between two evenly match sides.

The game was tight all the way through but Services finished the stronger with two tries in the final 20 minutes to keep their long unbeaten home record going and make it four wins out of four this season.

Their final try came in the 80th minute when Rhys Williams ran in under the posts and that sealed the win and even robbed Chew, who had Wales and Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy helping to coach them from the sidelines, of a bonus point.

“It was worrying for 20 or 30 minutes as I wasn’t sure which way the game was going to go,” said Services’ Stuart Busfield.

“But we have talked a lot from the beginning of the season about cohesiveness. We know they have the skill and the ability, but it is when things are difficult and going against you that you need to bring that brotherhood/team work out – and that happened.

“I was a bit disappointed with some of the decisions. We absolutely dominated the scrum. We did the same last week and nearly every scrum resulted in a penalty and I think this week we should have a lot more scrum penalties. But we didn’t get the rub of the green and the guys adjusted to that.

“Ultimately the pack was key. They were good from the off but gradually took control.

“The highlight of the game for me was when they (Chew) had a line-out on our five and we defended them all the way back to the halfway line and then got a penalty and kicked into their corner.

“We have been working really hard on that defensive structure and trying to get the psychological advantage and we did that then. Pushing them from our line all the way to the halfway line was where psychological advantage kicked in and the game started to change from that point.”

He added: “What is really pleasing is that some people are really starting to grow into the team.

“Mike Rickard was outstanding. He is one of these players that will do all the dog work – he will ruck, scrum etc – he will do all the hard work but not necessarily the pretty stuff, but he made a fantastic break and just off-loaded for Rhys to score.”

What was more impressive is that Services got the win despite missing a host of key players like Keir Murphy, Tom Goodman, Matt Neyle, Tom Richards, Keane Whittaker and Tyler Busfield.

“It was a test of the squad,” said Busfield. “Things didn’t always go 100 per cent smoothly but guys came in and adjusted. That is the mark of a great squad. I would rather talk about the squad than the team.”

In heavy rain, Services started well and were unlucky not to score a try in the opening 18 minutes. They had three five-metre scrums and a try disallowed for a knock-on.

Eventually they got a kickable penalty and Richard West went for the posts and successfully put his side 3-0 up.

Chew struggled with the set-piece but on their first real foray into Services’ half they got a penalty and Tom Bryan kicked brilliantly to level the scores.

And just before half-time Services had centre Toby Moss yellow carded for what the referee deemed a deliberate knock-on and Chew went for goal from the penalty and Bryan kicked to give his side a 6-3 half-time lead.

They extended that to 9-3 after the break with another Bryan penalty.

But then Services turned up the pace and they went in front on 60 minutes when Rickard scored from a good catch-and-drive move and West brilliantly converted from the touchline.

The game could have still gone either way at that point and the next 20 minutes were tense with both teams not wanting to make a mistake or give away a penalty.

But the match was sealed when the impressive Rickard made a stunning break from his own half before brilliantly off-loading to Navy full-back Williams who ran in under the posts.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks made it two wins out of two at home by ending Topsham’s unbeaten start to the season on Saturday.

Oaks triumphed 17-9 at Horsham Fields. It was the perfect way for them to bounce back from the previous week’s disappointing 31-12 loss at Tavistock.

Topsham had arrived in Plymouth with four wins out of four to their name and had averaged 40 points per game, but Oaks did not allow them one try.

“It was a lot better this week,” said Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor. “It is amazing what happens when you get some players back.

“I think they (Topsham) turned up thinking they were going to run around us and I think that fell into our hands massively.

“It was a total contrast to last week, we actually had a line-out and scrum and when you have that you can do stuff. We also had Corey Jamieson back and he’s immense.

“It was 5-3 at half-time. We played down the slope first half. We felt at half-time that we had messed it up as we were going downhill and we butchered three tries.

“But second half we defended for our lives. We couldn’t really get out of our 22 but we got a few penalties and kicked to the corner and we scored two driving maul tries.”

He added: “If we could get the team we had out this week – which still wasn’t our strongest – but if we had that most weeks we would be right up there again. And we are very good at home.”

Corey Jamieson had given Oaks the lead in the first half with a fine try, while after the break Taylor and Andy Porter scored drive tries for the hosts.

Oaks’ head coach Dan Parkes came on as a replacement in the second half, while Topsham started with Ricky Pellow at fly-half.

The Cornwall/Devon League match between Saltash and Tavistock at Moorlands Lane was abandoned in the first half due to a serious leg injury suffered by visiting fly-half Rhys Davies.

Davies suffered a badly dislocated ankle and a possible fracture and an air ambulance was eventually sent after a two-hour wait and had to land on the pitch. It was then too late for the game to resume.

Saltash, still looking for their first win of the season, were 5-0 up at the time thanks to a try by centre Andrew Walsh.

Tavistock felt they should have had a penalty try from a scrum but was not given.

It is likely the game will be rescheduled for October 16, which is the first blank weekend of the season.

Liskeard-Looe will have been boosted by a 20-20 draw with former South West One side Cullompton at Lux Park on Saturday.

It was the first game this season they had not lost and they showed good character to come back from 13-7 down at half-time.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

TAMAR Saracens took the bragging rights from their derby game with OPMs at King George V Playing Fields.

The Ernesettle-based club triumphed 17-5 in horrible conditions, with all the scoring coming in the first half.

It was Saracens’ first derby of the season, while OPMs had already played, and beaten, Old Techs and Plymouth Argaum.

OPMs actually took the lead in the first three minutes on Saturday with highly-rated young full-back Fred Smale scoring with a chip and chase. It was his fifth try in five games.

Tommy Pullinger kicked a penalty to reduce the gap on 18 minutes before the game was decided just before half-time when Sarries scored two tries in four minutes. Marc Cioffi got their first before Jason Stead went over.

“It was a very good win,” said Tamar Saracens’ director of rugby Pete Lethbridge.

“In the first half we were dominant. They scored in the first three minutes with a chip over – it was a good try by them but we just pushed up too much.

“But we came back and it was 17-5 at half-time and that’s how it stayed.

“Second half we were into the wind but we were quite dominant in the scrums and line-outs.

“It was a good clean game and I’m happy with the win. I thought the boys played really well.

“It would have been nice to push on and get the bonus point, but the second half was a bit of stalemate, but the boys put a good shift in”

OPMs coach Rick Orkney said: “In some respects we were disappointed as we had high hopes we could run them very close.

“They played with quite a strong wind and heavy rain to their backs in the first half so we struggled to get out of our half a little bit, even though we took the lead and were 5-3 up for most of the half.

“We defended really well as they had a lot of ball and territory but then they scored two converted tries in the last four minutes of the first half and that killed us.

“In the second half when we did change ends the wind dropped completely – I’m not saying that’s why we lost, I think they were better than us on the day – but we didn’t get that little bit of luck.

“It was all us second half – we had all the territory and most of the ball and we got outside them a couple of times but just couldn’t finish off.

“We were disappointed we didn’t score at least one try second half and make it a little bit closer.

“But on the whole I was really pleased with the way we played as Tamar Saracens are quite good. They must be a good side if they can afford to bring on Davy McGregor as a sub.

“We did keep them at bay for most of the game apart from that terrible five minutes. On another day it might have been slightly different.

Old Techs pulled off an eye-catching 22-19 home win over South Molton.

Techs, although missing Billy Evans and Matt Simmonds, had a much stronger side out than they had taken to Salcombe the week before and they snatched victory on Saturday in the most dramatic fashion.

Having led 15-7 at half-time, South Molton came back in the second period and were leading 19-15 with time almost up.

The visitors were awarded a penalty almost in front of the posts but opted to try and go for the bonus point try and they knocked the ball on and Techs winger Peni ‘Little T’ Turua picked up the ball and ran the length of the field to score under the posts.

“It was like a film script,” said Techs chairman Dave Evans. “With two minutes to go we were losing and camped on our own line. They get a penalty almost in front of the posts but they didn’t take the kick and then knocked the ball on as they spun it wide. The ref played advantage and ‘Little T’ picks up the ball and runs the whole length of the field and scores under the posts. We kick the conversion and the ref blows the whistle.

“It was just like a film. It was brilliant. I was thinking it was going to be another case of so close yet so far again.

“But we played really well. Our defence was strong.”

Techs impressed in the first half with wingers Dan Pullen and Turua scoring tries and new stand-off Tom Ryan kicking a penalty and a conversion.

Plymouth Argaum got their first win in style by scoring seven tries to beat Salcombe 39-5 at Bickleigh Down on Saturday.                                                  .

“Getting that first win is great,” said Argaum’s head coach Brett Stroud. “It’s a great release for the squad and the club. Everyone was happy afterwards.

“The game went well. Our set piece was really good and our back-row – Mitch Coles, Tom Holliday and Karl Sullivan – was outstanding.

“It was just a shame Salcombe called it 10 minutes from the end and the ref agreed.”

He added: “But we really fronted up and the boys really took the game to them.

“It was a necessary win. I am very proud of the boys. From one to 15 they were all outstanding. I couldn’t ask more from them. They were all up for it – they knew we needed a win on the back of four losses. It was a good game and a good day for the club.”

Sullivan finished the day with a hat-trick of tries, with Coles getting two and Kallane Malone and Gideon Berends also touching down.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria were happy with their performance, despite losing 12-0 at home to unbeaten Torquay Athletic II.

“To hold them to 12-0 – and they didn’t score until the second half – was pretty good,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “The lads acquitted themselves very well.

“Our defence was generally brilliant. They just had that little bit of class, but those seconds guys train and practice at a great standard of rugby and so it was a great effort from our lads. They really tried and even though we lost we really enjoyed the game.

“It was also the first game at our new home at the Royal British Legion and it was a great success. I think everyone enjoyed themselves. It was a good day of rugby.”

Elsewhere in the Devon Merit Table Division II, the University of Plymouth II ended Tavistock II’s unbeaten start to the season winning 24-0, while the Plymouth Medical Students overcame OPMs II 90-0.

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