IVYBRIDGE overcame availability issues to return to winning ways with a 29-26 victory over Drybrook at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday in the South West Premier.
The Bridgers were missing a host of players, including Cameron Setter, who has returned to Plymouth Albion on-loan, Ben Watts, Adam Northcott, Jon Morgan, Sam Furse, Tom Scoles, Archie Bryan and Matt Burns.
But they did enough, thanks to a late Matt Grieveson try, to pick up a full five points on Saturday.
It was their fourth win in five games, but came after a frustrating defeat at Camborne the previous week where they had to play most of the match with 14 players.
“It was a good hard-fought win for us,” said head coach Gareth Elliott.
“The game kind of ebbed and flowed in terms of momentum. We were 22-12 up at half-time but they got a bit of momentum in the later stages of the second half, but we then just pipped it with a try by Matt Grieveson towards the end of the game.
“It was one of those weeks where we had a lot of backs unavailable. We ended up having to have three forwards on the bench, which isn’t ideal, and then Charlie Briant went down in the first half.
“It was one of those days where we fought through a far from ideal situation.
“They (Drybrook) had a little bit of joy at the maul and our restart receiving was poor, but apart from that we played a lot of multi-phase attacks, which was really good. We retained a lot of ball and tired them out that way and then got some good scores.”
Winger Sam Wilmington, who was making his first South West Premier start after a couple of replacement appearances, scored their opening try.
There was also a try for debutant Alex Sheridan. The back-row forward has joined Ivybridge on loan from Plymouth Albion. Matt Finn also got on the try sheet after stand-in scrum-half Jay Toogood had come close.
Toogood, who is now in the Royal Navy, agreed to play to help Ivybridge out with their scrum-half crisis.
“Jay came back to help us out and he played really well,” said Elliott. “Marcus Prout also played well on his 100th appearance for the club.”
Ivybridge will be hoping to have a few more players back for next weekend’s trip to high-flying Exeter University.
SOUTH WEST ONE (WEST)
LOCK Mike Rickard scored a hat-trick of tries as Devonport Services showed they can be a force away from home.
Services had lost their previous two away games but they were in dominant form at North Petherton on Saturday as they ran out 42-0 winners.
As well as Rickard, there was a first senior try for young winger Matt Richards, with Toby Moss and Ty Busfield also crossing the whitewash in tough conditions in Somerset.
“The conditions were brutal,” said Services’ Stuart Busfield, who was delighted with the team’s performance.
“We have been really work hard on our defensive shape – Mike (Lewis) has been drilling that into the guys week-on-week in training – and they really got it right this week.
“But the reason it was right is because we have been working on the cohesiveness.
“The team that was the most together in those conditions was going to win it. The wind was just so strong. The poor back three were chilled to their bones it was that biting.
“But Richard West kicked fantastically for us in storm force winds and that was a big difference.
“We certainly took advantage of their poor kicking and our good kicking in both halves.
“Even when we were against the wind we were a lot more intelligent with our play.”
He added: “It was another great day for the pack. They really dominated.
“Hats off to Sam Bennett at hooker, who in the conditions threw excellently into the line-out. We didn’t lose one ball into hurricane conditions and hats off to Andy Pond who was calling the line-outs. We made the right decisions at the right times in the conditions.
“North Petherton are a good side. They had some massive ball carriers, but we had players like Joe Semple in the first half and Liam Jarvis in the second, just chopping them down and giving them nowhere to go.
“And because of our defence and press, they started to lose a bit of heart.
“The last 15-20 minutes they were trying everything they could to come back into the game but we were so fixated on trying to keep their score to zero. We were making sure we didn’t give away penalties, which we had done in the last two games, but we didn’t do that this week. We did all the right things at the right times and in the right places.”
Busfield did have praise for Rickard, who also got the man of the match award.
“He got a hat-trick, which was fantastic, and there were no easy tries there,” said Busfield. “His breaks and his strength in contact really got us in behind their defence.
“The other try we were really pleased with was young Matt Richards. It was his first try for the seniors after coming out of the colts. It was a one on three situation, but he made a great step and then broke through the two other defenders to score. It was a fantastic try for a young lad.”
The match in North Petherton also saw Services’ captain Matt Gregory set a new club record for league appearances. Saturday’s game was his 262nd in a Devonport shirt.
Saltash head coach Steve Down is hoping his side can push on now after recording only their second win of the season on Saturday against Hayle at Moorlands Lane.
The Ashes really found their try-scoring form this weekend to cross the whitewash nine times in a big 49-5 win over their Cornish rivals.
Wins might have been hard for Saltash to come by this season but when they do come, they are big. Their only other victory was a 43-17 success over Torquay Athletic.
The Ashes were unable to back that win over Torquay in October up, but Down is hoping his team can do that this time with matches against Liskeard-Looe and Newquay to come in the next two weeks.
After Saturday’s match, he said: “I am delighted and it is nice for the lads as a lot of hard work has gone in but without the results so far.
“We know we can do it and when it clicks, it clicks.
“Selection has been a real headache for me and I have let the players know that now. We have to turn a corner with that.
“A lot of it (player availability problems) is because of rearranged things due to coronavirus, but I have said if we are not consistent in training and playing together then we can’t build any momentum.
“This week was closer to what we want to be like. This is the type of team I want to build on and keep playing week-in, week-out. You can then start to build structures and get relationships going.
“And confidence will build with wins. You could see out there that there was still a bit of hesitancy because there isn’t a lot of confidence. Some of the lads are confidence players but they need to be going forward.
“We’ve got Liskeard away next week – a lovely derby with everything to play for.
“We have played all the hard teams – a lot of them away. We have not had a great run, but now we have made this little mini target of 15 points (from this block of fixtures) and I think we have to really push for it. It might be a bit arrogant to try and get it, but we have to really try.”
Conditions were really tough at Moorlands Lane, with the team playing up the slope also playing into a gale-force wind.
Saltash had the slope and wind in their favour first half but struggled to use it.
Hayle had most of the possession in the opening 40 minutes with Saltash giving away too many penalties, but despite the visitors having a lot of the ball they could not get out of their half.
And on the occasions when Saltash did get the ball their backs did look threatening.
Ryan Cruickshanks had a try disallowed in the opening 15 minutes, but Saltash did go in front in the 29th minute when winger Andrew Walsh went over in the left corner.
Four minutes later he added another in the same spot after Saltash attacked quickly from a turnover.
And, on the stroke of half-time, James Smith-Jones, the fourth scrum-half Saltash have used this season, added a fine try that Kieran Down converted to give the hosts a 17-0 half-time lead.
A few Ashes supporters were worried that might not be enough with the strength of the wind, but the hosts actually played better into the elements and up the slope.
“The focus just became on keeping the ball in hand and making sure we used it correctly and efficiently,” said coach Steve Down.
They were certainly efficient in the opening moments of the second half, scoring three tries in 10 minutes.
Straight from the restart they got the bonus point try when Joe Rider crossed out wide. That was quickly followed by one from captain Rob Eatwell, who pounced on a kick ahead to touch down in the corner, and then one by centre Kristian Davis.
Midway through the second period, Saltash then really hard to defend their line hard, but they did it really well and eventually went up the other end and Cruickshanks got their seventh try.
Walsh completed his hat-trick in the 73rd minute before Hayle got a consolation effort, but there was still time for Saltash to add another through Davis after both teams had been reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes following a scuffle.
Sixth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks are closing the gap on the teams above them after they picked up another home win on Saturday.
They triumphed 38-13 over Plymouth Combination rivals Liskeard-Looe in difficult conditions at Horsham Fields.
Oaks scored six tries on the day, with Joe Brearley and Ryan McKibbin both getting two apiece and Corey Jamieson and Reegan Spencer also crossing.
Three of their tries came in the opening 15 minutes, despite playing up the hill and into the wind.
That impressive start proved decisive as is left Liskeard far too much to do.
“It was a really good win,” said player-coach Aiden Taylor, who again found himself playing at fly-half due to availability issues.
“We scored three tries in the first 15 minutes and that set us up nicely.
“We did let them back into the game a little bit, but second half we dominated.”
He added: “They had the wind and the slope with them in the first half. It was awful as if you were playing uphill it was so hard to get out of your 22 as you couldn’t kick it. The conditions were just awful.
“But we managed to just keep the ball and play some phases and managed to get three early tries, which was excellent, and then defended for much of the rest of the half. But second half it was all us.”
Tavistock found in-form Cullompton too strong for them at Sandy Park, losing 41-10.
Scrum-half George Hillson, back after long-term injury, scored both Tavistock’s tries.
“As predicted the weather made it a game of two halves,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“Cully really made the best use of it in the first half and we missed far too many tackles.
“But there were plenty of positives, it was just the missed tackle count that cost us.”
PLYMOUTH Argaum and Old Techs both pulled off impressive home wins on Saturday.
Argaum upset pre-season favourites Exeter Athletic 36-10, while Techs overcame in-form Exeter Saracens 25-20.
Argaum have now won three games in a row, much to the delight of coach Brett Stroud.
“I am over the moon,” said Stroud. “We played really well.
“It was the first time this season that I had a headache with selection, which was good.”
Jake Turfrey had returned to the club from Plymstock Albion Oaks and former National League scrum-half Chris Perkins was also back to boost Stroud’s back options.
“All the boys stood up to be counted and we out-played them really,” said Stroud.
“It was gusting like hell, but we played to the conditions and the pitch well. No-one really likes coming to Argaum, but we like playing there.
“Our set-piece was really good. Smithy (Dan Smith), as captain led from the front and got man of the match.
“We got six tries and we were the dominant team.
“They came with a game to throw the ball around but it does not really work in this weather.”
He added: “We went against the elements and up the hill first half – and that half seemed to go on forever. They were 10-0 up, but that wind was really a 30 or 40-pointer if played in the right way.”
Tom Holliday and Perkins both got two tries for Argaum, to go with one from Smith and winger Craig Meleady.
Argaum have also been boosted further by re-signing Tom Worboys following a spell at Oaks.
“There’s a good feel-good factor at the club and I have plenty of boys to select from now,” said Stroud..
Old Techs also used the conditions well to beat Exeter Saracens and keep their unbeaten home record intact.
The hosts had been 15-10 down at half-time, but they turned that around second half and went 25-15 ahead before Exeter got a try back to claim a bonus point.
“We are really pleased,” said Techs chairman Dave Evans. “It was a really good win.
“We will always give everyone a game.
“They were the top points scorers in the league but we are unbeaten at home and it turned out to be a really good game. They are a good side. They try to run everything and you can see why they have had some good results.”
Techs got a penalty try in the first half to go with a penalty from new dad Tom Ryan.
After the break replacement Phil Ingleson and Billy Evans, playing at number eight on Saturday, added further tries to go with a penalty and a conversion from Ryan.
Centre Will Booth, who had scored his first try for the club the previous week, had another strong game.
Tamar Saracens were handed a home walkover by Torrington, while OPMs were without a fixture.
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