FOR THE second time this season Ivybridge were narrowly edged out by title-chasing Old Redcliffians.
Having lost 43-41 in Bristol at the start of October, the Bridgers went down 26-22 in an end-to-end clash at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday in South West Premier.
It was Old Reds’ 13th consecutive win but Ivybridge came so close to ending their impressive run.
“It was a real close game, which went back and forth,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.
“It was a much-improved performance from us from the last time we played at home, which was pleasing. But, ultimately, we were on the wrong side of the scoreboard, which is very frustrating.
“However, there were a lot of positives to take from the game.”
Charlie Briant, Adam Northcott and Damon Akerman scored tries for Ivybridge, who also had Sam Brown kicking two conversions and a penalty.
Tripcony felt his side could easily have won the game.
“Winning isn’t really a habit for us at the minute and I think we probably feel like we need to force things when we have the ball,” said Tripcony. “We just need to trust our systems – go through them and trust we will get some points if we keep the ball for a long time. There was the odd flat pass here and there when we were trying to score off the second and third phase, which is great if we can, but ultimately we need to wear teams down a bit.
“It was such a shame as it was there for the taking.
“But Old Reds showed why they have gone 12 games unbeaten and are up at the top of the league. Their defensive efforts were huge. And when we gave away penalties they really punished us. They kicked to the corner and their power plays were strong. They have a big old pack that they use very effectively.
“I’m sure it was a great game for the neutrals, but it is hard to watch and take when you are on the wrong side.”
Although Ivybridge pushed a title-chasing side all the way, Tripcony said the team should not be happy to just settle for that.
He said: “I guess it depends what type of team we want to be. We do perhaps take a bit of encouragement from that, but ultimately our vision is to be that team.
“Of course, we will take positives, but we really need to work hard. We have got a weekend off next week so that’s a nice re-set for us to put a few things right and hopefully get back to winning way.”
SOUTH WEST ONE WEST
THERE was a massive sigh of relief from Devonport Services’ players and supporters on Saturday when the referee blew the final whistle to end their game with Crediton at the Rectory.
Services, unbeaten at home since April 2019, triumphed 16-13, but could easily have lost a game they dominated for large spells at the death.
Having had two tries ruled out and not been able to finish off a number of other good opportunities, Services found themselves camped on their own line in the dying seconds.
Crediton, who had beaten them by one point at Blagdon in October, had a five-metre line-out and two five metre-scrums to win the game. The visitors, who had arrived at the Rectory on the back of five straight losses, could have guaranteed themselves a draw at the end with a penalty in front of the posts, but they turned it down and decided to try for the win and somehow Services managed to hold them out.
Crediton’s players slumped to the ground when the whistle went as they knew they were so close to a memorable win, whereas Services players just looked shell-shocked that they had found themselves in that position.
But in the end it was four points for Services and those have lifted them back up to second in the table, with both Chew Valley and Thornbury surprisingly losing to mid-table sides.
Afterwards fly-half Richard West said: “It was a relief to win as obviously they put pressure on in the last five minutes, but for the majority of the game we were in their half.
“I’m happy with the win. It wasn’t our best performance by any means but it’s a win and we are still unbeaten at home. It’s four points. Yeah, they could have nicked it at the end, but I felt we deserved it overall.
“We have had two – potentially three – disallowed tries.
“I think the boys ground it out well. We scrummed well and the line-out was good – Chey (Bryce) came in at hooker and threw fantastically well and it was a real threat.”
He added: “They (Crediton) always play well against us and they are a tough side to play against so it was good to get the win. I don’t think their league position reflects the squad they’ve got.
“I don’t think many teams flow against Crediton because of how they play and how they defend. They suck you in and make you play their game.
“But I think we were camped in their half for 70 per cent of the game and I think we definitely deserved to win.”
Services were without some key players like Sam Bennett, Joe Daley, Matt Neyle and Rhys Williams, and had four teenagers in their squad on Saturday, who earned praise from West.
“We have got a lot of young lads in our squad,” said West. “Matty Richards, Oli Symons, Toby Lean and James Hocking are all first year out of colts – that’s four guys who are 18 playing against a well-established team in this league. I thought they did really well. Mike Rickard was again outstanding and he’s only 20.
“We didn’t get too many decisions but we rode it well. We defended when we had to and scored a crucial try. We are pleased, especially when you look at the age of our squad.”
Despite a poor run of results, Crediton started well in the joint league and Devon Cup game, but eventually Devonport began to get on top.
The hosts camped on their line in the 13th minute but Crediton defended really well to deny them a try, but did give away a penalty that West slotted over to put his side ahead.
Credion had a good chance from the restart and it was Devonport’s turn to defend well.
Services doubled their lead with another West penalty on 30 minutes. At that point, it looked like if they did get a try they might go on and win easily.
But a try did not come. Devonport either tried to force it, took the wrong options or Crediton somehow got back and stopped them.
The visitors cut the lead to 6-3 with a penalty from Ollie Avery-Wright on 38 minutes.
On the stroke of half-time, Devonport were awarded a kickable penalty but went for the line-out only to get turned over.
Early in the second period, Services had captain Matt Gregory sin-binned as they attacked Crediton’s line and a few minutes later the visitors levelled with another Avery-Wright penalty.
In the 52nd minute Bryce thought he had scored but the referee ruled he had been held up, but four minutes later the hosts did get a try when the influential Rickard reached out and scored in the left corner and West converted to make it 13-6.
West missed with a drop-goal attempted while Tom Richards was inches away from scoring after a great break that led to Crediton picking up a yellow card.
Devonport got a penalty and West put it over to make it 16-6. But Services could not go on from there and kill the game off. Their game just was not flowing like it can do.
And, in the 75th minute, Crediton made it a one score game. After some intense pressure on the line, Luke Mingo finally went over after some good play from a scrum and Avery-Wright converted.
Services responded with some pressure of their own. They got a penalty and went for the corner. They drove over the line, but once again the referee ruled they had been held up.
And from that let off, Crediton went up the other end and pressed and pressed. Services did turn them over once but then tried to play the ball across their own line without success. After defending two five-metre scrums and producing some try-saving tackles, Services finally forced Crediton into a mistake to save their unbeaten home record.
TAVISTOCK scored more than 40 points for the second week running as they overcame Withycombe 43-7 at Sandy Park.
That followed on from a 41-26 victory over Saltash the previous week.
And for the second week running there was two tries for scrum-half George Hillson, while fellow back Jake Le Gassick also bagged a brace this week. Jamie Legg, who had a big game in the pack, Martin Budden and Conor Packwood also touched down for Tavistock, who had Hillson adding four conversions.
“It was a little bit wetter this week but we still played some pretty good rugby and one of our tries I think there was about five off-loads leading into it,” said head coach Joel Caddy.
“We played pretty well. Withy were struggling a bit and had a well-adjusted side out with players playing out of position, but at the end of the day we still went out and did what we wanted to do.
“We possibly could have scored a few more if we had been a bit more aware at certain times, but all up you can’t grumble.”
Caddy feels having nearly everyone fit again is helping his side.
“There is a bit more consistency in selection,” said Caddy, whose team are seventh in the table and are now just one point behind sixth-placed Torquay.
“We just have to keep chugging along as we are doing and see where we end up.
“The lads are playing rugby that is fun to watch and they are having some fun doing it.
“We are not doing anything flash, but we are doing what we are doing in training and it is starting to play.”
He added: “We maybe weren’t quite the champagne of last week, but we were still pretty good.”
Caddy was full of praise for flanker Legg.
“He had probably his best game I have seen him place for Tavistock,” said the coach.
Tavistock will now make the trip across Dartmoor on Friday night to play North Tawton under floodlights.
“They asked us if we would play Friday and we said ‘why not’. It means the lads get a weekend off,” said Caddy.
Fifth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks also scored more than 40 points as they saw off sixth-placed Torquay Athletic 45-5 at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
“It was a good win at home. We never looked like losing that one, if I’m honest,” said player-coach Aiden Taylor.
“Whenever we play Torquay it’s the same – we lose to them at their place and we beat them at ours. I don’t think either of us travel particularly well.
“I did think it would be a hard game as we didn’t have our best team out, but they didn’t have a great team out either.
“It was good to get quite a few points on the board. We made lots of substitutions second half and we didn’t really push on down the hill as much as we thought we would. The game became a bit scrappy, but it was a good game for us. Getting five points is always good.
“We are at home again next week against Withycombe and we will see if we can get back-to-back wins.”
Taylor and Joe Brearley both scored two tries apiece for Oaks, while full-back Matt Jackson, second-row Andy Porter and prop Harvey Courtis also crossed the whitewash.
Saltash had said they wanted to put in a good performance as a tribute to long-time supporter Tom Ellis on Saturday against title-chasing Topsham and they did just that at Moorlands Lane.
They might not have been able to cause a big upset and beat the title-chasing Exeter side, but they certainly gave them a bit of a run for their money in a 40-30 defeat.
It was the first time this season Topsham had conceded 30 points and Saltash also picked up a bonus point for scoring four tries.
Topsham made a quick start and went 7-0 up after just two minutes with a try by Henry Batty that Jack Saunders converted.
Kieran Down did cut the gap with a penalty but Topsham responded with a second converted try.
But Saltash were not going to lie down and a try down the right wing by full-back Ryan Cruickshanks, and a kick by Down, cut Topsham’s lead to four points.
Topsham, with centre Batty impressing, scored two more tries before half-time to go 26-13 in front.
That became 33-13 in the 52nd minute before Saltash produced some good rugby.
Andrew Walsh continued his good try-scoring form this season by crossing in the corner after some impressive team handling.
Topsham responded with another try to go 40-18 ahead but Saltash finished strongly.
Cruickshanks, who ran good lines all day, raced through the Topsham defence to score close to the posts for Down to add the points.
And then Max Dennison, who had impressed in the pack alongside Simon Nance and Ryan Simmonds, used his strength to drive over for Saltash’s bonus point try in the 74th minute.
Topsham’s tries came from a hat-trick from Batty, alongside ones from Ross Bovingdon, Calum Murdoch and Will Loughton.
Liskeard-Looe were handed their first win of the season after bottom side Hayle gave them a walkover.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
PLYMOUTH Argaum caused another surprise at Bickleigh Down by beating title-chasing South Molton 30-28 on Saturday.
Argaum are unbeaten at home since October and in their two previous fixtures at their Roborough home they had seen off Totnes 102-0 and beaten Exeter Athletic 36-10.
But head coach Brett Stroud thought Saturday’s victory probably topped those.
“This is probably our best win of the season because they (South Molton) are probably the best team in the league, I would say,” said Stroud. “I think if they can win their games in hand they will win the league.
“We did really well and again it just proves what we can do when we have a full team.
“The boys just really played well. We were against the elements first half – up the hill and against the weather –but second half I think they got out of their half only once. They literally scored with the last play of the game.
“We took penalties – took the points – when we needed to. We were six points ahead and I’m shouting on take the points to put us nine ahead so that we could see out the game.
“There was about three or four minutes left then of the game. They did score with the last play of the game, but it didn’t really matter as we had the five points by then.
“As a squad we are going in the right direction and when we have everyone available we are probably one of the best teams in the league.”
Argaum were boosted by the return to the club of second-row Aaron Anderson-Smith, while fellow lock Adam Griffiths was also back on Saturday and he got the man of the match award.
South Molton, playing down the hill first half, had gone 14-0 up but Argaum cut that to 14-10 with tries by Tom Mann and Tom Holliday.
However, the South Molton scored another converted try to move 21-10 in front.
But back came Argaum and tries by Anderson-Smith, Craig Meleady and another from Mann, plus kicks from Cheyenne Edwards, put them 30-21 ahead before South Molton’s late converted try.
Tamar Saracens had to dig deep in the final 15 minutes to see off a makeshift Old Techs side 21-12 at Weston Mill.
Both clubs were missing a host of players. Sarries only had 16 players, while Techs were forced to pull in some of their ‘Dad’s Army’ of former players. Coach Shaun Bedford-Smith was in the squad, along with his 50-year-old brother Kevin, 62-year-old Rory McGill and Jimmy Carter and Ian McCombes who are both 52.
But despite having so many veterans they were winning with 20 minutes to go until they found themselves down to 13 men after picking up two yellow cards.
Tamar Saracens’ director of rugby Pete Lethbridge, said: “I just said to our guys ‘just get the ball out don’t get into a bun fight with the forwards’ but it took them 60 minutes to realise how to win the game.”
Veteran scrum-half Carter scored the only points in the first half as Techs led 5-0.
After the interval and a strong half-time talking to, Sarries came out and scored a try through Frazer Tatchell that Lew Swatton converted.
But Techs came back with a try from replacement scrum-half Kevin Bedford-Smith to make it 12-7.
Yet just when it looked like Techs might sneak a famous win, Sarries finally found some gaps and tries by former London Irish and Plymouth Albion player Davy McGregor and Joey Pook secured them the victory.
“Yes, we got the win, but it was a hard win – it always is and always will be against Techs,” said Lethbridge.
“But we played the wrong kind of system – we thought our forwards could out-muscle and out-battle them because they had some old guys.
“I said to the guys afterwards ‘it took you 60 minutes to realise they had nothing on the wings or behind’. That was when we finally kicked a few balls in behind.
“We only had 16 players after a few dropped out on Thursday due to injury and covid, but it was quite a strong side yet we didn’t play how we should have done. We didn’t play as cleaver as we could.
“They did give us a scare really, but in the end we got there. We got the win and we are happy with that. We will take that. We have a week off next week now.
“It was a good, hard-fought game played in good spirit, but quite nail-biting and nerve-wracking at times.”
Techs chairman Dave Evans said: “We were both under-strength, but to be fair it was a good game. They scored three tries we scored two.
“If either of us had our proper first team out we would have probably smashed the other one.
“But when we look at the side we had out we did all right.
“In the end we started with Jimmy Carter, 52, at scrum-half and then had Ian McCombes, also 52, at number eight. They were good players in their day – they are still good now – but they are not 30 year-olds.
“The turning point was a yellow card when we were winning 12-7 and two minutes later we got another to go down to 13.”
OPMs got back to winning ways as they beat Torrington 21-3 away.
Youngster Fred Smale, fresh from playing for Devon U20s last weekend, continued his impressive try scoring form by bagging their final try at Donnacroft Park. He also converted all three of the Old Boys’ tries.
Harry Kandampully and Billy Garratt scored their other tries, but they could not get the fourth try to give them an extra point.
“It was a little bit frustrating as I feel we left a bit out there,” said OPMs coach Rick Orkney.
“We had a lot of changes again but I still think we should have got the bonus point.”
Meanwhile, OPMs second team, the Jesters, narrowly edged out DHSOB 25-22 in a tight, hard-fought Devon Merit Table game at King George V Playing Fields. Jack Mitchell, Sam Stockdale, Jordan Blair, Daniel Adams and Josh Pinder scored tries for the Jesters.
At the same venue, league leaders Plymouth Fijians really turned on the style to beat fourth-placed Tavistock II 77-12.
The Fijians scored 50 points in the first half. Tavistock changed their game-plan second half and were more competitive, but the Fijians also defended well.
The Fijians scored 13 tries in total with Atu Kovula and Topaki both bagging hat-tricks. Darren Roseaver continued Saturday’s theme of players in their 50s scoring as he touched down for one of the Fijians’ scores.
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