A LAST-gasp Sam Brown penalty saw Ivybridge earn a 25-25 draw with Devon rivals Brixham at Astley Park on Saturday in a joint South West Premier League and county cup match.
The Bridgers, who had beaten Brixham at Cross-in-Hand earlier in the season, had stormed into the lead on Saturday with teenage debutant Charlie Groves making one try and scoring another.
The visitors, who also had Charlie Briant and Adam Northcott touching down, led at half-time, but Brixham came back and with two minutes to go the Fishermen went 25-22 ahead with a try.
But Ivybridge, who fielded an unfamiliar looking line-out due to injuries and unavailabilities, turned Brixham over in the dying seconds and got a penalty, which Brown kicked to silence the home support.
“I imagine it was a good game for the neutral,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.
“We had a strong first half and managed to get up on the scoreboard. Our defence was strong at the start of the game and we took the space well.
“Charlie Groves on his debut was a real threat in attack. He scored one and set one up for Charlie Briant.
“We were in a good position, but Brixham slowly chipped away and managed to get a couple of scores back around half-time.”
“There was no rhythm to the game second half and Brixham went 25-22 up with two minutes to go with a try.
“But we managed to turn them over and get a penalty which Sam Brown kicked with the last play of the game to draw the match.”
Tripcony added: “There were some real positive things – our attack and our endeavour to defend in the first half – but there’s obviously a few work-ons to be able to keep our structures and rhythm in the game. We also need to work on our set-piece a bit before next week.”
Matt Finn, Jon Morgan, George Wilson, Seb Musgrave, Tom Scoles, Damon Akerman and Harrison Legge were among those unavailable for Ivybridge at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Ivybridge’s second team continued their unbeaten season in the Devon Merit Table by beating their Brixham counterparts 55-6 at Cross-in-Hand.
Brad Legge got them off the mark with a fine solo effort within the first three minutes. Young winger Henry Partridge also went over, while Henry Trudgill and Callum Law both bagged two. There were also tries for Sam Wilmington, Theo Clark and Mike Cox.
SOUTH WEST ONE WEST
WITH just five league games to go, Devonport Services are still well and truly in the South West One West title race after edging out promotion rivals Lydney 14-7 at the Rectory on Saturday.
Services were not at their clinical best at the weekend and made harder work of securing the win than they should have done, but the important thing was that they ended up with the four points.
Those points have moved them up to fourth, above Lydney, and they do have a game on two of the three teams above them – Chew Valley and Thornbury – while they still have second-placed St Austell to play in the final match of the season. St Austell also have to play both Thornbury and Chew Valley so it is still all to play for going into the final few weeks of the season.
After Saturday’s match, Services’ Stuart Busfield said: “There were a couple of nervous events out there, but the good thing is we won and are still in it.
“All we wanted when we came off the pitch was that the season was still in our hands and that we still had something to play for.
“Any team would have loved a bonus point, but the most important thing was that win. We can now build from that.”
Services certainly had enough chances to score four tries, but either Lydney defended brilliantly or Devonport’s final pass went astray.
“Lydney are not where they are in the league for no reason,” said Busfield. “They are a good side and you could see every time they had the ball that they had threat and shape and also their defensive structure was good.
“Perhaps if we hadn’t shut off in that first couple of minutes when they got that quick score it might have been different. I think that allowed them to build their confidence a bit.
“From there it was about us getting back into the game and I can’t moan at the guys for their effort and for the way they brought themselves back into it and took the lead.
“I think the gravitas of the game meant there were a few nervous decisions. I think had it not been for a few nervous decisions we could have gone on and got the bonus point there. I felt it was there for us.”
Services made the worst possible start to Saturday’s big match and allowed Lydney winger Brad Dunn to slip through and score a converted in the opening two minutes.
But straight from the re-start Devonport threatened. They looked like they were going to score but knocked on right on the try line.
However, they kept the pressure up and four minutes later they got a five-metre line-out and drove. It looked like they were certain to score but Lydney illegally stopped it in the in-goal area and the referee had no hesitation in running under the posts to award a penalty try.
Services continued to have the better territory but could not add to their score, with Richard West wide with a drop-goal attempt on 20 minutes.
But Devonport then had to defend really hard as the match headed towards half-time when Lydney camped on their line.
However, they did it well and eventually got a penalty and cleared their lines.
And in first half injury-time, Lydney dropped a high clearing kick on their 22 and Services scored from the resulting scrum. Scrum-half Dylan Daley did well to get the ball quickly out of the set-piece to West, who broke before off-loading with an out-of-the-back-door pass to Liam Jarvis, who ran in to score under the posts and give his side a 14-7 half-time lead.
Devonport should have scored straight from the kick-off at the start of the season half after winger Joe Rider, making his home debut, burst through Services could not finish the move off.
The host did keep Lydney in their half for the next 20 minutes but could not break them down.
And with 15 minutes to go the Forest of Dean visitors had their own pressure, but once again Devonport defended well.
Close to the end, Services had the chance to seal the game and deny Lydney a point when Tom Richards made a great break, but once again the final pass just went astray.
FIFTH-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks managed to score four tries away at three-placed Cullompton, but could not become the first team to win at Stafford Park this season.
Oaks, who had beaten Cullompton at Horsham Fields, ended up losing 35-22 on Saturday.
“It’s hard to be happy or disappointed,” said player-coach Aiden Taylor afterwards. “I have got mixed feelings.
“I have not seen us play as well as we did in the first 20 minutes, but we just couldn’t convert pressure into points. We got one try from Ryan McKibbin, but we were literally camped in their 22 for 20 minutes.
“We put them under real pressure and played some lovely rugby, but we just made some poor decisions and let them back into the game.
“They scored a breakaway try but we went back into their 22 and had we scored then I think it would have been a different game, but we didn’t – we knocked it on right on their try line when all we had to do was catch it and score – and they had the better of the second 20 minutes of the first half and scored a couple of tries.
“I think the half-time score was 21-5, but it could have been very different.
“Second half we didn’t have the ball for the first 20 minutes and we were just defending and we didn’t get the rub of the green at all from the referee, but in the last 20 minutes we came to life again and banged in three tries.
“I feel like it was one of those missed opportunities, but they are a good side. Credit to them, that’s why they are up there competing.
“But it was one that we could have won, if things had gone our way.”
Number eight McKibbin ended up with two tries, with Taylor and Alex Broughton also crossing the whitewash for Oaks.
Tavistock were another team left frustrated on Saturday after an away trip. They lost 43-39 to sixth-placed Veor.
Tavistock managed to score six tries on their travels, with Conor Packwood bagging a hat-trick and Rich Cann, Josh Bloye and Joe Hair also crossing, but it still wasn’t enough to win.
“If you were a neutral watching it you would have been thoroughly entertained,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“But that was possibly the most game of two halves I have ever seen, as clichés go.
“We were 25-10 up at half-time and looking like we were in control of the game, but, fair play to them, they came back storming it and went 36-25 in front.
“It was one of those strange games.”
Tavistock did at least return with two bonus points for scoring four or more tries and finishing within seven of their opponents.
“We can’t grumble too much,” said Caddy.
“We played really well, but it was just that 15 minutes at the start of the second half that cost us.
“Fair play to them, they came back at us hammer and tongs.
“Their pitch isn’t much bigger than a postage stamp, but considering the size of it, we managed to play the way we want to play and spun the ball about. We did play some pretty good rugby, but it was just one of those days.
“Their coach said afterwards if the game had gone on a couple of minutes later we probably would have won.
“Between us and them there’s only a couple of points between us in the table so you expected it to be close close, but you probably wouldn’t expect it to be a 43-39 game.
“It was certainly a fun game for people to watch.”
Saltash gave fourth-placed Bude a major scare at Bencoolen Meadow on Saturday before going down 34-24.
The Ashes had gone 22-0 down but brought it back to 22-17 and momentum looked to be with them as the hosts were reduced to 14 men.
However, two tries in two minutes in the final 10 minutes from the hosts turned the game back in their favour.
Bude led 19-0 at half-time before they kicked a penalty at the start of the second period.
But suddenly Saltash, captained by Lewis Woolaway for the first time, came to life.
The impressive Danny Snook got them going with a try on 46 minutes, which Kieran Down converted.
And more good play by Saltash was rewarded 11 minutes later with a try by the lively Jay Moriarty, which Down again converted.
A 64th-minute penalty by Down, who kicked well throughout the game, brought the contest down to a one-score game.
The home side were reduced to 14 when a yellow card was produced for a tackle on Simon Nance which could easily have been a red one.
But Saltash could not take advantage and Bude scored two tries in the 70th and 72nd minutes to take control of the game again, although the Ashes felt one of their tries should have been disallowed for a forward pass.
However, the visitors kept going and Lewis Wells went over for a try, but they couldn’t get another to at least return with something.
In the end Saltash were left to rue their slow start in north Cornwall.
There was also disappointment for Liskeard-Looe, who narrowly lost 12-7 at home to North Tawton.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
PLYMOUTH Argaum claimed their biggest away win for six years as they overcame struggling Buckfastleigh 45-5 on Saturday.
Argaum’s away form has been a problem for a number of years and even this season all-but two of their nine victories have come on home soil.
But it finally looks like they are turning things around now with availability improving for away trips and results picking up.
Argaum have won four of their last five games and are within touching distance now of a top half finish.
They have certainly come a long way since the opening couple of months of the season when they suffered heavy back-to-back away defeats at Totnes, South Molton and Torrington.
“The boys played outstanding in windy conditions,” said coach Brett Stroud.
“Our set-piece went really well and there were good ball carries from Tom Holliday, Jake Turfrey, Tom Worboys and Chris Perkins.”
Stroud also had special praise for second-row Gideon Berends, who claimed their man of the match award.
Both scrum-half Perkins and centre Turfrey ended the day with hat-tricks, with Kallan Malone also crossing for a try.
Turfrey had an afternoon to remember as he not only scored three tries but also kicked five conversions to finish with an individual tally of 25 points.
Old Techs were handed a home walkover by struggling Dartmouth so they and Argaum have both closed the gap on OPMs and Tamar Saracens, who were both beaten at home on Saturday.
Fourth-placed OPMs went down 33-19 at King George V Playing Fields to fifth-placed Exeter Athletic.
The hosts made a slow start and found themselves 14-0 behind after 19 minutes.
They did close the gap to 14-10 with tries by Lewis Harmer and Fred Smale, but Exeter responded and went 21-21 in front at half-time.
The visitors then increased that to 33-12 late in the second half before James Mitchell scored an injury-time try for OPMs.
“We had a good side out, but they were quite good,” said OPMs head coach Rick Orkney.
“They score two really good well-worked line-out tries, so I have no complaints there, but they scored two tries where we just dropped off tackles – one of them they ran from inside their 22 and we missed tackles here, there and everywhere, so we were disappointed with that.
“Our defence was not great and our line-out just did not function. That’s a huge part of the game and we took it away from ourselves.
“We got in the positions but we just weren’t able to execute.
“It was disappointing. Everyone was pretty disappointed as we were up for it.”
The one positive for OPMs was that they were finally able to hand a debut to youngster Matt Smale after they did receive approval from Devon RFU.
“He played very well on his debut,” said Orkney. “And Fred was outstanding again.”
Tamar Saracens had a day to forget as their unbeaten home record came crashing down as they were beaten 45-7 by title-chasing South Molton.
Their only points came from a second-half try by Rikki Brandham, which Lewis Swatton converted.
“We were awful – absolutely awful,” said Pete Lethbridge.
“After 20 minutes it was 21-0 so we were fighting a losing battle from there.
“We just didn’t have any structure or attacking play in the first 20.
“It was one of those days where we didn’t perform,
“We weren’t at the races. We didn’t start very well. In phrases we were good, but, fair play to South Molton, they were better than us in most departments.
“It wasn’t the same South Molton side we played up there but they brought a side down that was equally good.
“We have to dust ourselves off now for Totnes down here next week.”
In Devon Merit Table Division Two South & West, Plympton Victoria suffered heartbreak as they went down 24-17 after second-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks II came back to snatch the win at Horsham Fields.
“We should have really won it,” admitted Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “We were leading for a good part of the game.
“We got a bonus point out of it, but with just an extra five per cent here and there we could have won it.
“We played some good structure rugby, but just did not do it long enough to see the game out.
“But they are second in the league and it was a close game and we got a bonus point out of it. The lads are showing promise.”
Ryan Tunnicliffe, who was guesting from DHSOB, Josh Pinder and Joe Spencer scored tries for Plym Vic.
Meanwhile, leaders Plymouth Fijians were handed a walkover by Torquay Athletic, but did manage to find a match against a makeshift Saltash II who they beat 110-10.
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