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RUGBY REPORTS: Services keep pressure on title rivals with big home win

IVYBRIDGE suffered their first defeat since the end of January as they went down 43-27 at Drybrook on Saturday in the South West Premier.

The Bridgers did score five tries, courtesy of backs Charlie Briant (2), Sam Brown, Ben Watts and Charlie Groves, to claim a bonus point, but they were disappointed with their defensive display in Gloucestershire.

“It was a tough day at the office,” admitted director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.

“We started the game really, really well and managed to get two good scores on the board, but then there were moments defensively where we got frustrated with ourselves and let them in for a few easy scores.

“Full credit to Drybrook, they took those chances very well. They did turn up the heat in attack, but there were some uncharacteristic errors from us defensively.

“We then had opportunities near the end of the game. We put some good phases together and scored some good tries but we just left it a bit too late really.”

Ivybridge, though, stay in seventh spot despite the defeat and they did not lose any ground on the two teams immediately above them as both Launceston and Exmouth were also beaten on Saturday.

Ivybridge now have back-to-back Devon derbies to look forward to with matches against Exeter University and Exmouth to come in the next two weeks.

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

DEVONPORT Services ran in 13 tries to record their biggest win of the season and keep the pressure on their title rivals in South West One West.

Third-placed Services hammered struggling North Petherton 83-10 at the Rectory on Saturday.

They led 31-0 at half-time and never let up in the second half.

Full-back Matt Neyle bagged a hat-trick of tries, while fellow backs Toby Lean and Dylan Daley got two. There were also tries Rikki Bentham, Greg Thomas, Tom Richards, Toby Knowles, Joe Rider and Andy Pond.

Services’ big win has really put the pressure on Chew Valley and St Austell, who sit above them in the table and who meet each other this coming weekend.

St Austell surprisingly lost at Bridgwater & Albion at the weekend and so are only two points ahead of Devonport,  who visit the Saints on the final day of the season.

Although Chew Valley remain nine points clear of Services, the Bristol side have played a game more and their final two fixtures are away at fellow promotion hopefuls St Austell and Thornbury.

It certainly looks like there is going to be an exciting ending to the South West One West season and with at least three promotion slots likely to be up for grabs there’s plenty for all the top five to play for.

“I think within the club we feel that we are just getting into our stride,” said Services’ Stuart Busfield. “We are an open and expansive team and we feel the weather over the next few weeks with be conducive to that.

“But we are not going to get carried away. The guys were actually a little flat following the game (on Saturday). We were pleased that we rattled up a serious score, which could help us come the end of the season, but we know there are still work-ons for the big games.”

He added: “We probably were better in the first half when it was more difficult. We played with really good shape and structure.

“As the game opened up and the opposition became less aggressive, the guys played some fantastic rugby and scored some absolute gems, but we had to keep reminding them that they needed to keep shape and structure.

“There were times when it was a little bit Harlem Globetrotters and those times are when they (North Petherton) scored their points. It was a really timely reminder for us to keep disciplined, and keep shape and structure. As a result, the last 20 minutes was a real pleasure to watch.

“There was some really good discipline by the forwards, some immense scrummaging – I don’t think I have ever seen a scrum go back that fast – we were really good, even when we made changes. We brought on young James Hocking, who showed up really well on his first senior appearance, and young Oli Symons came on at prop and really commanded the front-row.

“There were some really good, stand-out performances all over. Joe Daley stepped in at hooker for Sam Bennett and he really did fill some big shoes and he did himself and the team proud.”

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

TWO tries from powerful number eight Ryan McKibbin helped fifth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks to a 33-17 away win at Plymouth Combination rivals Liskeard-Looe on Saturday.

It was only Oaks’ third away victory of the season – and only their second five-point win on their travels.

And it has helped them close the gap on fourth-placed Bude to just four points after the north Cornish club were well beaten by Topsham.

Oaks were not at their best in a very stop-start game, but they just had too much power for Liskeard in the final 22.

Struggling Liskeard had plenty of territory and possession but did not have the same cutting edge as Oaks, who took nearly every chance to score when they got in the 22.

McKibbin was a handful all day for Liskeard, who struggled to stop him whenever he got on a run.

He got Oaks off the mark after just five minutes with a try on the left following a tap penalty. Pete Keanie, another one of Oaks’ strong runners, added the conversion.

But Liskeard responded well to the early set-back and after good pressure flanker Jack Badnall scored from a line-out before having to go off for treatment on a head injury.

Liskeard could have had a second midway through the first half but Oaks defended really well and it was the visitors who got a second try on 28 minutes when Aiden Taylor went over from a line-out to give his side a 12-5 half-time lead.

Straight after the break, lock Andy Porter used his power to score from close range and make it 19-5.

And then almost from the restart scrum-half Lance Davies added Oaks’ fourth try with a great break down the blindside from a good maul. Keanie brilliantly converted that effort from the touchline to make it 26-5.

Liskeard got a try back courtesy of Billy Edwards before McKibbin got his second on the left after good play across the line.

But Liskeard kept going and, despite being reduced to 14 men for the final few minutes, they did add a third try courtesy of Kieran Underhill. They were probably disappointed not to at least get a bonus point out of their efforts.

Afterwards, Oaks’ Aiden Taylor said:  “It was a terrible game of rugby, not helped by the referee, but a win’s a win and we also got the bonus point.

“It was only our third away win of the season, so it was good.

“It was a weird game. The sun had come out and everyone tried to throw it about but there were far too many knock-ons and scrums.”

Saltash continued their recent good form by crushing Cornwall rivals Hayle 62-21, with winger Jay Moriaty and full-back Ryan Cruickshanks both bagging hat-tricks.

The Ashes have now gone three games without a defeat and now have the likes of Withycombe, Torquay and North Tawton within their sights.

With fixtures to come against Liskeard, Newquay and North Tawton, the Ashes could easily move up the table in the final few weeks.

But Saturday’s win at struggling Hayle did come at a cost with a number of injuries, including one to young centre Andrew Walsh.

Saltash, fresh from beating Veor 43-19 the previous week, came out firing on Saturday and opened the scoring after just seven minutes with a well-worked try by winger Moriarty following a good break by Cruickshanks.

Cruickshanks then added a try of his own before Moriarty added a second to make it 17-0.

The Ashes were playing some good stuff early on but Hayle did get one back before Moriarty claimed his hat-trick.

Danny Snook then got in on the try-scoring act to give Saltash a 29-7 half-time lead.

In the opening 10 minutes of the second half, full-back Cruickshanks bagged two quick-fire tries for his hat-trick and make it 41-7.

Hayle kept going and did get another back before the hard-working Lewis Wells went in close to the posts for a converted try on 68 minutes. Hooker Dale Thompson added one not long later before Devan Marshall added the Ashes’ final touch-down.

Kieran Down converted six of the Ashes’ 10 tries at the Memorial Park.

Hayle did have the final word with a late converted try, but it did not take the gloss of the Ashes’ impressive victory.

Tavistock came close to upsetting high-flying Cullompton away on Saturday.

Third-placed Cullompton are unbeaten at home this season, but Tavistock gave them a real scare and were leading 17-7 at half-time before narrowly losing 28-22.

Both teams scored four tries but Cullompton converted all theirs to make it 11 home wins out of 11.

Tavistock, though, did pick up two bonus point for scoring four tries and finishing within a score of their opponents.

“I think we gave Cully a bit of a shock,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy. “Credit to them, they managed to pull it off in the end, but credit also to our boys as they really did take it to them.

“It would have been nice to win, but it really was a bloody good game of rugby.

“We probably put in as good a defensive shift as we have done all season. Discipline-wise it is probably the fewest penalties we have given away.”

He added: “If someone had said at the start of the week you can leave Cully with two points if you take it now or play Saturday and take your chance, then I would have taken the two points.

“Every one of the lads put in a hell of a shift – they were like rabid dogs – so I’m pretty happy despite the loss.”

Tavistock beat Bude last time out and so have proved in the last few weeks that on their day they can match the top four sides.

“As I said to the lads afterwards, we have to see who is hanging around but we could potentially have a really good season next year,” said Caddy.

Fly-half Jack Easton and number eight Martin Budden scored tries in the first half, while scrum-half George Hillson continued his good try-scoring form with two after the interval.

However, Tavistock did suffer a blow with full-back Ed Tait suffering a suspected broken wrist.

DEVON ONE

OLD Techs and Plymouth Argaum both had unhappy trips to Exeter on Saturday in Devon One.

Techs went down 62-17 to title-chasing Exeter Saracens, while Argaum lost 50-10 at Exeter Athletic.

Argaum almost did not get to their game after their mini-bus broke down on the A38 at Ivybridge. In the end, the players got taxis to Oil Mill Lane to fulfil the game.

Argaum had beaten Athletic at Bickleigh Down at the end of November, but the Exeter side were much stronger on their own patch and limited their Plymouth visitors to just one try – courtesy of Tom Worboys. Cheyenne Edwards kicked a conversion and a penalty for Argaum, who were without a number of players for the trip.

Techs were also under-strength for their trip to Exeter. They travelled with just 16 players and picked up two yellow cards in the first half and while they were down to 13 men, Exeter Saracens took full advantage to run in a host of scores.

Techs, who had beaten the Exeter club at home in November – Saracens’ last defeat, found themselves 40-0 down at half-time. But they really stepped it up second half and in the end were disappointed not to pick up a bonus point.

“It was a tough game,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “They (Exeter Saracens) are a good side and they have been scoring tries for fun.

“We went up with just 16 players due to drop outs with Covid and stuff like that and on a hot day you are always going to struggle if you haven’t got replacements and you also find yourself down to 13 players against such a good side.

“I think they scored four tries while we were down to 13, but at half-time we managed to re-group and in the end I’m a bit disappointed with didn’t get a bonus point as we did have a couple of chances to get it.

“That second 40 minutes was 100 per cent better and it was enjoyable.

“A lot of teams have come a cropper up there and you do need to go up there with a full squad.

“But I can’t fault the players that did go up. The second half they really took it to them and put in a great effort.

“The first 40 minutes was hard to watch but the second 40 minutes I was really impressed with everyone.”

James Douglas, captaining the side in the absence of Billy Evans and Rudi Baker, scored a try, as did backs Dan Pullen and Peni Turua.

Front-row forward Baker is facing a long time on the sidelines after recently suffering a nasty knee injury that has required a major operation.

Tamar Saracens were handed a league walkover by Torrington. They had been hoping to replace that fixture with a friendly against an Ivybridge XV at Cross-in-Hand but they had to pull out of that due to availability problems on the day.

OPMs were also left without a fixture after the University of Plymouth could not raise a front-row to play them in the quarter-finals of the Lockie Cup on Saturday. It means OPMs will progress to the semi-finals where they will play Tavistock.

There were also walkovers in the Devon Merit Table, where leaders Plymouth Fijians were handed the points by Plympton Victoria and Tavistock II were given the win by DHSOB.

The Fijians have won the Division Two South & West league and they will play Topsham seconds in the semi-finals of the David Butt Trophy. That game is set to be played on April 9.

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