REGIONAL ONE SOUTH WEST
IVYBRIDGE and Devonport Services both secured hard-earned opening day wins in Regional One South West on Saturday.
Newly-promoted Services overcame fellow newcomers Lydney 18-13 away, while Ivybridge edged out Devon rivals Exmouth 15-13 at rain-soaked Cross-in-Hand.
Matt Grieveson kicked all of Ivybridge’s points in a tight game where out-and-out chances were few and far between.
The match was almost a repeat of the same fixture at Cross-in-Hand last season, but that day Ivybridge scored the only try but were beaten 12-11 after George Meadows kicked four penalties.
This time it was Exmouth who scored the game’s only try but it was Ivybridge who narrowly won on kicks.
Grieveson and Meadows exchanged early penalties on Saturday before the Ivybridge fly-half added another midway through the half.
But Exmouth gradually got on top a bit and they scored a try from close range through Danny Martin, which Meadows converted to give them a 10-6 half-time lead.
Ivybridge, though, were a lot better second half and two early Grieveson kicks put them 12-10 ahead before Meadows pulled one back on 54 minutes to edge his side back in front.
Exmouth did cause themselves some problems with mistakes in their own half and one of these in the 61st minute led to them having a man sin-binned and giving away a penalty, which Grieveson calmly kicked.
Ivybridge, who handed debuts to Kristian Davis, Will Peakman, Ben Mallett and Charlie Teague, did come close to scoring in the dying minutes but just could not get over the line.
Afterwards director of rugby Jamie Tripcony said: “It was a shame that the weather came in as both teams had to adapt their games.
“That was a bit frustrating, but that’s rugby – you have to adapt.
“But I think it probably took us a little bit longer to adapt. We probably didn’t adapt so well until the second half, but, fair play to Exmouth, they had some really strong ball carriers and runners that caused us a lot of damage and they managed to get on the front foot and get some really good field position first half.
“We felt every time we had field position in the first half we didn’t really utilise that, so that was our focus going into half-time.
“We were pretty upbeat at half-time. We felt if we kept the ball in the right areas then we would do okay, but it was real tight Devon derby.
“It was nice for once to be on the right side of a close game, especially at home.
“It was a very good kicking display (from Matt Grieveson) and we certainly needed it.
“We are really pleased to get the win, but we felt we left a lot out there. Yet that’s to be expected in the first game, but we’ll rock up Tuesday and Thursday we will look to try and be another five or 10 per cent better again.”
Tries from Tom Richards and Greg Thomas helped Devonport Services get life off to a winning start at level five.
Lydney’s Regentsholme has not been a happy hunting ground for Services previously, but this time around they managed to come out on the right end of the result.
The visitors dominated the scrums and went 10-0 up in the opening 30 minutes, with Richard West kicking a penalty midway through the half before captain-for-the-day Tom Richards went over in the corner for a try, which West converted.
But before the break, Services had prop Thomas yellow carded for what the referee deemed a deliberate knock-on and the hosts kicked two penalties during that time to close the gap at the interval to 10-6.
However, early in the second half, West added another penalty and visitors, with former Oaks and Argaum player Mike Hunt impressing at number eight in the absence of Matt Gregory and Mark Friend, got on top again. Their pressure was eventually rewarded with a try from a maul by prop Thomas to make it 18-6.
Five minutes from time, Lydney scored in front of the posts through Tom Broady to set up a nail-biting ending, but Services, with Kieran Down and Shaun Crawford making their debuts in the backs, were able to hang on, despite Thomas suffering a nasty head cut.
“We’ll take that,” said Services team manager Kieran Leach. “We didn’t play that well, but it’s the first game of the season.
“I doubt many teams are going to go up to Lydney and win, so it was good.
“That’s the first game and that’s the level we have now set. We just have to try and go higher now.”
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks made a winning start to life at level seven with a 24-13 home win over Cornish club Falmouth.
Oaks did the main damage in the first half as they went 17-3 up thanks to tries by Elliott Hill and Aiden Taylor and two conversions and a penalty by Pete Keanie.
Falmouth came back in the second half, but Taylor added another try for Oaks, which Keanie converted, to make sure the hosts got a crucial four points after their unexpected promotion.
“It was a good win in the first game of the season,” said player-coach Taylor.
“We didn’t know anything about them and they weren’t a bad team, but a very young team.
“They came out of the blocks quite well but our defence was very good, which is something you can’t always say about us, as we often leak tries.
“But we were very solid and they didn’t break us until 10 minutes to go, which is when they got their two tries.
“We defended for much of the second half and it was tough, but we got the win.
“We just have to concentrate on trying to pick up home wins and then anything we pick up away is a bonus. If we do that then we should do enough to be able to stay in this league, which is the aim for this season. Anything else is a bonus.”
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
GEORGE HILLSON continued where he left off last season for Tavistock as he scored a hat-trick of tries in their 33-13 win over North Tawton at Sandy Park.
There was also a try for fellow back Connor Packwood and for debutant Jared Hunter, with scrum-half Hillson kicking four conversions to finish with a personal tally of 23 points.
Tavistock have struggled to beat North Tawton in recent meetings, but they got off to a good start on Saturday and went 19-0 up at the break to leave their rivals having to play catch up.
Head coach Joel Caddy was delighted to start the season with five points, but felt his team could have played even better.
“At the end of the day it is five points,” said Caddy.
“We made quite a few mistakes, but the weather probably played a part in that. Also, as it was the first league game people were probably excited and snatched at the ball, but the mistakes are all fixable, which is the best bit.”
He added: “Fair play to North Tawton, they dragged us into a bit of a dog-fight midway through the game and we kind of went away from how we want to play. We tried to slog it out with them and go toe-to-toe.
“But I can’t grumble as we got five points. As I said, there are a number of things we need to sort out, but they are all tiny things that can be sorted. All up, it was a pretty decent day.”
Tavistock’s preparations were a bit disrupted as fly-half Andy Yates, who should have been making his debut, had to drop out with illness, which meant Tavistock had to reshuffle their back line with Ethan Lamerton moving to 10.
They also lost hooker Hammy Kerswill quite early in the game when he suffered a head injury.
But Caddy was impressed with all the youngsters that came into the side.
“All the lads that made their debuts in the league all stood out,” said Caddy.
“Jarad Hunter took his try well at the end. It was a pretty good team try and he left them for dead with this pace. He also made some good tackles in defence.
“Liam Watts had a decent debut on the other wing, while Jack Giddy had a good game and won several turnovers and Dan Redstone, playing at full-back, has some pretty nifty feet on him.”
There was disappointment for Devonport Services and Ivybridge’s second teams in the same division.
Services IIs went down 38-13 at home to last season’s Devon One champions Exeter Saracens.
Jonah Moore, back at Services this summer after finishing university, scored their only try of the afternoon, with Tom West kicking two penalties and a conversion.
Meanwhile, Ivybridge II were beaten 34-22 away at Exmouth II. James Sloan, Luke Evans and Jack Skinner scored tries for the Bridgers, with Giles Clark kicking the rest of their points.
COUNTIES TWO CORNWALL
SALTASH started their season in impressive style with a 66-0 home win over Camborne School of Mines.
The Ashes finished last season strongly and they continued on with their hot scoring form by bagging 11 tries at Moorlands Lane on Saturday.
The home backs particularly stood out against a young Camborne SoM side, who were promoted as runners-up from Cornwall One last season.
Ryan Cruickshanks, who has taken over the kicking duties following Kieran Down’s move to Devonport Services, got Saltash on the board with an early penalty.
But that was soon followed by the game’s opening try which came courtesy of Jay Moriarty, which Cruickshanks converted.
Fellow back Andrew Walsh then added the second try to make it 15-0 and then others backs Danny Snook and Will Morton also crossed for tries – the later after a great break by Cruickshanks – to put the hosts 27-0 up.
And it got better for Saltash who went 37-0 up at half-time thanks to another try by Walsh, made by Snook, and one for Devon Bennett-Murray.
The Ashes, who have had a number of players return this summer after spells out of the game, did not let up in the second half.
The influential Cruickshanks made one for Moriarty just after the interval before another good break put in Lewis Stuart to touch-down.
Camborne tried their hardest to stop Saltash, but they could not prevent further tries for Walsh, who finished with a hat-trick, Morton and James Smith-Jones.
After slow starts in recent seasons, Saltash will be delighted with such a big win on the opening day, but they will know there will be much sterner tests this season.
There was also a good start to the 2022-23 campaign for Liskeard-Looe, who enjoyed a 10-7 home win over Illogan Park.
It was their first actual league win since March 2020 as their two ‘victories’ last season were walkovers.
Ieuan Evans got the Lions off the mark on Saturday after darting through for a try he also converted as Liskeard led 7-0 at the break.
Evans then kicked a penalty after the interval to make it 10-0.
Illogan cut that to three points with a converted try and the hosts really had to dig deep in the final 15 minutes to hang on for a much-needed victory.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON WEST
TAMAR Saracens picked up a full five points from their tough opening fixture against Topsham IIs in Devon West on Saturday.
They ended up winning a seesaw affair 44-33. They had gone 19-0 up but Topsham hit back and at one point pulled it back to 26-26 before a late rally from Sarries saw them pull clear.
“The lads played really well to be fair,” said director of rugby Pete Lethbridge. “And we dug deep to get the win, which was a good win against a good side.
“The boys played to how they have been coached through the summer by Mike (Lewis), Aaron (Webb) and Cory (Moore), but we do have to work a bit on our ‘D’ as we missed a few tackles.
“However, I think we had about 12 or 14 missing so it is very encouraging. The lads really stuck at it, even though we picked up a few injuries.”
Jordan Maddocks got Sarries off the mark when he dived on a loose ball after Topsham had messed up clearing their lines. Lewis Swatton added the conversion.
And they went 14-0 up with a penalty try before Greg Parrott scored a stunning try under the posts to put them 19-0 ahead.
Topsham cut that to 19-12 with tries before and after half-time, before another converted try by back-rower Maddocks put Saracens 26-12 in front.
But back came Topsham again and they levelled the contest at the Parkway.
Swatton then kicked a penalty to edge Sarries back in front before they hosts were awarded another penalty try to make it 36-26.
But Tospham IIs, who won the Devon David Butt Trophy last season, refused to give up and cut the gap to just three points.
However, near the end home captain Joey Pook scored to seal the win for Sarries, who lost backs Matt Cates and Scott Sheldon with injuries, but had new signing Archie Mitchell coming on and making an impact from the bench.
Plymouth Argaum did not quite get the start to the new season they wanted, narrowly losing 17-15 at home to Salcombe.
Argaum paid the price for losing concentration for a 20-minute spell midway through the game where Salcombe scored two tries.
The hosts had gone 8-0 up with a try from Darren Ewers and a penalty from Jake Turfrey.
But Salcombe, with former Plymouth Albion player Eoghan Grace in their team, scored two tries before half-time to take a 14-8 lead before extending that with a penalty second half.
In the last 20 minutes, Argaum coach Dean Avery was called on due to a player shortage and the hosts did get back into the game with a try and conversion from Turfrey.
But they just could not get in the right position to snatch victory at the death.
“We were 8-0 up and playing well, but kind of lost our way a little bit,” said coach Avery. “We had a two-on-one opportunity, but their player intercepted it and before we knew it we were back down under our sticks.
“They then scored again almost from the kick-off. We kind of gifted them two tries.
“We just had a 20-minute spell were they scored all their points and just couldn’t quite back into it.
“We were really knocking on the door at the end but just could not quite get the win.
“It is completely new systems that I have installed into the club, but all in all there’s some good signs.”
He added: “We did have a bit of disruption on the day. We had a player drop out during the warm-up and someone else got held up in work and so we were a bit short of replacements. Tom Worboys also got injured early on. Unfortunately, we did seem to pick up a lot of injuries.”
Old Techs’ game with Totnes was postponed due to unplayable pitches at both clubs.
OPMs, who were strangely put into Devon East, do not start their league season until September 17. They did take an under-strength side up to their league rivals Crediton II for their first pre-season friendly where they were beaten 59-12. Pete Regan and new signing Kallan Malone scored tries for OPMs, with teenager Matt Smale adding a conversion.
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