DEVONPORT Services got their Regional One South West home campaign off to a great start on Saturday with a 37-18 bonus-point win over Devon rivals Brixham at the Rectory.
In recent years, Services have been in Brixham’s shadows and have previously lost many of their best players to the Fisherman.
But Devonport have finally joined them at level five and they showed on Saturday that they can be a threat to established teams in the league.
In front of a decent-sized crowd, the hosts showed real hunger to get the win – their second in three games since their promotion.
“I couldn’t have asked for anymore,” said new head coach Ben Russell. “From last week to this we were a completely different side. We played the full 80 minutes and some boys put a real proper shift in. It was brilliant.
“We said at the end of the game, that the performance was a starting point at home.
“We got on top, we scored some cracking tries, but then gave the ball back too easy at times, yet I couldn’t fault the effort. Everyone one from one to 18 was outstanding. I’m very, very happy.”
Services, determined to protect their long unbeaten home record, defended really well and fought for every ball. They did make the odd mistake and their line-out was a bit hit-and-miss in the first half against an experienced Brixham pack, but the fixed that in the second period and whenever they did get the ball in the Fisherman’s half they always looked dangerous.
They got the perfect start when lock Mike Rickard burst through to score just to the left of the posts in the fourth minute after good pressure from a line-out. Richard West, who had an influential game at 10, added the conversion.
But Brixham did hit back eight minutes later when former Plymouth Albion top try scorer Matt Crosscombe showed his power to score after the visitors had gone for a line-out from a penalty.
Brixham did not add the conversion and almost straight away Services went 12-5 ahead with a brilliant try down the right wing by flanker Liam Jarvis after Matt Neyle had done well to pick up a Tom Richards kick forward.
Services then had to really defend their line, but they did it brilliantly before going up the other end and getting a penalty in front of the posts that West put over to make it 15-5.
Brad McKee pulled a penalty back for Brixham on 33 minutes. Services then messed up the restart kick and then lost a line-out on their line to give Brixham the perfect position to attack from, which they took. From the resultant scrum on the right, they quickly threw the ball across the line to the dangerous Crosscombe, who went over for his second try on the afternoon to make it 15-13.
However, Devonport did not let their heads drop and instantly responded with a great restart kick that eventually got them a line-out 15 metres out. From it they drove before replacement prop James McFarlane, who had just come on to the field for his home debut against one of his former clubs, showed great skill to dive for the line and reach out one-handed to dot the ball down.
That meant Services went into the half-time break 20-13 ahead.
Devonport thought they had scored at the start of the second half but it was ruled out for a forward pass and then the hosts once again had to defend hard.
The game was a bit stop-and-start in the first 20 minutes of the second period but in the 66th minute Services got the breakthrough they needed with another try from Rickard, this time from a good catch-and-drive move. West added the conversion to make it 27-13.
But once again Services switched off from the restart. After dropping the ball, Brixham kicked forward and Jason Capaldi somehow managed to get to it and ground it after the bounce had taken it away from two Devonport players.
Services, though, finished the game really strongly and really started to cause Brixham problems with their driving mauls. After a number of penalties, Brixham were reduced to 14 men in the closing stages and the hosts took advantage with hooker Sam Bennett scoring from a line-out move and West converting.
West then kicked a penalty with the last play of the game to seal an impressive bonus point win.
There was disappointment for Ivybridge in Regional One South West as they were narrowly beaten 39-34 at home to Lydney.
The Bridgers had been struggling with flu in their camp and so had to make a number of changes, particularly in their backs.
They did make a good start and scored two tries within the opening 14 minutes courtesy of Will Peakman and Ben Watts, which were both converted by fly-half Luke Martell, who was a late call-up into the side after Matt Grieveson was forced to drop out.
But Lydney got back into the game and took hold of it, although Adam Northcott got a third try on 40 minutes which Martell converted.
Sam Furse picked up a yellow card for Ivybridge in the 51st minute but the hosts gave themselves hope with a fourth try courtesy of scrum-half Watts, which Martell, who had played for Ivybridge’s thirds the week before against OPM Jesters, converted.
Martell then kicked a penalty to pull Ivybridge within a score with eight minutes to go. The hosts did push for a winner but they could not manage it and had to settle for two bonus points.
“We pulled away a bit first half – we got a really good start – but then we allowed them back into the game and gave ourselves just a bit too much to do,” said director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.
“We came back really strongly, which was pleasing, and we had an opportunity near the end, but unfortunately time just ran out for us.
“It was really frustrating to come away with a loss, especially at home. There are certainly things that can be improved and worked on.
“We did have a few changes as there is a flu going around at the minute so our training week was not as fluid as we would have liked and obviously we had to make some changes, but we were very, very pleased with the guys that came in.
“We had two youngsters – Ben Scott and Jacob Gaskin – making their debuts and they came out of it well.”
Ivybridge now have to pick themselves up for a tough trip to unbeaten Camborne this coming Saturday.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a good training week with more fluidity with numbers,” said Tripcony. “I think given the frustration with this game the boys are keen to work hard to ensure we get a better performance away from home.”
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks suffered a second successive away defeat as they were beaten 29-19 at Penryn on Saturday in Western West.
Oaks have won both their home games but lost both their matches on their travels so far this season since their unexpected promotion.
They did travel across the Tamar with an under-strength squad but felt they still should have returned with some points.
They were missing the likes of Ryan McKibbin, Kieran Jamieson, Stu Kirkwood, Lewis Paterson, Kyle Browne, Alex Chapman and Luke Austin.
Former Old Techs player Connor McQueen did make his league debut at hooker, with Aiden Taylor switching to number eight.
Taylor did continue his record of scoring in every game this season by bagging Oaks’ first in Cornwall. Scott Williams and Joel Moran also crossed the whitewash with Pete Keanie kicking two conversions.
“It was a tight game,” said Taylor. “And we should have got something from it.”
Oaks were not happy with some of the referee decisions in Cornwall, but will now be keen to bounce back with a home game against Bude this coming Saturday.
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
TAVISTOCK’S stunning start to the season continued on Saturday as they hammered previously unbeaten Exmouth II 66-7 at Sandy Park.
The sides had gone into the game sitting first and second in the table and a tight match was expected.
But once Tavistock got going they never looked back and ended up running in 10 tries to maintain their 100 per cent record and keep their lead at the top of the table.
For the second week running scrum-half George Hillson scored more than 30 points. He bagged three tries and kicked eight conversions against Exmouth.
There was also a hat-trick for full-back Liam Watts, while George Cole crossed for two tries and Jack Osborne and Ethan Lamerton also dotted down.
Tavistock had played a tough game on Thursday evening against a combined New Zealand and Australia navy select side and head coach Joel Caddy admitted he was a bit worried in the early stages on Saturday that the mid-week fixture might have affected his players.
“The first 20 minutes we were pretty abysmal to be honest,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a hangover from Thursday or not, but Exmouth were pretty dam good and I think we were all thinking it was going to be fair old test for us.
“Exmouth made it bloody hard for us in that first 20 minutes. They made us force things and we were making mistakes and we had to really defend. But that was probably the pleasing thing – our defence in that first 20 minutes.
“Last season we always used to have that first 10-15 minutes where we would let two or three tries in so that is where we have improved.
“After the first 15-20 minutes I thought we were in for a tough, old battle and I was thinking was Thursday going to bite us on the arse. But then we did start to score and the gates opened up.
“It was 19-0 at half-time and then we ran riot second half. We just got on top of them, started moving the ball around, looking after it and getting over the gain-line more. The lads started scoring at a rate of knots.
“But it was a decent game really. Exmouth still battled away at us and the ref was really good.”
Tavistock’s early season results will certainly have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the league.
“I said to the lads after the game that in some respects our biggest enemy could be ourselves,” said Caddy. “Yeah, we have got off to a good start, but it has only been four games and there are still a lot of games to go.
“Injuries or whatever could bite us so we can’t be complacent as teams are going to be gunning for us.”
Tavistock had a good day as their second team beat Devonport Services thirds 43-19.
Devonport Services and Ivybridge’s second teams both had tough afternoons away from home.
Services II were beaten 33-17 by South Molton, while Ivybridge II went down 50-27 at Honiton.
COUNTIES TWO CORNWALL
SALTASH maintained their lead at the top of Counties Two Cornwall with a 51-17 away victory at Illogan Park.
It was their toughest game to date, having scored more than 60-points in their other three games.
The Ashes really had to show good character and a cool temperament against a rugged Illogan side.
The first half was a fairly even although at times scrappy due to various stoppages and broken play.
Saltash took the lead when prop Simon Nance charged over the home line after 10 minutes and this was quickly followed by an excellent Oli Crawford solo effort to make it 10-0.
Devan Marshall increased the Ashes lead after 23 minutes with a well-worked try before Illogan hit back with a touch-down 12 minutes later and then a converted try to bring the score to 15-12.
But just before the interval Saltash full-back Ryan Cruickshanks kicked a penalty to give them a 18-12 lead at the break.
The second period started with equal exchanges but Saltash slowly got on top and Greg Eatwell touched down with a good try after 52 minutes.
Four minutes later a home line-out was intercepted by Lewis Wells and he forced his way over the line to increase Saltash’s advantage. With Cruickshanks adding the conversion, Saltash led 30-12.
The Ashes were reduced to 14 for 10 minutes, but this did not deter them and fly-half Lewis Stuart raced in to score a converted try.
Wells got his second try of the afternoon which again was converted.
Illogan did cross for their third try after 78 minutes but Greg Eatwell got his second try at the final whistle which Cruickshanks converted.
This was a difficult game for Saltash which did not always go to plan due to missed opportunities and wayward kicking, but they were well-served by Devon Bennett-Murray and Wells in the forwards and Greg Eatwell for his sharp finishing behind the scrum. Phil Eatwell, who is normally a forward played, well at centre and used his experience to cover the midfield.
Liskeard-Looe handed Redruth II a home walkover.
It means four teams in the league – Saltash, Redruth II, St Ives and Veor – all have four wins from four but no other team in the division has more than nine points.
Saltash do have a three-week spell at the end of October/start of November where they will play Reduth, Veor and St Ives back-to-back in what already looks like could be the crucial part of the season.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON
OLD Techs claimed the most eye-catching result on Saturday in the Devon West league by convincingly overcoming previously unbeaten Teignmouth II 66-21 at Weston Mill.
The first half was relatively close, with Techs changing ends 26-14 ahead, but second half they totally run away with the game.
“We did have nearly everyone available, apart from Billy (Evans),” said Techs chairman David Evans.
“We had 20-odd to training on Thursday and there is a real buzz around the club.
“You can see the coaching is starting to come to fruition and you can see we are more well-drilled.
“We were quite confident going out there as we had good side but knew it would be a good test for us as they were unbeaten. But the boys did really well.”
James Douglas, Johnny Young, Kyle Hookway and Harley Adams scored first half tries for Techs, three of which Tom Ryan converted.
After the interval Ryan got them off to a good start with a try before Lewis Harvey, Johnny Williams and Eddie Ramazani also crossed the whitewash. Matt Simmonds then finished off the scoring with two good tries.
Early league leaders Tamar Saracens kept up their unbeaten start with a 24-7 home win over Paignton II at the Parkway.
Sarries were 19-0 up at half-time with tries by wingers Gareth Morgan and Dan Best and hooker Adam Corbett and two conversions from Lewis Swatton.
They then went 24-0 up after the interval with a fourth try courtesy of centre Reece Boarse.
“I think then we went off the boil a bit as we had got the bonus point,” said director of rugby Pete Lethbridge. “I think we just stepped off the gas a bit.
“But it was a good performance again. They were quite a strong outfit so it was a good win.
“The boys did well. They were some cracking tries from the backs – both wingers scored.
“Their try was a really soft one and we are disappointed they scored that, but overall the boys did well and we are happy. There are just a few things to tweak.”
It was a good weekend for the Plymouth teams in Devon West as Plymouth Argaum also won.
They triumphed 24-10 against Newton Abbot II at Bickleigh Down.
Argaum, who had got off the mark last week by hammering Totnes 64-7, got a great start on Saturday with an early try from captain Dan Smith, which Jake Turfrey converted.
Turfrey then kicked a penalty to give Argaum a 10-0 half-time lead.
After the interval Newton Abbot came back and halved the deficit with an unconverted try, but two tries by Owen Goucher decided the game for Argaum and put them 24-5 ahead.
The visitors did get a late score but it proved no more than a consolation effort.
“We’re delighted as we beat a quality side in Newton Abbot,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery, who was a former Newton Abbot player.
“The boys turned up and went through their systems.
“We played with the slope first half and with the wind on our backs and went in a 10-0 up. I was a bit worried but then Jack Morris got into the game.
“The boys really performed well.
“There were plenty of positives as they (Newton Abbot) were a really good outfit. Possibly individually they were maybe better than us but we really stuck together.
“We were very organised and were really in their face with our tackling and they didn’t know what to do with the ball.
“Our attitude to the referee was also spot on and he even came over at the end to compliment us. I was delighted with that as that a big thing I am trying to bring in.”
The one disappointed was Argaum did miss out on the bonus point. They did go for it in the closing stages but lost the ball which led to Newton Abbot scoring a late try.
Argaum were without the likes of Billy Stockwell, Tom Worboys, Tom Holliday, Dan James and Dave Clack and so were just delighted with the win on their VPs day.
In Devon East, OPMs made it two wins out of two with a 33-15 triumph at New Cross.
The opening quarter of the game was close and New Cross were leading 10-7 after 21 minutes but then OPMs took control with tries just before half-time.
Summer signing Kallam Malone had given OPMs the lead with an early try, which Fred Smale converted.
But New Cross hit back with a penalty and then a converted touch-down to lead by three points.
However, OPMs responded on 24 minutes with a try by Jake Aqualina, which Fred Smale converted to make it 14-10.
Then just before half-time, flanker James Glasson crossed the whitewash for the Old Boys and Fred Smale converted to give OPMs a 21-10 lead.
And then Fred Smale got a try, which he also converted to put the visitors 18 points ahead.
New Cross cut the gap to 28-15 five minutes after the interval but Aqualina sealed the game for OPMs with his second try in the 66th minute.
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