DEVONPORT Services’ long unbeaten home run finally came to an end on Saturday as they were beaten 35-27 by title favourites Camborne at the Rectory in Regional One South West.
Newly-promoted Services had not lost at home since April 2019 and they were left frustrated that the record did finally come to an end on Saturday against high-flying Camborne, who have now gone to the top of the table.
Devonport, fresh from Devon derby victories over Okehampton and Brixham, were 17-7 up early in the second half and their advantage could have been larger had they taken a couple more of their chances.
But Camborne showed why they are unbeaten and now top of the league by digging deep and taking advantage of a couple of lapses in Devonport’s concentration.
It was particularly gutting for Services to not even pick up a bonus point for their efforts as they more than matched Camborne for much of the game.
“I’m proud and disappointed,” admitted Services head coach Ben Russell afterwards.
“As everyone has been saying, they are the team to beat this year, but we put in a performance that I felt could have won us the game, but we just didn’t play for the full 80.”
He added: “We played well and got up at half-time. We probably should have had another try at the end of the first half from a maul but then at the start of the second half we’ve gone 17-7 up and I’m thinking ‘we are doing well here’.
“But I said to the boys at half-time that it had to be an 80-minute performance and we just let our heads drop at certain times and it cost us dearly.
“But there were loads of positives to come out of it. Yeah, there’s some work-ons as well, but we’ll just work hard on Tuesday and Thursday and get ready for Launceston on Saturday.
On losing their unbeaten home record, Russell said: “The record was always going to go. Obviously, I didn’t want it to go and the boys are fantastic at home – they love this place and the club – but we have come up a league and playing teams that have ambitions to go up (to the National League) and are throwing cash around.
“It was going to go at some point, but at least it has gone to one of the top two sides in the league.”
Services have been having something of a back three crisis, with the likes of Matt Neyle, Kieran Down, Toby Knowles, Rhys Williams and Luke Stannard among those not available on Saturday. And it got worse for them 20 minutes into the match when debutant full-back Mike Howell was forced off with a nasty looking shoulder injury.
“Someone said his shoulder was by his knee,” said Russell. “Mikey was playing really well and he’s just come back from injury as well, so he’s going to be gutted. Hopefully, he won’t be too long out.”
Services, who held a minute’s silence for valued clubman Nigel Chivell before the game, made a terrible start, conceding a try in the first four minutes. Camborne’s debutant fly-half Aaron Simmonds made a great break which led to full-back Harry Larkins scoring in the corner and Simmonds converting.
Devonport looked nervous and messed up the restart but they got away with that and then started to settle.
And, in the 13th minute, they pulled level when after a number of penalties they went for the corner and hooker Sam Bennett scored from the back of a maul. The reliable Richard West added the conversion.
Services did have to defend a 10-metre line-out but after that dominated the rest of the first half.
Scrum-half Dylan Daley, who had another good game, came agonisingly close to scoring in the left corner in 27th minute.
Devonport were then ruled to have been held up over the line two minutes later.
Camborne attempted a long-range penalty on 32 minutes but it missed and three minutes later Services winger Tom Davies, making his home debut, scored a stunning interception try under the posts to make it 14-7.
Services had another chance right on half-time with a line-out close to the line, but Camborne just held them out.
Devonport came out strong for the second period and centre Tom Richards looked like he was going to score under the posts with a fine run. He was somehow stopped just inches short but the referee had spotted a penalty in the build up and West easily added the three points to make it 17-7.
But the hosts gave away advantage with a penalty that allowed Camborne to go for the corner and after a good maul flanker Ben Priddey got over the line. Simmonds added the conversion to pull Camborne to within three points.
And within minutes they had scored again from a scrum on halfway. Services just seemed to switch off in defence as Camborne centre Connor Gilbert ran right down the middle of the field from the set-piece to score under the posts and put his side in front.
Devonport, now four points behind, got some good pressure after that and were awarded a penalty in the 65th minute. Services could have gone for the corner but West took the kick and successfully put it over to make it 21-20.
But Services did not handle the restart well and got stuck in their own half were then penalised at a scrum. Camborne went for the corner and hooker Tommy-Lee Southworth scored from the set-piece to make it 28-20.
And Southworth repeated the feat six minutes later after another penalty.
Services did keep going and after a good drive, winger Davies scored his second try of the game while Camborne had a man in the bin, but it wasn’t enough for them to get anything out of a good contest.
Devonport Services II were also narrowly beaten as they went down 35-26 away at Honiton in Counties Two Devon.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON WEST AND MERIT TABLE
TAMAR Saracens’ unbeaten start to the season in Devon West was ended on Saturday as they went down 31-8 at home to Newton Abbot II.
Sarries do still stay at the top of the table but they now have two weeks without a game, which will allow other teams the chance to close the gap on them.
“We were pants,” admitted Tamar Saracens’ director of rugby Pete Lethbridge honestly.
“In the first five minutes we started off well with our pods and systems, but then it just went downhill.
“Newton Abbot are a good side but we were very poor. Nothing really went well, apart from our scrummaging
“It was not a very good day at the office. We were quite flat. I think it might be the wake up call we needed.
“The lads know they played poorly and it is down to them now to pick it up again.
“We have only lost once and are still top of the table, but it wasn’t a good day.”
Lewis Swatton scored their only points in the first half with a penalty as they trailed 12-3.
Newton Abbot increased their lead after the interval before Scotty Sheldon beat Joey Pook to the ball from a good scrum to score for Sarries. But that was as good as it got for the hosts.
“They (Newton Abbot) were a very good, organised team and we have no complaints about the score,” added Lethbridge.
“But I think we just gave them too much respect. We weren’t on the gain-line, we were letting them run with it and we were missing tackles. We needed to play with a bit more intensity.”
Meanwhile, Old Techs are up to fourth with two games in hand on the top two after they hammered Totnes 67-7.
It was their third big win a row, having also seen off Dartmouth 59-14 and Teignmouth II 66-21.
The RFU website had Saturday’s score as 57-7 but Techs insist it was 67 as they scored 11 tries and kicked six conversions.
Will Booth, Ben Hockey and Jack Williams all scored two tries apiece for Techs, with Joe Schoner, Sam Courtney, Phil Ingleson, Joe Dickin and James Douglas also touching down. Billy Evans kicked four conversions and Williams two.
“It was another good performance with a different side again,” said chairman David Evans.
“We do seem to have strength in depth now so if players aren’t playing we have others who can come in and take their place.
“But their try was slopping and I think we are more disappointed about that.
“However, we have scored 192 points in our last three games and only conceded 42 so we are doing all right.
“We are playing sides that are further down the league than us and are a struggling a bit.
“However, a couple of seasons ago when we should have put teams to the sword we didn’t and struggled against them, but we are not doing that this year.
“But, like I said last week, we are not going to get ahead of ourselves – it is literally a case of taking it game by game.
“We are beating the teams that we should beat but when we play the teams that are more of a challenge we have to be more clinical and tighten up.”
In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria got off the mark with a hard-earned 15-12 home win over OPM Jesters at St Mary’s.
OPMs were unable to get a first team out to play Withycombe in the Devon Junior Cup, but still went ahead with their second team fixture.
Plym Vic, who have strengthened their squad this summer, made a good start and took the lead with a try by Ethan Pringle on 15 minutes after some good build up play.
Chris Barrett then kicked a penalty to edge them 8-0 ahead at half-time.
They increased that advantage in the second half with an interception try by flanker Tom Gill, which Barrett converted.
But then the tide turned a bit for OPMs after they brought on some replacements. The Jesters were awarded a penalty try following a kick through and Plym Vic also had a player sent off and were forced to survive plenty of injury-time.
“It really was squeaky bum time,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “It seemed like the longest 10 minutes ever.
“We tried our best to throw it away, but just managed to hang on. In those last 10 minutes it did look like we were going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
“But it was very pleasing to get the win. The lads deserve that for the amount of work they have put in.”
IVYBRIDGE suffered late agony as they lost 28-27 away at Okehampton in their opening group game in the Devon Senior Cup.
The out-of-form Bridgers had been 21-6 down but came back brilliantly and were 27-21 up with nine minutes to play, but just could not hang on for a much-needed victory.
“It was a really good Devon Cup game,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.
“They had a good start and put a few scores on but we managed to get back into the game and into our rhythm.
“From our point of view, it was a much-improved performance, but we still have a long way to go.
“We will take encouragement from the improvement we have made and we will work hard on the work-ons for our next game.
“Full credit to Okehampton, they really came hard, which we knew they would at home. Okehampton is a very tough place to go and get anything and they showed why.
“It is very, very disappointing that we could not get on the right side of the scoreline, but we are moving in the right direction, which is pleasing.
Ivybridge, who had been beaten 78-18 last week at Camborne, went behind in the 18th minute at the Showground after Mat Tichias scored a try for the hosts that Dan Fogerty converted.
Matt Grieveson did kick two quick penalties to reduce the gap to 7-6 before a Ryan Lee converted try gave Okehampton a 14-6 half-time lead.
That became 21-6 midway through the second half with a try from a scrum by Okehampton number eight Saul Holiday.
But suddenly Ivybridge, who are still missing a number of key players, came to life and scored three tries in the space of 10 minutes through Sam Furse, Charlie Grooves and Giles Clarke.
However, just when they were thinking they might get their first win since September 10, Okehampton’s Richard Bolt took a quick tap penalty and ran 30 metres to score and Fogerty converted.
In the Devon Junior Shield, Plymouth Argaum beat Salcombe 48-38 in a 13-try thriller at a sunny Bickleigh Down.
Argaum had always been well in front, taking an early 21-0 up lead and then going 45-24 ahead late in the second half, but Salcombe finished strongly.
Argaum had been keen to win after narrowly losing 17-15 to Salcombe in a league game at the start of the season.
“We went 28-5 up playing all our systems and the way I want them to play, but I think they may have thought ‘this is brilliant and revert back to how they use to play’,” said Argaum’s head coach Dean Avery.
“Dan James, Dan Smith and Tom Shephard also went off injured and I think we just lost our way a bit and let them into the game a bit, but they weren’t really in it – they just scored two tries late on to make the scoreline look a bit better.
“There were a lot of positives and we still have Jack Morris and Billy Stockwell to come back. We are moving in the right direction.”
Will Lloyd, Chris Perkins and Reece Gocher scored tries, which were all converted by Jake Turfrey, as Argaum went 21-0 up early on.
Salcombe pulled a try back before Tom Holliday got Argaum’s fourth to put them 28-5 ahead.
Salcombe reduced the gap to 18 points at half-time before a converted try by Tom Shephard made it 35-10.
The visitors came back with two converted efforts to make it 35-24 before Argaum pulled away again with touch-downs from Owen Gocher and Preston Wilkins to make it 45-24.
Salcombe, though, showed plenty of spirit to keep going and Turfrey kicked a penalty just to move Argaum three scores ahead before a late converted try by the visitors.
All pictures are low resolution and are protected by copyright so should not be used without permission.