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RUGBY REPORTS: Services hang on for vital away win, while Saltash, OPMs, Techs and Argaum keep runs going

REGIONAL ONE SOUTH WEST

FOURTH-placed Devonport Services survived a Weston-super-Mare comeback to pick up five valuable points on their travels.

Services triumphed 41-36 in Somerset, but they had been 41-0 up early in the second half before losing their way.

“We played an exceptional 40 minutes and played in all the right areas, but what I can I say about the second half?,” said Devonport’s head coach Ben Russell. “We just didn’t play in the right areas and they got their tails up. They obviously had not performed in the first half and they have come out and performed a lot better in the second half. They’ve hit a purple patch but we let them back in it really.

“I keep getting told that it’s a win and five points on the road and it is, but if we had just put the foot on the throat and carried on playing as we were playing then maybe the floodgates might have opened.

“But Weston came back into it and they played well. They took our scrum on in the second half and played in the right areas, their line-out has gone well and they have out-worked us in the second half and they deserved to get two points out of it.”

Services took the lead after just nine minutes when prop Greg Thomas scored from a line-out move and Kieran Down, getting his first start in the number 10 jersey, added the conversion.

Regular fly-half Richard West had started on the bench but he was soon on the field as centre Shaun Crawford picked up a hamstring injury. However, Down continued with the kicking duties and he added two penalties to make it 13-0.

It got better for Services when full-back Rhys Williams, making his first start of the season, made a break and Andy Pond finished the move off to make it 20-0.

Joe Daley, lining up at hooker at Weston, then added a third try for the visitors from another catch-and-drive move.

And, to finish an impressive half off, new signing from Ivybridge, Lewie Riley, scored his first try in Devonport colours to make it 34-0 at half-time.

Services extended their lead to 41-0 straight after the interval with a touch-down by scrum-half Dylan Daley, which Down, having a good day from the kicking tee, again converted.

But then the momentum totally shifted and tries by Kieran Devitt (2), Huw Morgan, Chris Young and Josh Mynett put Weston within eight points and then Young secured them two bonus points when he kicked a penalty with the last act of the game.

Russell had made some big calls with team selection and Services’ strength was shown with the likes of Sam Bennett, Liam Jarvis, Tyler Busfield and Matt Scott turning out for their second team against Torquay Athletic.

“The thing is we have got a competitive squad and everyone knows there this is someone champing at the bit to get their place,” said Russell, whose club fielded three senior teams on Saturday and all won.

A much-changed Ivybridge team paid for a slow start and a red card away at Devon rivals Brixham.

The Bridgers lost 29-15 after third-placed Brixham scored a late try to seal the game, meaning Ivybridge’s wait for an away win this season goes on.

“We had a difficult first 20 minutes and we struggled to get into the game and Brixham took full advantage of that,” said Tripcony.

“We steadied ourselves moving into half-time and second half was much better. I think we were 22-3 down at half-time but managed to get back into it and got to within seven and I thought momentum was with us. However, they got a try within the last three minutes to finish the game off.

“We were very disappointed with our first 20 minutes but we were pleased with how we found ways to adjust and adapt to get ourselves back into the game.

“Full credit to Brixham, they have got some strong ball carriers in their forward pack and they were difficult to contend with. And going down to 14 for about 30 minutes was tough going, but we were really pleased with the character the guys showed in that period.

“We wanted to go there and cause a bit of an upset and that did not happen for us, but we will certainly take encouragement from certain parts of our performance.”

Sam Brown, back at Ivybridge after a spell at Plymouth Albion, and fellow back Cameron Dale scored tries for Ivybridge at Astley Park, while prop Matt Finn was red carded early in the second half for foul play.

Ivybridge had gone to Brixham missing the likes of Charlie Briant, Ben Watts, Seb Musgrove and Will Peakman.

They will be hoping to get back to winning ways next weekend when they host Okehampton in another Devon derby.

REGIONAL ONE WESTERN WEST

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks were left frustrated that they didn’t finally get their first away win of the season as they narrowly lost 24-21 at Tiverton.

“It was a very tight game and it is a bit disappointing as we should have got our first away win of the season,” said player-coach Aiden Taylor.

“We did get our first point away, but we feel it was really three points lost on the road as we should have won that one.”

Oaks felt decisions went against them at crucial times in east Devon.

“It seemed every time we got near their half we would be pinged,” said Taylor. “That was a common theme of the game

“It was 30 penalties against us and five against them.

“But we are scoring points, which is the main thing.”

Oaks were 17-14 down at half-time but went in front early in the second half only for Tiverton to score a crucial try with a kick through.

Joel Moran and Taylor scored tries in the first half for Oaks, which were both converted by Pete Keanie. Then after the interval, Alex Chapman added a third touch-down for Oaks, which Keanie again converted.

COUNTIES TWO CORNWALL

WILL MORTON scored four second half tries as leaders Saltash came back from a half-time deficit to beat Redruth II 56-15 at Moorlands Lane on Saturday and continue their stunning start to the season.

The Ashes certainly had to show plenty of character in their first major test of the campaign.

Straight away they got on the wrong side of the referee and were shown two yellow cards in the opening 15 minutes and then another early in the second half.

They did feel hard done by with some of the decisions and they were also making silly errors in the first half as Redruth really put them under pressure.

But Saltash always looked dangerous when they did get the ball and, crucially, they didn’t panic when things were going wrong. After regrouping at half-time, they really turned on the style in the second period and ran riot to keep up their record of scoring more than 50 points in every game this season.

“As they say, it was a game of two halves,” said Saltash head coach Steve Down.

“There were a lot of challenges. There was the perceived indiscipline and cards and maybe we were a bit over zealous at the beginning and trying too hard. But to come from a few points behind (at half-time) and having to play up the hill, we really showed our maturity and really got into our game patterns and took them apart in the end. But we did have to work really hard.

“There were moments of try-line defence that really set the tone.”

Some of the decisions in the first half did appear to frustrate some of Saltash players.

“It did test our patience and at half-time we really did need a re-set,” admitted Down.

“But we haven’t come up against a side like that all season so it was a really good test of our defence and our attack as we had to think a bit more and work a bit harder for the points.

“The scoreline does not tell the whole story as they gave us a really good game.”

The game was less than two minutes old when it had to be stopped for a while after a head injury suffered by Redruth’s young fly-half Dean Wills, who lay motionless for a couple of minutes before eventually been able to get up and walk off the field.

On nine minutes, Saltash had Simon Nance yellow carded for foul play at the breakdown and Redruth kicked a penalty to take an early lead.

But, despite having a man less, Saltash scored the game’s first try when Jay Moriaty and Ryan Cruickshanks broke before the later fed Greg Eatwell to score on the right. Cruickshanks converted to make it 7-3.

But within a couple of minutes, the hosts found themselves down to 13 when Danny Snook was also shown yellow by the referee.

Yet Saltash did not concede any points during that time and actually increased their lead to 12-3 with another Greg Eatwell try after great work by Morton.

The Ashes, whose line-out struggled in the first half, did have another great chance to score when Lewis Wells broke through but they dropped the ball and Redruth scored two tries in seven minutes through forwards Bailey Williams and Tom Jago to go 15-12 ahead.

Saltash looked like they were going to score with the last play of the half when Moriaty broke down the left wing with Cruickshanks inside him, but as he tried to off-load to his team-mate a Redruth player got a hand to the ball. Saltash thought it was a deliberate knock-on right on the try line, but the referee was not interested and blew up for half-time.

But Saltash came out for the second half a different team and straight after the interval they went back in front when Cornwall winger Morton showed his pace to score the first of his four tries.

Redruth then surprisingly brought back on their young fly-half who had suffered the head injury in the first half, although he was withdrawn again 15 minutes later. By then Saltash were 22-15 in front.

Ryan Simmons was yellow carded for Saltash, who then showed some great defence before they increased their lead while a man down with Ryan Rayner, who had moved to hooker, scoring from a well-worked short line-out move.

After that the floodgates opened. Morton got his second by beating two men before replacement Axel Hicks scored from close range.

Morton then bagged his hat-trick before lock Devon Bennett-Murray crossed to make it 44-15.

Redruth, who were now under real pressure finally picked up a yellow card in the final 10 minutes and Morton and fly-half Lewis Stuart finished off the scoring for an eye-catching win.

Saltash now face title rivals Veor and St Ives in consecutive weeks. They were both handed walkovers on Saturday.

Liskeard-Looe had to make do with just a bonus point from their trip to Bodmin where they lost 10-5.

COUNTIES TWO DEVON

TAVISTOCK’S unbeaten start to the season came to an end of Saturday as they lost 22-12 at Withycombe.

Leaders Tavistock had not even dropped a point before Saturday, but for the second year running they came unstuck at Raleigh Park.

The match was level at 7-7 at the break, with George Hillson scoring a try and a conversion for Tavistock and Withycombe getting a penalty try in the opening 40 minutes.

After the interval, Chris Gibbons and Max Cooke put Withycombe 22-7 ahead before Jake Le Gassick scored a late try for Tavistock, who had been forced to make wholesale changes to their team that beat Devonport Services 51-5 the previous week.

“Pre-match I told the lads what it was going to be like, but we just didn’t react to it,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy. “They (Withycombe) did what I said they were going to do around the breakdown area and we were probably our own worst enemy at times.

“Our set-piece was creaking a bit and we just did not get into our stride. I suppose the last 10 minutes we started to get a bit more into it, but at that point we had pretty much lost the game.

“There were unforced errors and sometimes our decision making let us down, but maybe that was down to Withycombe putting the pressure on us. Yet you have to be able to make decisions under pressure.”

Caddy, who said that he didn’t think the world was going to end just because they had lost one game, added: “We have not picked the same team two weeks on the trot yet. There were a load of lads unavailable this week. Would they have made a difference? I don’t know. Maybe some of the issues we had around the line-out might have been a bit better, but you can only pick what you have got.

“And, fair play to Withycombe, they just sort of out-fought us in the game.”

He added: “We were poor there last year and you could argue we were poor again there this year, but Withycombe out-played us at times.

“I said to the lads, we’ll see how you react now.”

Tavistock stay top of the table, five points clear of Honiton who have moved up to second.

Devonport Services II did Tavistock a favour by beating Torquay Athletic, who were second, 17-11 at the Rectory on Saturday.

Services II had a strong team out and led 12-6 at the break. They had Joe Vatcher and Matt Richards scoring tries and Richards kicking the rest of the points.  Lewis Crocker kicked two penalties for Torquay in the first half before Callum Crocker scored a try second half.

Ivybridge II were also winners on Saturday in Counties Two Devon. They beat Brixham II 38-12 at Cross-in-Hand. Owen Garner scored a hat-trick of tries for the Vandals, with George Montgomery, John Ready and Matt Gilbury also crossing the whitewash. Hayden Coles kicked the rest of their points.

COUNTIES THREE DEVON AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

PLYMOUTH Argaum and Old Techs both dug deep away from home to keep their winning runs going in Counties Three Devon West.

Argaum picked up a bonus-point 20-5 away win at Dartmouth, while Techs battled hard to claim a 22-21 victory at Paignton II.

Just five points separate the top five teams now in Devon West. Techs stay third but Topsham II are the new leaders, with Newton Abbot II, who have played a game more, in second and Tamar Saracens, who were leading, are now fourth, with Argaum fifth.

Techs, who have won five games in a row, could have gone top but they missed out on a bonus point at Paignton II.

“It was a hard game,” said chairman David Evans. ”They are not a bad side and they kept going right to the end, but our defence was good.

“It is tough going away to a side whose first team is a lot higher up, but we managed to scrape the win. That is five on the trot now but we have Topsham next week, which is a massive game. That will show us where we are.”

Techs had been 17-11 up at half-time at Paignton II after coming back from 8-0 down. Will Booth scored their first try, which was converted by Tom Ryan, before lock James Douglas made it five tries in five games with another touch-down, which Ryan converted.

Ryan also added a first half penalty before Ben Hockey put Techs 22-11 up after the interval. Paignton came back with a try and a penalty but the visitors hung on.

Techs have boosted their squad with the signings of former Services back Eddie McGinley and ex-Tamar Saracens player Dave Chorley, although they did not play at the weekend.

Argaum head coach Dean Avery felt his side’s 20-5 victory at Dartmouth showed the strength they now have in their squad as they were missing a host of players.

“We had nine players missing from our squad that played last week against Teignmouth,” said Avery. “We have had covid go through the squad, but it just goes to show what depth we have got as we still had a travelling reserve.”

Tries by Dan Bolt, Adam Griffiths, Ceirion Humphries and Darren Ewers secured them the full five points.

“Dartmouth played really well,” said Avery. “They had a lot of players back and their team looked really good. They caused us a lot of problems up front.

“They had 20 players and they said they had their squad back. I think people are going to go up there and lose this season.

“We had the ball pretty much all day, but we did miss a bit of go-forward with so many player out.

“But it was very positive in the fact that we re-set at half-time when it was only 5-0. We had the wind behind us and we had a discussion and we started playing our patterns and going through our phases and looked after the ball.

Argaum already missing the likes of Dan Smith, Dan James, Jack Morris, Billy Stockwell, Tom Worboys and Reece Gocher, also lost Chris Perkins in the opening five minutes with a hamstring injury at Dartmouth.

“For me it is just fantastic that we can go on the road and come away with five points,” said Avery. “I think last season they would have struggled to put a team out so with many injuries and unavailabilities.”

In the same division, struggling Plymstock Albion Oaks II lost 63-0 at home to Topsham II.

OPMs were another team hit by unavailabilities at the weekend but they still had enough to beat Sidmouth II 18-12 away thanks to a last-gasp converted try to stay at the top of Counties Three Devon East.

OPMs were forced to make 10 changes from their team that had beaten Torrington 48-0 the previous Saturday.

Fred Smale, Pete Regan and Lewis Harmer were among those missing. Head coach Andy Williams was even named among the replacements but he was not needed.

Teenager fly-half Matt Smale, who was OPMs’ man of the match, got his side off the mark with a penalty in the opening minute.

But Sidmouth hit back with a converted try by Neil Barratt. However, a try by winger Adam Jarrod gave OPMs a 8-7 half-time lead.

Smale increased that advantage with a penalty after the interval, but Sidmouth came back again with a try by lock James Allen.

But just when it was looking like a first defeat might be on the cards, youngster Smale scored a try, which he also converted to see the win for OPMs.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plymouth Fijians enjoyed a successful return to action as they beat an under-strength Tavistock II side 68-34 at Sandy Park.

Both sides were struggling for numbers but were just happy to play a match, although the extra space suited the Fijians, who led 34-19 at the break

Lemeki scored five tries for the visitors, with Ben Turua and Queresa both bagging two and Bill Viliae, Jone Keni and Steve Chapman also crossing.

“It was great fun,” said the Fijians co-chairman Mike Freeman. “Both sides were a bit short, but Tavistock were brilliant both during the game and after. That’s what community rugby is all about.

“Hopefully, this will kick-start the season for the Fijians.”

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