DEVONPORT Services suffered their biggest defeat in more than four years on Saturday as they went down 52-13 away at Devon rivals Brixham.
The loss at Astley Park has seen Services drop down to fourth in the Regional One South West table with Brixham leap-frogging over them into third.
The Fisherman had been fired up for the match after losing 37-18 to Services at the Rectory in September.
Services will have been disappointed to have conceded seven tries as since coming into the league their defence has been strong.
The last time they conceded more than 50 points was when they were crushed 66-15 by Launceston at Polson Bridge on November 17, 2018.
Devonport will be hoping it was just a one off and that they can bounce back in the new year, but it was disappointing way for them to end what has been such a highly-successful year for the club.
“It wasn’t our best of days,” admitted player-coach Richard West. “We were not very good in defence, but Brixham played well. They were definitely up for it.
“We were okay in attack in parts, but overall we just weren’t good enough on the day.”
He added: “I think at half-time the game could have gone either way, but they just came out in the second half and just blew us away really.
“But we have to remember where we have come from. Some of our lads a couple of years ago would never have thought they would be playing Brixham in a league game. And for them (Brixham) to be so up for a game against us is a credit to just how far we have come.
“There are loads of good teams in this league and anyone can beat anyone on their day. We put them (Brixham) away when we played them at home and they have just done the same to us at their place.”
Services now have to stew on the loss until January 7 when they host old rivals Okehampton at the Rectory.
“It is a bit annoying that we can’t go again next week and try and make it right,” said West. “But at the same time we have a nice break now and it’s a good opportunity to evaluate where we are and look at what we have done well and what we need to improve on moving forward.
“We have come into the league and been playing really well and so it has almost been quite hard to analysis what we need to do to move forward.
“We will be trying our hardest not to let this happen again.”
Centre Shaun Crawford and prop Rikki Bentham scored good tries for Services in the first half on Saturday, while full-back Kieran Down kicked a penalty.
Ivybridge’s game away at Lydney was postponed due to a frozen pitch.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks suffered last-gasp heartache as they were beaten 20-18 by Cornish side Penryn at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
Oaks thought they had won the match when player-coach Lewis Paterson scored his second try of the contest four minutes into injury-time to put his side 18-15 ahead.
But the match official decided there was still time to play and following the restart Oaks were penalised 25 metres out from their own line.
Initially, the referee played advantage and when Penryn lost the ball he blew up for full-time before remembering that the visitors still had the penalty and restarting the game to allow them to take it.
The Cornish club could have gone for the posts to try and secure a draw, but they made two brave decisions that paid off. First, they opted for the corner before then taking a risky short, low line-out which caught Oaks out and allowed prop Ryan Burley to dive over for a match-winning try.
Oaks, who had claimed victories in their previous two games, could not hide their frustration afterwards after losing a match they felt they should have won.
“It was really disappointing,” said team manager Mark Lenthall. “We played the better rugby, but we just got on the wrong side of the referee in the second half and gave too many penalties away.
“The ref actually blew for the final whistle when we were 18-15 up but he forgot he had awarded a penalty to them. He gave them the penalty and they kicked for the corner and scored a try right at the death.”
Lenthall felt there were a number of little things that just went against them in the second half.
“Our scrum-half got through and was going to score under the posts but someone shouted there was a head injury 20 yards away and the referee stopped the play,” he said.
“Probably our discipline did let us down in the second half, but it was certainly a game we should have won. We were the better team and played the better rugby, even though our line-out struggled.
“We scored a couple of lovely tries, whereas they didn’t really have any expansion on their game, so it was disappointing we lost. I think we deserved to win it.
“We also missed four kicks at goal – two penalties and two conversions – so it really was a game we lost really.”
He added: “We have lost games this year that we deserved to lose as we weren’t the better side, but this time we were the better side, we played more rugby and showed more intent, however, probably just a bit naivity at the end cost us.”
Oaks dropped down to eighth in the table, behind Penryn, who leap-frogged them, and they have now played more games than all the teams around them.
But Lenthall says after two wins and a losing bonus point in their last three games, there is plenty of positivity around Horsham Fields going into 2023.
“We are in a lot better place this last three or four weeks than we were a couple of months ago,” he said. “The feeling is better and we are getting better availability. We had two sides out again so we are moving in the right direction.
“We are scoring tries and we were missing a few again this weekend so when we get everyone available I think we can be a challenge for anyone.”
Oaks, playing uphill first half, made a cracking start on Saturday and went 10-0 up after just 16 minutes.
Paterson opened the scoring with a try on the left before the impressive Corey Jamieson bagged a great length-of-the-field team counterattack effort, which he had started initially on his own line after Penryn had lost the ball attacking.
Oaks could not convert either effort and missed a penalty on 24 minutes.
Eight minutes before half-time, Penryn pulled a try back with a unconvered touch-down in the left corner.
Lewis Paterson then hit the post with a penalty attempt before he kicked one in first-half injury-time to give his side a 13-5 half-time lead.
But Penryn, who had felt frustrated with some of the decisions that went against them in the first half, came out fired up for the second half. They were held up over the line in the opening three minutes before they wasted another great chance with a knock-on.
Their pressure resulted in Oaks picking up a yellow card after two high tackles in the space of a couple of minutes and Penryn full-back Robert Banks kicked the resultant penalty.
The visitors kept up the pressure and on 64 minutes they went in front for the first time when winger James Salisbury went over in the right corner and Banks brilliantly converted.
That seemed to wake Oaks up. They were then held up over the line a couple of times and had a number of penalties from strong scrums. But just when it looked like Penryn might hold them out, Oaks’ intense pressure told when Paterson went over on the right for an uncoverted try.
It was almost dark then, but the referee still played on and there was still time for one more twist with Burley’s late try from the clever line-out.
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
DEVONPORT Services II boosted their hopes of staying in Counties Two Devon with a 34-25 home victory over South Molton.
The bonus-point win has moved Servics above South Molton and into eighth spot.
Devonport’s second team were boosted by having Rhys Williams and Callum Cload come into their backs while fowards Sam Winfield and Cian Goldsmith, who had been in the first team squad the previous week, also started.
South Molton’s Ben Gatehouse had given his side the lead with an early penalty but Services hit back with a try by Josh Hemings, which Tom West converted.
The visitors responded with tries by Luke Sanders and Will Blowers to go 15-7 but Devonport took a 17-15 half-time lead after Cieran Poat touched down and then West kicked a penalty.
After the interval, Rhys Williams crossed for an early try that West converted before Hemings added a second converted try to make it 31-15.
South Molton hit back again with tries from the experienced Gatehouse and Reece Eury to make it a one score game. However, a West penalty settled any nerves for Services, who handed Devon U18 player George Pooley his first taste of senior rugby.
There was a thriller of a game at Cross-in-Hand were Ivybridge II edged out Honiton 40-36 in an end-to-end affair.
Honiton’s defeat means they have dropped down to fourth in the table, while Ivybridge II are not just three points behind them in fifth.
Leaders Tavistock were without a match after their fixture away at Exmouth II was postponed due to a frozen pitch.
Second-placed Torquay Athletic took advantage of Tavistock’s last of a game to close the gap on them to eight points.
Only one game survived in Counties Three Devon West, where Plymstock Albion Oaks II were beaten 26-8 by a rejuventated Dartmouth side, who have won their last five games after failing to win any of their opening eight fixtures.
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