THE reaction of the Ivybridge players as the referee blew the final whistle at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday said it all.
The players were absolutely gutted to narrowly lose 25-24 to Devon rivals Brixham as they felt they had done enough to win.
But for the third home game running they lost to a top three side by just a single score, having gone down 30-29 to Chew Valley and 29-26 to Camborne.
Ivybridge did out-score Brixham four tries to three and they should have scored another right at the death when they had a two-man overlap on the right but the ball did not go to hand. They also missed 14 points from the kicking tee, including two late kicks that could have won the match, although Brixham did also miss 11 points with the boot during the game.
The Bridgers did get another penalty with the last play, but opted not to go for the posts and went for the corner – only to lose the line-out.
“Full credit to Brixham – they took their chances very well,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony afterwards.
“We thought we were in the game and had probably done enough to clinch it, but the scoreline does not say so.
“That’s probably happened a few too many times now and we need to get together and make sure we are on the right side of the scoreline.
“But, ultimately, it has been against the top three sides and there’s only been a point or so in those games.”
He added: “The guys are absolutely gutted. It was a big occasion and I think probably the rugby, certainly for the neutral, lived up to that. That’s a positive, but we want to win games.
“Performance-wise it was all good and we stuck at the game-plan, but sometimes these things just don’t go your way.
“We will have to pick ourselves up and do all we can to make sure we are prepared as we can be for next weekend.”
Brixham’s match-winning try was controversial as most people in the ground – and most of the players – thought the visitors had knocked on and so were surprised when the referee did not stop play and Brixham scrum-half Jamie Hext ran in from long range.
“We have to go with what the referee says,” said Tripcony. “If he says it’s a knock-on or not a knock-on we have to go with him, it his decision.”
But Ivybridge still looked like they were going to snatch it at the end.
“We were confident, but the ball just did not stick for us,” said Tripcony. “Maybe there’s a few things we could have done slightly differently, but the guys have done brilliant and we have to back every decision they make.”
Ivybridge did get a dream start on Saturday, with winger Charlie Teague scoring within a minute after the hosts got a penalty from kick-off and went for a catch-and-drive move before going back down the blindside.
Brixham, having not played since before Christmas, were slow starting but they cut the gap on 11 minutes with a penalty by former Ivybridge fly-half Mitch Pinkus.
He then scored a try three minutes later, which he also converted, to put his side 10-5 ahead.
Matt Grieveson then missed a penalty for Ivybridge, but the hosts did score from the resultant drop-out with former Saltash centre Kristian Davis cutting right through the middle and going over under the posts for a converted try to put his side 12-10 ahead.
Pinkus and Grieveson both missed penalties as Ivybridge went in at the break two points ahead.
But Pinkus did kick a three-pointer early in the second half to make it 13-12 to Brixham.
Ivybridge did struggle with their line-out but they did always look threatening in a attack and in the 52nd minute they scored their third try when Charlie Briant ran in behind the posts from the left after some intense pressure. Grieveson converted to put the home side 19-13 ahead.
Brixham’s Joel Ashworth wasted a glorious opportunity midway through the half but he did make up for that three minutes later when he did score after good work by former Plymouth Albion winger Matt Crosscombe down the left. Pinkus missed the conversion so Ivybridge were still a point ahead.
Grieveson and Pinkus both missed penalty attempts before Brixham scrum-half Hext scored a long range try out of nothing as everyone appeared to stop after the visitors looked to have knocked on near the halfway line. Pinkus crucially converted from the touchline to make it 25-19 to Brixham.
Ivybridge, though, were not done and they went straight up the other end and pressed and eventually replacement Sam Brown crossed in the left corner. He took the tough conversion and missed.
He also missed with a long-range penalty attempt two minutes later. However, there was still time for Ivybridge to snatch it. Deep in injury-time and with the referee playing advantage, they created a two-man overlap on the right but the final pass did not go to hand. They did keep the pressure on and did get a penalty on the left. It was probably an easy position to attempt a kick from than the previous effort but this time they went for the corner only to lose the line-out, which ended a thrilling game.
Fourth-placed Devonport Services ended their mini losing run with a hard-earned 24-22 home win over Weston-super-Mare at the Rectory on Saturday.
Injury-hit Services had lost their last three matches, but they survived a late scare to pick up a much-needed four points against Weston, who could have drawn the match had they kicked a conversion with the last play of the game.
“We tried everything not to get the win, but we got one,” said Devonport head coach Ben Russell.
“A win is a win – it’s what we needed.”
He added: “They had a massive pack and we had our front-row missing so we did well to play a certain game-plan that took the game away from their front-row.
“We went down initially, but then went 24-12 up and then we let them back into the game.
“At the end of the game it was 24-17 and we had the ball and the referee said it was the last play. We’ve got a scrum and got the ball but we haven’t kicked it out and they got it and scored in the corner. They had the kick from the touchline for a draw.”
He added: “We played brilliantly in the middle 40 – we played in the right areas then.
“When we got to 24-12 we were looking for the bonus point, but then we decided to make it really close again.”
Services were missing forwards Rikki Bentham, Joe Daley, Greg Thomas, Matt Gregory, James Hocking, Mike Hunt and Harrison Cooper-Meadows, so Tom Davies, better known for playing centre or wing, started at flanker, where he had played at youth level, and veteran Tony Sibley came on to the bench. Aiden Taylor was passed fit to make his first start at hooker.
Devonport took a while to settle. Weston, who arrived at the Rectory sitting third-from-bottom, took an early 5-0 lead with a try by James McKay before Services levelled with a try from Matt Richards.
But Weston hit back and went 12-5 ahead with Gary Carpenter crossing the whitewash and McKay adding the conversion.
However, a Kieran Down penalty and then a try by the same player put Services 13-12 ahead at the break.
They increased that to 24-12 after the interval, with forward Mike Rickard going over for a try and Down then kicking two penalties.
But a touch-down by prop Oliver Streeter gave Weston hope and they scored with the last play of the game through Huw Morgan to have a chance to snatch a draw, but fortunately for Services the tough kick was missed.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will be kicking themselves after letting three valuable points slip at home to Tiverton on Saturday.
Oaks, keen to pull clear of the relegation zone, had gone 29-7 up in the first half with tries from Pete Keanie, Al Thomas, Matt Jackson and Alex Chapman.
But Tiverton pulled a score back on the stroke of half-time and then turned the game around after the interval to win 34-32.
Oaks did have three late chances to win with tough penalty kicks but they couldn’t land one and had to settle for two bonus points rather than a five-point win.
The bottom half of the table is really tight with just two points separating seventh-placed Wiveliscombe from 10th-placed Kingsbridge.
Oaks have played more games than everyone else but they do have Wiveliscombe to face at home and a trip to winless bottom side Falmouth still to come.
TAVISTOCK more than proved a point on Saturday as their march towards the Counties Two Devon title continued at pace.
Tavistock ran in 12 tries to hammer second-placed Withycombe 76-10 at Sandy Park and open up a 16-point lead at the top.
Withycombe are the only team to have beaten Tavistock this season when they triumphed 22-12 at Raleigh Park at the end of October.
The Tavistock players clearly had not forgot about that loss and they came out all guns blazing on Saturday and were 43-0 up at half-time.
When asked if it was his team’s best performance of the season, head coach Joel Caddy said: “Yeah, probably. We were pretty ruthless.
“The only gripe is we let ourselves down towards the end of the game by giving away some silly penalties when, if we had just defended another couple of phases, we might have got a turnover or something. But apart from that, it was all good.”
He added: “I don’t know if it was case of having a point to prove, but we just went out and did what we can do. As I said, we were pretty ruthless.
“Everyone put in a performance. It is getting interesting now with selection as the Moorlands won 72-19 as well.”
Despite opening up a 16-point gap at the top of the table, albeit having played a game more than Torquay, who have moved back into second, Caddy is not getting carried away.
“We haven’t won it yet,” he said. “They can still catch up. We are 16 points clear, but we just want to keep winning.”
Tavistock scored seven tries in the first half on Saturday. Hooker Hammy Kerswill got them off the mark early before fit-again Martin Budden crossed. Ed Tait, Seb Cox, Jamie Legg, George Hillson and Jack Osborne also went over for touch-downs in the opening 40 minutes with Hillson adding four conversions.
Hillson got Tavistock off the mark in the second period with an early try that he converted before Andrew Schuttkacker crossed.
Tom Cooke pulled one back for Withycombe but then Cox got a second for Tavistock and Hillson then completed his hat-trick before Charlie Brown touched down to complete the home side’s scoring. Neil Williams did score a late consolation effort for Withycombe.
In the same division, Ivybridge II dropped down from fourth to fifth after a surprise 36-31 defeat at bottom side Brixham II, while injury-hit Devonport Services II went down 45-0 away at Torquay Athletic.
Saltash suffered a big blow to their title hopes in Counties Two Cornwall as they were held to a 23-23 draw against a strong Redruth II side at the Recreation Ground.
The hosts kicked a last-gasp penalty to level the match, although the referee thought Redruth II had won 26-23 – until both teams corrected him.
The frustrating draw means Saltash’s hopes of winning the title have now been taken out of their own hands. They now not only need to beat St Ives at home but also hope the Saints also drop points elsewhere.
The Ashes have slipped down to fourth in the table after the draw, but they do have two games in hand on all their rivals.
Saltash had beaten Redruth II 56-15 at Moorlands Lane in October, but they would have known there was a chance the Reds would be stronger on Saturday after their first team’s National League match away at Newport (Salop) was postponed due to a frozen pitch.
Four of the Redruth II team that started against Saltash – Lewis Thomas, Luke Barnes, Adam Hall and Shaun Buzza – had been in Redruth’s first team squad the previous week for their National League game against Hinckley. Thomas, Barnes and Hall have all featured in 11 or more of Redruth’s 15 National League squads this term, with Thomas having featured in 14 of those games.
Saltash will no doubt be hoping they field a similar team next week when they play St Ives.
Saltash, who had not played a competitive game since December 3, were slow starting in front of a big crowd at the Rec and picked up an early yellow card. And Redruth took advantage when experienced number eight Buzza crossed for a converted try.
But gradually the Ashes got into the game and Lewis Stuart kicked a penalty on 28 minutes to cut the gap.
With the Ashes gaining in confidence they took the lead with Jay Moriarty scoring down the left wing after some good handling.
But right on half-time Redruth went 10-8 ahead with a Craig Williams penalty.
Saltash defended well at the start of the second half and went back in front with a Stuart penalty.
However, Redruth, who had former Plymouth Albion and Cornish Pirates forward Rupert Cooper among their replacements, responded with two quick scores – a Williams penalty and a converted try – to go 20-11 ahead.
But the Ashes showed good character to come back and go 23-20 in front. Greg Eatwell got the comeback underway with a try and then late on Devon Bennett-Murray crossed for what looked like the winning score, which Stuart converted.
However, in a fiercely competitive and entertaining game, the referee decided there was still time to play and in the closing seconds he awarded a penalty to Redruth and Saltash were reduced to 14 players for questioning it. Williams made no mistake with the kick to earn his side a draw.
Elsewhere in Counties Two Cornwall, seventh-placed Liskeard-Looe edged out sixth-placed Bodmin 10-8 at Lux Park.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
PLYMOUTH Argaum have moved to the top of Devon West after beating in-form Dartmouth 38-12 at Bickleigh Down on Saturday.
Dartmouth had won their previous seven games and had seen off Topsham II and Old Techs in their previous two fixtures.
But Argaum, who have not lost since the second week of the season, were determined not to suffer the same fate.
They led 12-0 at half-time thanks to tries by Chris Perkins and Jack Morris and then after the interval they pulled away with two tries from Billy Stockwell and drive tries from front-rowers Darren Ewers and Tom Mann, with Jake Turfrey kicking the rest of the points.
“We played against a very good Dartmouth side,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery. “You could see why they had gone seven games unbeaten.
“It was a really tough test – they were one of the better sides we have faced.”
He added: “When we got into their 22 we looked really clinical, but sometimes we just needed to send it long and have that kick-chase.
“It was just about getting into those positions. A lot of the game we didn’t do that, but when we did it was good.
“But you can’t be too critical of the performance when you get another bonus point win and go top of the league.
“However, the biggest plus this weekend wasn’t the result, but it was about the club getting two teams out on the same day, which was one of my targets at the start of the season.”
Argaum’s second team played Tavistock II at the same venue, although they lost 72-19 to a strong Moorlanders team, which was packed with players that have featured in Counties II Devon this season, there were plenty of positives. Jamie Fellows, John Jackson, Mike Dyer and Al Jones were on the scoresheet for Argaum’s second team.
Old Techs were left without a game again on Saturday as Paignton II handed them a walkover which lifts them back up to sixth. Techs have only played one game since December 3. Tamar Saracens and OPMs were without matches.
In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria produced an impressive comeback to overcome previously unbeaten leaders Kingsbridge 21-12.
Kingsbridge initially arrived with only 12 players but wanted to play a proper game and went 12-0 up before Plym Vic did pull a try back before half-time.
The visitors did get a couple more players for the second half to go up to 14, but Plym Vic actually played better then and ended up scoring two more tries to win the game. Nathan Cousins, Joe Spencer and George Cosford scored their tries, with Jordan Blair converting them all.
“It was very much a game of two halves,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt.
“They (Kingsbridge) are rightfully top of the table and they showed that in the first half with 12 men. They were outstanding and played some superb rugby
“After a massive bollocking at half-time we started to be more cohesive and we got better as they got more tired.
“It was a good victory, well earned, but we did do it the hard way.”
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