DEVONPORT Services have a great chance of securing a top-four finish in their first season in Regional One South West after beating neighbours Ivybridge 41-29 in front of a bumper crowd at the Rectory on Saturday.
The win has moved Services six points clear of fifth-placed Ivybridge with two games of the season to go.
Their derby victory in wet conditions on Saturday came down to a stunning first half performance where they scored four unanswered tries to lead 26-0.
They were totally dominant in the opening 40 minutes, with Ivybridge giving away far too many penalties to get any foothold on the game.
But that changed in the second half and the hundreds of rugby fans packed into the Rectory were treated to an action-packed final 40 minutes where Ivybridge threatened a memorable comeback only for Services to keep responding every time they got to within two scores.
The second half was non-stop with seven tries, a disallowed try, three yellow cards, a couple of penalty attempts and a couple of great try-saving tackles.
“If you look at all Ivybridge’s games you’ll see they don’t give up and keep going until the end,” said Services head coach Ben Russell.
“We probably played the most perfect 40 minutes we have done all season in the first half – even better than Weston away.
“And we talked about playing in the right areas and playing the same game-plan second half, but we went away a bit from it and when we did go away from it, they came back – and kept on coming.
“It was a lot harder work than it should have been, but fair play to Ivybridge for keeping coming.
“But also fair play to our boys for fighting until the 80th minute and getting the last points on the board.
“I am very pleased. The boys – one to 18 – fronted up and didn’t stop going.
“That was a proper derby and I think as a spectacle it was quite a fantastic game to watch.
“We are in the driving seat now to finish fourth, but we still have to come up with some big performances in the last couple of games.”
Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony said afterwards: “You can’t win a game of rugby giving that many penalties away. But hats off to Services – they worked hard for those penalties. They came with a game-plan and stuck to it. It was really intense for the first 25 minutes.
“It was 26-0 at half-time – and I think that was probably the penalty count as well – and that’s tough. Half-time could not come soon enough for us so that we could re-group.
“We did re-group and made our defensive system really clear, our attacking strategy really clear and the boys bought into that. They showed great character and I was really proud how the guys came back into it.
“They really showed some good heart to put some pride back into the shirt.
“We were in the game with maybe 15 minutes to go, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“We got within a score-and-a-half and then our discipline just let us down again.
“We are going to really have to go back and look at ourselves in the mirror and sort that out.
“Services capitalised on our ill-discipline extremely well. They were very clinical and hats off to them – the better team won.”
Having been frustrated to lose 18-13 away at Ivybridge in November, Services came out fired up on Saturday.
Their scrum caused the visitors a host of problems early on and Ivybridge got two warnings from the referee in the opening 15 minutes about the number of penalties they were conceding.
Services had three scrums on their line and, with the referee playing advantage, the hosts flung the ball quickly across the line where they had an overlap. However, before the ball could get to the last man, Ivybridge’s Sam Brown stuck out a hand to deflect it, which the referee deemed a deliberate knock on and awarded a penalty try and yellow carded the visiting full-back.
Ivybridge wasted a great chance at the other end from the restart by trying to off-load it 15 metres from the line before Services winger Tom Davies scored a stunning try from his own half, which Richard West converted.
The Bridgers, who struggled in the scrum, picked up another yellow card on 30 minutes, with prop Matt Finn given 10 minutes in the bin.
From that penalty, Services scored a third try. They went for the corner and from the catch-and-drive move prop Rikki Bentham touched down to make it 19-0.
And straight from the restart, Services got a fourth try when winger Luke Stannard scored a great effort down the right after good play by Richard West and Aiden Taylor in their own half. West converted from out wide to make it 26-0.
Ivybridge did get some good territory right at the end of the first half, but were penalised twice with the ball close to the line.
However, the visitors got the start to the second period they wanted when Charlie Teague scored in the left corner.
Services thought they had scored a fifth try three minutes later but it was ruled out for a foot in touch and then Stannard was forced to make a last-gasp tackle to deny Ivybridge centre Kristian Davis at the other end.
Ivybridge did eventually get a second try when Brown scored on the left after he chipped the ball over the last man and it bounced perfectly for him.
Devonport then had West yellow carded and within seconds Ivybridge got a third try when the referee deemed that Charlie Briant had got the ball over the whitewash under the posts, although most people in the ground thought he had been stopped just short. Grieveson converted that try to make it 26-17.
The momentum was with Ivybridge at that point but, crucially, Services responded instantly with full-back Matt Neyle scoring on the left after the visitors had not dealt with a kick to the corner.
Ivybridge’s Grieveson and Services’ Davies were then both shown yellow cards for a minor disagreement and straight away the visitors got a fourth try, with replacement Cameron Dale going over in the left corner, which cut the gap to nine points.
By now the game had become like a basketball match, with the teams taking it in turns to score.
It was Services go next and former Ivybridge hooker Taylor was happy to do the honours from a catch-and-drive move and Neyle brilliantly converted from out wide.
But then Ivybridge went and got a fifth from a driving maul, with flanker Sam Furse looking like he got the ball down and Brown added the conversion.
With a few minutes to go, Services got a penalty almost in front of the post and not surprisingly they decided to go for the kick to try to stop Ivybridge getting within a score. But the ball fell off the tee just as West went to strike it and, much to the visiting supporters’ delight, it did not come close to getting over the bar.
But with the last play of the game, West did kick a brilliant penalty from out on the right to end an entertaining contest.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks pulled off an eye-catching 25-18 away win at the Pirates Amateurs on Saturday to boost their hopes of staying up.
The Pirates had only been beaten once at home this season and were on a five-game winning run, whereas Oaks went into the match having only won one other match on their travels this term.
But Oaks returned from their long trip to Penzance with four valuable points which has moved them five points ahead of third-from-bottom Bude and eight ahead of second-from-bottom Paignton, although their rivals do have games in hand.
Plymstock really dug deep for the win. In the closing stages they were reduced to 13 men having picked up two yellow cards and had to defend their line for five minutes before the Pirates eventually knocked on.
“The boys played very well and we were really pleased,” said Oaks team manager Mark Lenthall.
“The Pirates are a good side, they are third in the league, but we got stuck in and scored three good tries and then held out at the end.
“We will take a lot of confidence from this.”
Oaks had lost on their last three trips to Mennaye Field and went 5-0 down early on.
But they did not let their heads drop and hit back to go 10-5 up thanks to a try by lock Alex Thomas and a conversion and penalty from Lewis Paterson.
The Pirates pulled level before full-back Alex Chapman scored Oaks’ second try after half-time to put them 17-10 ahead.
The hosts responded again and went 18-17 in front with a try and penalty, but the Oaks scored a great team try from their own half, which winger Matt Jackson finished off, to put them 25-18 ahead.
The Pirates then lay siege to Oaks’ line, but the visitors somehow held them out, even when they were reduced to 13.
Plymstock know they need to win their final two games to be certain, but they will be confident as they Wiveliscombe at home and bottom side Falmouth away.
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
TAVISTOCK are just one win away now from securing the Counties Two Devon title after they beat Exeter Saracens 48-29 away on Saturday and second-placed Torquay Athletic lost 27-5 at Barnstaple II.
It means Tavistock could clinch the league crown when they play Honiton at Sandy Park on March 4, which is their only remaining home league game.
But Tavistock did make hard work of seeing off a spirited Exeter Saracens side, who were leading until 10 minutes into the second half.
“The first half we were poor,” admitted Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“They did put us under a lot of pressure, but we compounded that by making mistakes.
“But we had a half-time chat and we turned it around second half.
“I said to the lads at half-time that they did not look like they wanted to win it and we were better second half. We sorted out a few things like around the breakdown and in our attack. We were too flat in the first half but in the second half we started lining up a bit deeper and we were able to get on the outside and put some phases together.
“But I don’t think the scoreline reflects how good Saracens were.”
Tavistock did go 7-0 up at Exhibition Way on Saturday with an early try from Martin Budden, which George Hillson converted.
But then Exeter got on top and they scored two converted tries to go 14-7 ahead before Jamie Legg pulled one back for Tavistock near the end of the half.
Exeter increased their lead to 19-12 after the interval but then Tavistock took over with tries by Charlie Charlton, Hillson (2), Jake Le Gassick and Andrew Schuttkacker.
Sarries did get a late try to at least secure a bonus point for their efforts.
Ivybridge II and Devonport Services II will have to replay their league game after their match on Friday evening at Cross-in-Hand was abandoned on 55 minutes due to an injury to home forward Alex Garner.
Services were 8-3 ahead at the time and were attacking Ivybridge’s line when a five-metre scrum went down and Garner suffered a nasty knee injury.
Luke Martell had given Ivybridge the lead with a penalty on 13 minutes but straight away Services responded with a try from hooker Sam Bennett from a catch-and-drive move after Ivybridge.
In front of a big crowd, Martell missed a penalty before Kieran Down kicked one for Services, who were totally dominating the scrums.
Ivybridge thought they had scored early in the second period, but it was ruled out and Services then thought they should have had a penalty try when they pushed the hosts off a scrum on their own line and looked certain to score had they not been stopped illegally. However, the referee decided to only give them a penalty and they went for another five-metre scrum, which was when the injury happened.
COUNTIES TWO CORNWALL
SALTASH took their frustrations of last week’s draw with leaders St Ives out on poor Bodmin, who they beat 83-0 away.
Saturday’s match was yet another that highlighted the problems with level eight rugby in Cornwall.
In their 19 games so far this season, Saltash have been handed four walkovers and scored more than 50 points in 10 of the 15 matches they have actually played. They have actually run in 70 or more points in five of those games.
They could yet end the season with only one defeat to their name and still miss out on promotion.
Leaders St Ives did slip up on Saturday and lost 34-30 at Veor, but the Hakes only need three points from their last two games to be certain of the title.
The Ashes took just three minutes to open the scoring on Saturday with Sam Snell going over for their first.
Lewis Wells then marked his 250th appearance for the club with a try, which Lewis Stuart converted.
Further tries by Jay Moriaty and Will Morton made it 24-0 after just 20 minutes.
Phil Eatwell then ran virtually the length of the field, avoiding several tackles, to score a memorable try, before Wells got another and then Morton scored two quick touch-downs to make it 52-0 at half-time.
The Ashes made changes at the break and took their foot of the gas a bit in the second period. It took them 20 minutes of the second half to get their next try, which came courtesy of Moriaty down the left wing.
Ryan Rayner, making his comeback from breaking his leg against St Ives earlier in the season, then scored before Billy Dover and Moriaty added further touch-downs for the visitors.
Meanwhile, Liskeard-Looe have moved up to sixth after their beat Hayle 31-0 away.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON EAST
OPMs took a massive step towards claiming the Devon East title on Saturday by beating promotion-rivals Crediton II 15-7 at King George V Playing Fields.
The Old Boys now know if they can win their two remaining matches against Cullompton II at home and Exeter Athletic away they will secure the league crown.
They might not even need two wins, if Crediton II slip up in any of their remaining three games.
OPMs are now eight points clear at the top, although Crediton II do have a game in hand.
Head coach Andy Williams admitted he was ‘very happy’ after Saturday, not only with the vital win but with the way his team performed.
“It was the best we have played all year,” said Williams. “A lot of things came together. We deserved to win.
“We started well and were really keen. We spoke during the week in training about really starting well as in the Tiverton game that we lost a few weeks ago we were really slow starting.
“We have spent an awful lot of time trying to get continuity between our backs and forwards and we did that this weekend.
“We were stronger up front – we held our scrums, we won our line-outs and stole a lot of their ball, but they kept running at us and trying to get a losing bonus point.”
He added: “We had been building for this for a while. Possibly we took our eye off the boil with Tiverton, but we have also been really unlucky with having a lot of games cancelled. We play and then we don’t play. We would have rather have played all of our games and put performances together and build that team continuity.”
OPMs had an early try disallowed but scored two in the final 15 minutes of the first half to take a 12-0 lead. Centre Pete Regan got their first before Matt Smale crossed for one, which he also converted.
After the interval, Smale kicked a penalty to increase his side’s lead to 15-0 but Crediton hit back with a converted try by Josh Goldman. However, OPMs were in no mood to allow them to score any more points.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON WEST
PLYMOUTH Argaum have edged even closer to the Devon West title after they stunned second-placed Topsham II 41-14 away from home on Saturday.
Argaum are now eight points clear at the top with just three games to play.
“We were a bit apprehensive going into the game because we had a lot of injuries this week,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery.
“But the boys were absolutely outstanding, as they have been all season.
“We starved them of possession. We kicked the ball and put them in their 22, forced them into errors and we got a very good result.
“We are carrying a lot of injuries, but it just shows the depth we have in the squad.”
He added: “Topsham were the biggest side we have played this season and we played on a small second team pitch, which probably suited them, but our guys tackled low and came away with five points again.”
Reece Gocher, Tom Worboys, Tom Mann, Alex Percival and Aaron Anderson-Smith were among those missing for Argaum.
The first half was quite tight, with Argaum leading 19-7, but the the visitors totally pulled away after the interval.
Backs Jack Morris and Chris Perkins both scored two tries, while Owen Gocher, Billy Stockwell, Tom Shepherd and JJ vom Hagen also got on the scoresheet.
Tamar Saracens are back up to second after they crushed Plymstock Albion Oaks II 75-3 at Horsham Fields.
Jason Stead enjoyed a day to remember by scoring five tries for Sarries, who did cross the whitewash 13 times.
Dan Best got them underway and then the floodgates opened.
Tom Hincklin, Lewis Swatton, Stead (2), Chad Smith and Ryan Currie added further tries before the break, although only two of those were converted, as they led 39-0.
After the interval, Stead added three more, while Ryan Deacon scored a great long-range effort and Frazer Tatchell and Jordan Maddocks also got over the whitewash.
“It was a good result,” said director of rugby Pete Lethbridge. “The boys played well and played with a smile on their faces.
“Oaks did put up a bit of a fight, but we were dominant in all areas.”
Meanwhile, there was more disappointment for Old Techs who narrowly lost 14-12 at home to Salcombe.
Billy Evans and James Douglas scored their tries, with Evans kicking one conversion.
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