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RUGBY REPORTS: OPMs and Argaum claim titles, while Services secure top four finish

DEVONPORT Services guaranteed themselves fourth place in their first season in Regional One South West with a hard-earned 24-17 win over Lydney in wet conditions at the Rectory.

Services, who were without a host of key players, did have to survive a couple of nervous minutes at the end as Lydney pushed for an equaliser, but they were able to hang on for their 13th win of the season.

“I’m really happy as we won our last game of the year at home and we will finish fourth, which is what we wanted,” said Services head coach Ben Russell.

“But we have to back it up next year now.”

Russell is hoping his team can become a bit more ruthless in attack next season and pick up more bonus points.

“I said to the boys afterwards that’s probably the seventh or eighth time this season where we have scored three tries and not got the fourth, so that’s something we have to get better at,” he said.

“We managed the game at times very well, but then let them back into it.

“They had their 13-man maul at the end but we survived that to win the game.

“You could not fault the desire, the heart and commitment – I thought it was outstanding. Everyone was getting off the line and everyone was making their tackles, it was just in attack where we were just choosing the wrong decisions a bit, but it was good.

“We now move on to the Devon Cup and see how that goes.”

Services were without a host of players including Matt Gregory, Richard West, Mike Rickard, Joe Daley, Matt Neyle, Rhys Williams, Oli Mulberry and Jonah Moore.

They handed debuts to George Pooley and Billy Orchard in the backs. Pooley marked the occasion with a try, while Orchard came inches away from scoring.

“The youngsters did well,” said Russell. “I thought they were cracking and didn’t look out of place. It looked like they had played at this level for years.

“They deserved their chances and got it because people were injured. And have they stepped up and said that they want that shirt? Yes, they have.”

Pooley took just 12 minutes to score on his first team debut when he burst down the right wing after getting the ball from Kieran Down and speeding away from Lydney’s players to dot down near the posts. Down easily added the conversion.

But Lydney pulled level just four minutes later when winger Michael Cross scored on the right after the visitors attacked well from a scrum on the left. Brad Barnes added the conversion.

Services went 14-7 ahead when prop Greg Thomas burst off a good maul to score a try on the right, which Down again converted.

Lydney, who were really competitive at the breakdown, did cut the gap to 14-10 just before half-time with a Barnes penalty.

And the visitors went in front after the break when hooker Rob White got the ball down from a catch-and-drive move. Barnes, who had hit the post with a penalty just six minutes earlier, did add the tricky conversion to put his team 17-14 ahead.

But their lead only last three minutes as Down, who had a good game at fly-half, kicked a penalty at the other end to level the scores.

Down then surprisingly missed a penalty but Services kept the pressure on and Orchard made a great break down the right. He looked like he was going to score in the corner but was just stopped short. However, scrum-half Dylan Daley was there quickly to pick the ball up and go over in the corner. Down also added the tough conversion.

In injury-time Lydney got one last chance when they got a penalty. They went for the corner but Services defended brilliantly to keep them out and hang on to their win and fourth place.

Ivybridge will definitely finish in the top six, despite suffering a narrow 25-18 defeat at Devon rivals Exmouth on Saturday.

They are currently fifth but sixth-place Exmouth could overtake them next weekend if they beat Okehampton.

Fifth would be Ivybridge’s highest ever finish, while sixth would equal their best.

“Finishing with a loss is tough, but, having said that, there were a lot of positives,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.

“There was a bit of frustration there with the result, but the effort was there.

“We had quite a few changes, which made for some good opportunities for some younger guys and they came through very well.

“We put a lot of heart into the game. Our defensive effort for long periods of the game was strong – fair play to Exmouth they kept the ball very well which meant we had to defend for long periods of a time and for 20 minutes we had to defend with 14 on the field, which always takes it out of you.

“But we would have like a bit more attacking ball.”

He added: “We had a target (for the league) that we might just miss now, which is frustrating, but it has been a long season, although just like that it’s over. It has ended really early, but the guys have had non-stop games week-in, week-out and that’s tough on the body. Getting through the season is an achievement in itself.”

Ivybridge, missing the likes of James McFarlane, Ben Collins, Tom Scoles and Kristian Davis, had gone 19-6 down in the opening 33 minutes, with Matt Grieveson kicking their only points in that time.

However, just before the break, front-rower Owen Garner, one of the players to come into the team, got a try for Ivybridge to cut the gap to 19-11 the break.

After the interval, Garner bagged another try, which Grieveson converted, to make it a one point game. But Exmouth sealed the win with two penalty kicks.


PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks ended their season with four straight wins by overcoming bottom side Falmouth 19-14 away on Saturday.

Having looked in real relegation trouble at the end of January after five consecutive losses, including a 74-14 defeat at Topsham and handing Cullompton a walkover, Oaks really turned it around in the final few weeks of the campaign to secure another season at level seven.

They will finish in ninth spot – fourth-from-bottom – after their strong end to the season.

But after a tough year for both their firsts and seconds at new levels they have decided not to take part in the forthcoming Devon cup competitions, where their firsts would have been up against Cullompton, Tospham and Bideford and their seconds against Sidmouth II and Cullompton II.

“We’ve had a good end to the season – we have won our last four games – and we just looked at it and just decided to come out of the cups rather than travelling here, there and everywhere and maybe getting a walloping if we can’t get a full strength side out,” said team manager Mark Lenthall.

“We have just knocked it on the head for the boys. We just want to enjoy what we have done and try and build for next year.”

Lenthall admitted Oaks’ win at already-relegated Falmouth was hardly spectacular.

“It was probably the dullest game of rugby I have witnessed in years, but we got through it okay,” he said.

“It was nearly two hours long. The ref just kept adding time on and it was just scrum after scrum. It wasn’t a great spectacle of rugby on a wet day and boggy pitch.

“They (Falmouth) targeted the game – they had some players back and really went at it, which is what we expected.

“But they didn’t really threaten. They scored a pick-and-go just after half-time and one right on the final whistle.

“We were comfortable and the scoreline probably flattered them a really.

“But it was just a disappointing game really. We have been playing some really good rugby recently, but we just didn’t get going.”

Oaks scored three tries at the Recreation Ground with Lewis Paterson bagging two and Corey Jamieson crossing for their other.


GEORGE HILLSON took his try tally for the season to 41 as he bagged another four in Tavistock’s 50-12 win at North Tawton on Saturday.

Tavistock had already wrapped up the Counties Two Devon title last weekend, but they showed their strength in depth by fielding a much-changed side at Taw Meadow but still comfortably winning.

It was their first victory at North Tawton in years, having lost on their last four trips across Dartmoor.

Unfortunately for North Tawton, Saturday’s defeat means they will be relegated as they have finished second-from-bottom.

The first half was quite tight, with Tavistock only 17-12 ahead at the break, but the champions pulled away in the second period.

“In the first half they (North Tawton) really made us work hard for it,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.

“Second half they maybe ran out of a puff but we also sorted a few things out, like tidying up the breakdown where we had been a bit lazy.

“In the second half we kept them scoreless and we scored five tries.

“All up it was a good afternoon, considering we had an awful lot of changes.

“It was quite a decent game.”

In miserable conditions, Tavistock went 7-0 behind early on but they hit back with tries by Liam Watts, Ed Tait and scrum-half Hillson.

But North Tawton did close the gap to five points just before the break.

However, in the second half it was one-way traffic with Hillson bagging another three tries, to go with one from Jack Lewis and one from Jack Easton.

A young and makeshift Devonport Services II side were beaten 48-10 away at Exeter Saracens on Saturday in the same division. Ceiran Poat scored both Services’ tries. The game did see Mark Friend make his long-awaited return from injury.

An under-strength Ivybridge II side, meanwhile, were beaten 41-22 at home by Exmouth II. Ben Hooper scored two tries for Ivybridge, who also had Oli Baughan and Jack Mitchell touching down and Jake Neville kicking a conversion.


COUNTIES Two Cornwall runners-up Saltash ended their season with yet another big win.

They triumphed 76-7 away at Camborne School of Mines to bring an end a frustrating league campaign where they have struggled for competitive matches and home fixtures and had to do a lot of travelling.

Even though they were only beaten once all year and finished with nearly 100 league points they face missing out on promotion, unless the RFU reorganise the leagues again or an extra place becomes available in Western West.

Saturday was the sixth time this season they had run in more than 70 points. That figure might have been even more had they not also been handed five walkovers by teams below them.

There have only actually been six games all season where Saltash have not scored 50 points or more.

Saturday’s match in wet and slippery conditions was certainly one-sided but Saltash felt they should have scored even more points in what they described as a ‘messy’ victory.

Will Morton helped himself to three tries inside just 12 minutes, all converted by Lewis Stuart to give the visitors a 21-0 lead.

Following a good push by the Ashes pack, number eight Ryan Rayner touched down two minutes later for their fourth of the afternoon.

Camborne SoM hit back for a period without getting any points before Jay Moriarty bagged Saltash’s fifth in the 26th minute.

Fellow back Danny Snook then went over after a kick ahead and not long later he added another, both of which were converted by Stuart, to give the Ashes a 45-0 half-time lead.

The second period was only one minute old when Snook completed his hat-trick.

There was then a brief fight back by the host, but Rayner crossed for another try after 56 minutes, which was converted by Ryan Cruickshanks.

The plucky home team intercepted a loose Ashes pass and got a deserved consolation converted try to make it 57-7.

But Saltash were not done. Stuart put the visitors further ahead with two quick tries – one he converted.

Sam Snell then grabbed Saltash’s final try four minutes from time, which Stuart converted with a drop-kick.


OPMs claimed their first league title for 15 years as they wrapped up Counties Three Devon East with a 29-0 away win at Exeter Athletic.

The Old Boys made the trip to Oil Mill Lane knowing they had to win or draw to finish above Crediton II and lift the title.

And, after a bit of a nervy start, they did what they had to do to secure promotion back to level eight for the first time in eight years.

“The boys are very happy,” said OPMs head coach Andy Williams afterwards.

“They (Exeter Athletic) were no mugs. It was 29-0 but we had to work bloody hard for that 29-0. They kept coming back at us. Fair play to them and I wish them all the best.

“It was a hard, physical game. We were up against it a bit for the first five or 10 minutes – I think there were a bit of nerves as there was a lot to play for.”

He added: “It’s been a tough year, but a good learning year.

“For us it is more about changing the mind-set of the team. The boys spoke after the game and said that there were about three games this year that last year we would have lost.

“It is just been about working with them. We are already talking about what we have to do for next year.

“But we have achieved what we wanted to achieve this year.

“We will put as strong a team out as we can for the rest of the year (in the cup), but we have done what we wanted to achieve so it is all about building now.”

Williams added: “I think Matt Glastonbury said he has been at the club 23 years and has been involved in only three promotions and maybe only one as champions.

“Billy (Garratt) our captain has been at the club eight or nine years but has never been promoted so it is a really big deal for the club and I couldn’t be happier.

“We took a bus up with supporters on as well on Saturday and it’s not often we go away and have more supporters than the home side so that was nice.”

OPMs’ last title success came in the 2007-08 season when they won the Devon One title.

On Saturday, Matt Smale gave them an early lead with a penalty, but they then had to wait until the 19th minute for a try, which came from captain Garratt.

Fly-half Smale then kicked another penalty just before half-time to give them a 11-0 lead at the break.

He kicked two more penalties in the second half to go with tries by number eight Pete Marr and one from replacement Ben Neville.


PLYMOUTH Argaum edged out Tamar Saracens for the Devon West title with a bonus-point 26-7 victory in tough conditions at Salcombe on Saturday.

Sarries had put the pressure on Argaum by beating Topsham II on Friday night and moving to the top of the table.

Argaum knew they just need two points at Salcombe for the title, but Salcombe did make them work hard for it in the rain at Two Meads.

It is Argaum’s first title for eight years and they can look forward to having another go at level eight where they had four seasons between 2015 and 2019.

“It was a memorable day and I was just glad we got to win it on the last day of the league,” said head coach Dean Avery.

“I started playing rugby at under-12s and I don’t think I have ever won promotion like this on the final day.

“There was champagne spraying and everyone cuddling. Hopefully it will have given the guys great memories and we’ll see them all again next season.”

He added: “Salcombe really took it to us and were fantastic. They started really, really well and Eoghan Grace was pivotal in what they did. They scored a breakaway try so we went 7-0 down.

“But we were fortunate Tom Holliday was on the bench and he came on and managed to give us some minutes and it changed the game for us. He showed the way he leads from the front week-in, week-out.

“It was a good day.

“I feel a bit for Sarries; they did push us all season. Seeing the results that had come in the last two Friday nights did make it very tense (on Saturday), but fortunately we performed.”

He added: “It does seem quite strange that we have games left in the cup and it might be a bit hard to pick the players up and push on through.”

Avery was keen to praise fellow coach Jack Hiscock who joined the club at the start of the season after moving to Plymouth from the Bristol area.

“He took the backs and did a really good job with them,” said Avery.

“We are looking forward to taking Plymouth Argaum forward next year. We want to keep pushing the club on as it is a great club.”

Avery was also keen to praise his team’s discipline. They did not pick up one single red card and only collected three yellow all season.

But he did admit the club would be losing influential centre Jack Morris, who has played a major part of their success this term. He is set to move back to Wales.

“Unfortunately it was Jack Morris’ final game for the club,” said Avery. “He has been outstanding for us all season and was man of the match on Saturday, scoring two tries. We are sad to see him go.”

Argaum went 7-0 down on Saturday with an interception try.

As conditions get worse, Argaum started to use their forward well and they pulled level on 30 minutes.

After a series of pick-and-goes, centre Morris managed to get over from close range.

Not long later Billy Stockwell went over under the posts after Argaum switched the ball inside after good forward pressure on the right. That gave the visitors a 14-7 lead at the break.

Eleven minutes into the second half and front-row forward Tom Mann powered his way over for Argaum’s third before Morris scored a fine try for their fourth.

In the same division, Plymstock Albion Oaks II lost 50-24 to Newton Abbot II at Horsham Fields.

Oaks II ended a tough first season in league rugby second-from-bottom of Devon West.

But Newton Abbot had beaten Oaks by 68-0 in the first game of the season, so they do feel they have improved and they did beat Totnes last Saturday.

“We started the season with aspirations to compete as best we could, whilst fulfilling all of our fixtures, and on the whole we’ve managed that,” said captain Stu Collyer.

“We’ve used anyone from 18 years-old to 50-plus, brought lads back from retirement, and even snared a few footballers who have never played before.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have two or three Fijians with us for the majority too which has been fantastic, hopefully that’s something we can build on as they really love it here.

“With the first team securing safety, the club can be proud of themselves, and as a second team captain, I couldn’t be prouder of the guys that have stepped up, week in week out, when times have been really tough.”

Ben Turua grabbed himself a hat-trick of tries against Newton Abbot with some outstanding footwork and length-of-the-field runs, with experienced utility back Jamie Shone directing from 10, grabbing the fourth as well as kicking two conversions.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria were just edged out 17-12 away at second-placed Torquay Athletic.

Plym Vic will finish fourth in the table and did win half of their games.

“We got a losing bonus point and at the beginning of the season they beat us 41-21 at our place, so there has been a marked improvement by us,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hun.

“Their number eight was the difference. He looked like a first team player and so they just had that bit of polish.

“But maybe if the game had been five minutes longer we might have got more.  We played some good rugby.”

Plym Vic’s tries came from Ewan Stevenson and Connor Turner, with Jordan Blair kicking a conversion.

Plym Vic have now arranged a few friendlies, including against St Columba & Torpoint and Plymouth Fijians, for the remainder of the season.

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