DEVONPORT Services took a big step towards reaching the semi-finals of the Devon Senior Cup by edging out neighbours Ivybridge 41-28 in an entertaining affair at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday.
Two converted tries in the final 12 minutes sealed the victory for the visitors in a match that was nip-and-tuck for much of the afternoon.
Ivybridge had gone 10-0 in the opening 13 minutes but once Services cut that gap to three points in the 16th minute there was never more than a score in it until the final minute of normal time.
The lead changed hands seven times as both teams threw everything at it to claim the victory and local bragging rights.
Services’ win, achieved despite missing a host of regular first team players, meant they triumphed in two out of the three meetings between the sides this season and it puts them top of their four-team cup pool with two games to go.
Their head coach Ben Russell described Saturday’s game was a ‘good and entertaining’ contest.
He added: “I think it was a fair result in the end. I think we just managed the game better in parts, but there was a point when it could have gone either way.
“We just had our purple patch to go 41-28 up and I wouldn’t say that killed them off but they probably just tried to force things. They made a few knock-ons but our defence was coming hard and we put pressure on.”
He added: “Both teams were making breaks that they shouldn’t have probably been, but that was because the game was played at such intensity and both teams were playing a good attacking brand of rugby. It was a good game.”
Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony admitted his team were disappointed to lose.
“We only have ourselves to blame,” he said afterwards.
“We made a really good, positive start but because we made such a good start I think we thought we could play a lot and we did do that when we really needed to stick to our systems and earn the right to play. We did that really well in spells, but, unfortunately, we didn’t do it consistently.
“I thought Services played really well – they probably showed why they came fourth in the league. I think they had a few players missing but they still kept to their systems and dug out a win. Hat’s off to those guys.
“It was disappointing for us. It was a huge occasion for Ben Watts and Matt Finn making their 300th appearances and Charlie Briant on his 200th. We talked about that a lot before the game and we are just really disappointed we couldn’t make it a better occasion than how it panned out. That’s our real big frustration.”
Ivybridge made a dream start and they took the lead in the third minute when centre Briant on his 200th game for the club broke through from a well-worked move from a scrum to score on the right. Sam Brown, playing at fly-half, added the conversion.
The hosts thought they had scored a second six minutes later when number eight Adam Northcott got over the line from a five-metre scrum, but the referee ruled he had been held up.
But Ivybridge did increase their lead in the 13th minute when Brown kicked a penalty.
Services, who had seen fly-half Kieran Down yellow carded for what the referee deemed a deliberate knock-on in the seventh minute, did cut the gap with a try by youngster George Pooley in the right corner after a great break by Shaun Crawford and then some good passing across the line.
Ivybridge could have increased their lead when they were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts, but surprisingly they opted to tap it and they did not make it tell thanks to some good defence from Devonport.
And straight from that, Services went up the other end and took the lead for the first time with a try through front-rower Joe Daley after number eight Aiden Taylor had done well to make the initial break.
But instantly Ivybridge responsed, with Charlie Teague scoring in the left corner after powerful runs by Northcott and Kristian Davis. That made it 17-12 to the hosts.
However, the lead still changed hands twice more before the break.
First, Billy Orchard got his first try for Services when he crossed on the left after some good play and Down converted to put his side 19-17 ahead.
But Brown kicked a late penalty to give Ivybridge a 20-19 lead at half-time.
The second half continued along the lines of the first and Services went back in front just four minutes after the interval when winger Pooley, making only his second appearance for the first team, bagged a second try – and third in two games – with a fine run down the right wing.
Down missed the conversion but he did add a penalty to make it 27-20.
Ivybridge, though, hit back again with the experienced Tom Scoles going over in the left corner after Davis had early done well.
Brown missed the conversion and a long-range penalty, but he did kick a more simple penalty on 66 minutes to edge his side one point ahead.
But Ivybridge could not gather the restart and Services attacked and eventually centre Matt Richards crossed in the left corner and replacement Tom West brilliantly converted to put them 34-28 ahead.
The game was still in the balance but in the last minute of normal time, Services wrapped it up with a try in the corner by Luke Stannard which Tom West again converted.
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
CHAMPIONS Tavistock ended their impressive league season on a massive high with a 76-14 away win at Exmouth II on Saturday.
Tavistock ran in 12 tries at the Imperial Ground – five in the first half and seven in the second.
Surprisingly, scrum-half George Hillson only got one of their tries at Exmouth, but he should still finish as the country’s top points scorer and top male try scorer on the RFU’s GMS statistics, with 42 league tries and 389 points.
Centre Conor Packwood was the player to steal the headlines on Saturday with four tries – two in each half.
Tavistock were 31-0 up at half-time, with Ethan Lamerton, Packwood (2), Toby Teague and Hillson crossing for tries and Hillson kicking three conversions.
After the interval, as well as Packwood bagging another two, there were also tries for Jamie Legg (2), Seb Cox, Jack Lewis and Liam Watts, with Hillson kicking another five conversions.
“It was a pretty convincing win,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy. “The lads were pretty clinical and it was a decent all-round performance.”
The only downside for Tavistock was a rib injury suffered to forward Jack Osborne that could keep him out of their forthcoming cup fixtures.
CORNWALL CLUBS’ CUP
SALTASH eased into the next round of the Cornwall Clubs’ Cup with a 59-0 away victory at St Just.
However, lower league St Just did make the Ashes work hard for their win.
The visitors scored five tries in the first half to lead 35-0 at half-time.
Greg Eatwell got them underway in the seventh minute when he danced around the St Just defence to scamper over for a try, which Lewis Stuart converted.
Lewis Wells then went over for two before number eight Ryan Rayner got one and then Stuart also bagged one. Stuart converted all the tries in the first half.
The home side had more of the play in the second period and deserved more for their efforts.
But the Ashes increased their lead in the 52nd minute when Wells scored from a catch-and-drive line-out move and Stuart added the extras for a 42-0 lead.
However, it wasn’t until the 68th minute that the next score came when lock Matt Coker hit a sublime line to go over for the try and again Stuart converted.
The next try came from a St Just error and from a bobbling ball from a line-out, replacement flanker James Sutton was awarded the try.
Full-back Ryan Cruikshanks then capped a tidy performance with the final try to send the Ashes into the next round.
DEVON JUNIOR SHIELD
OLD Techs came agonisingly close to upsetting Devon West champions Plymouth Argaum at Weston Mill on Saturday in the Devon Junior Shield.
Argaum won 25-21 but Old Techs nearly snatch it at the death when they did get over the try line but were ruled to have been held up by the referee.
“It was an attritional battle – a very close game – as you would expect going to Old Techs,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery.
“They were really up for the game and were a completely different outfit to when we played them at our place.
“I think we left a lot of points out there in the first 20-30 minutes. We just weren’t clinical enough.
“We spent a lot of time camped in their 22 but we missed a few leaders. It was a new-look side and the guys have to learn that they have to be more clinical when they get into the 22.
“But overall we can’t argue with bonus-point win down at Old Techs.
“They got themselves back into the game second half and they were unlucky not to pinch it right on the final whistle.”
Owen Gocher, Preston Wilkins, Alex Percival and Tom Worboys scored Argaum tries, with Josh O’Hare, Kyle Hookway and Will Booth crossing for Techs.
Techs had lost both league games to Argaum as well. They went down 11-7 in a tight affair at home but lost 68-7 with a makeshift side at Bickleigh Down last month.
Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith said that defeat at Bickleigh Down fuelled their desire to prove a point on Saturday against the new league champions.
“We’re a bit gutted we lost, but we were pleased with our performance,” said Bedford-Smith.
“We had a chance right at the end when we were really putting them under pressure. We got a penalty and tapped it and were just held up over the line.
“It was a pretty close game and could have gone either way. It was a good game of rugby.
“After the last game (at Bickleigh Down) we just had to front up and show what Old Techs are all about. It was a chance to show them and the league that we are not as bad as the last time. It was just nice to right a few wrongs.
“They had the better of the first half but we had the better of the second, but we just couldn’t take that chance to win it at the end. However, for us it was all about the performance.”
Techs will play Devon East champions OPMs next week.
OPMs, who initially were place in a higher Devon Junior Cup alongside the likes of Tavistock, were dropped back into the Junior Shield and they beat Salcombe 44-15 on Saturday.
They scored 24 points in the first half and 20 in the second.
Scrum-half James Robinson gave them the lead in the ninth minute with a try, which Matt Smale converted.
Salcombe hit back with a penalty but that was to be the only first half score for the hosts.
Prop James Digweed added a second converted try for OPMs before Fred Smale crossed for one, which his brother Matt converted. He also added a penalty on 30 minutes to make it 24-3 at the break.
In the first minute of the second half hooker Alex Walker extended the Old Boys’ lead with a converted try before Matt Smale kicked a penalty.
Matt Smale then added a try, which he also converted to make it 41-3.
Salcombe did finish strongly with two tries, with Smale adding another penalty for OPMs.
In the Devon Merit Table, Saltash II were beaten 64-5 by a strong Torquay Athletic II side, whose first team game was called off.
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