DEVONPORT Services are guaranteed a place in the Devon Senior Cup semi-finals, despite losing 36-24 at home to Brixham on Saturday.
With all their group rivals also losing at the weekend, Services, who went into Saturday’s game with 10 points from two games, will definitely finish in the top two of their pool.
However, they will have to wait another week to try and secure top spot and claim a home semi-final tie.
They had a great chance right at the death on Saturday to get the two points they needed to win their group, but they just could not make it tell.
Services were winning 17-14 at half-time and there was only five points in the contest until late in the game but Brixham just took advantage of some defensive errors by the hosts.
“We played some lovely stuff in attack, but when you don’t make you first-up tackles and they score first phase, it is going to kill you,” said Services head coach Ben Russell.
“Defensively, we just weren’t on top of our game this week.
“They had some big runners who we just didn’t cope with.”
Russell felt his team played the better rugby but powerful former Plymouth Albion back Matt Crosscombe scored two tries after they failed to stop him.
The Services boss was also frustrated his team were unable to take their chance right at the end to score a fourth try and finish within seven points to guarantee winning their pool.
“We were on their line at the end of the game, but just needed bit more composure,” he said.
Brixham, who had rested most of their first team players last weekend against Drybrook, went 7-0 up early on when Crosscombe scored a try and Mitch Pinkus converted.
But injury-hit Services, who had beaten Ivybridge away the previous Saturday in a hard-fought contest, hit back with a touch-down from Aiden Taylor, which Kieran Down converted.
The visitors went 14-7 ahead before they were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes and Richard West kicked a penalty to make it 14-10.
And it got better for Devonport when scrum-half Dylan Daley scored a great try and a good break by Shaun Crawford. West added the conversion to put his side 17-14 up at the break.
But Brixham came straight out for the second half and regained the lead with an uncoverted try before Crosscombe scored a long-range effort under the posts to make it 26-17.
Pinkus then kicked a penalty before Devonport came back and closed the gap to just five points with another try by Taylor.
Brixham crucially went two scores up late on with a try by replacement Ricky Workman.
Services did have some late pressure but just could not convert it and get the two bonus points.
Ivybridge kept alive their slim chances of reaching the last four with a 29-19 victory away at lower league Sidmouth.
The Bridgers were struggling with injuries and unavailabilities and fielded an unfamiliar looking side, with seven players making their first team debus.
The only regular first team starters in their squad that travelled to Blackmore Field were Ben Watts, Charlie Briant and Kristian Davis.
The likes of Ben Hooper, Jake Winters, Ollie Priest, Jack Mitchell, Mark Hardie, James Sloan, Luke Martell, Matt Dayment, Cameron Dale, Sam Wilmington, Jamie North, Louie Ward, John Ready, Joe Burt all came into the matchday squad.
Director of rugby Jamie Tripcony did start in the second-row but he only last three minutes before he had to leave the field with a nasty cut to his eye that needed medical treatment.
But despite all their changes, Ivybridge were still too strong for Sidmouth and were 24-7 ahead at half-time.
Cameron Dale put them ahead and Martell added the conversion.
Dale then added a second before Wilmington crossed for the third.
The Bridgers were in command but they picked up a yellow card five minutes before half-time and Sidmouth pulled a try back.
However, winger Dale and centre Davis added further tries for Ivybridge before Sidmouth came back in the closing stages with two tries.
Like Dale, Sidmouth’s winger Sam Heathcote also bagged a hat-trick.
In the Devon Second XV Cup, Devonport Services II claimed a 15-15 draw away at in-form Barnstaple II.
Scott Ingledon had put the hosts ahead with a converted ty before Josh Martin pulled one back for Services II, which the evergreen Matt Anstis converted.
Anstis then kicked a penalty to put his side ahead before Harvey Rostock responded with one of his own to level the contest at 10-10 at the break.
Tom Richards put Services II back in front just two minutes into the second half, but three minutes from time, Ryan Jago crossed for an unconverted try to rescue a draw for this side.
Counties Two Devon champions Tavistock claimed a hat-trick of wins over North Tawton by beating them 48-14 at Sandy Park on Saturday in the Devon Junior Cup.
Tavistock scored five first half tries and were 31-7 up at the break, but they could not quite keep that scoring up in the second period, although they did add three more touch-downs.
Seb Cox, Ethan Lamerton, George Hillson, Jack Lewis and Jake Le Gassick crossed the whitewash in the first 40 minutes, with Hillson adding three conversions.
Le Gassick added a second after the interval to go with others from Conor Packwood and George Cole.
“We were not that good, if I’m being honest,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“You can argue that it was a comfortable win, but we were far from our best. We have had better performances but scored less.
“We tried a few things out and it was just an odd afternoon. We seemed to go in spurts, but we probably made a dozen schoolboy errors that another week would never happen, but North Tawton didn’t lie down.”
Counties Three Devon East champions OPMs booked their place in the semi-finals of the Devon Junior Shield by beating city rivals Old Techs 39-7 at King George V Playing Fields on Saturday.
OPMs knew they had to win and secure the bonus point to top their pool and progress, while Techs already knew they were through to last four before the game.
The madness of the Devon Junior Shield saw the top three ranked teams – OPMs, Plymouth Argaum and Tamar Saracens – all in the same pool, when one of the other pools only ended up with one team in it and another with just two. Also, teams did not play sides in their own pool, so OPMs, Argaum and Sarries all finished with two wins out of two, whereas Techs have topped their group by not winning a game but by picking up losing bonus points against Argaum and Sarries.
The way the competition is set up there is now a good chance OPMs could meet Techs again in the final as it looks like OPMs will host Exeter Athletic in the semi-finals and Techs will travel to Torrington.
Argaum will play in the Devon Bowl semi-finals and it remains to be seen if Sarries’ two wins will secure them the vacant spot in that competition.
OPMs had initially been drawn in the higher cup, but were then put back into the Junior Shield, just to add more confusion to a competition hit by drop-outs.
But OPMs did what they had to do on Saturday with a workman-like display against a Techs side that was much changed for the one that push Argaum close the week before.
Young fly-half Matt Smale dictated the game for OPMs with his kicking that kept Techs pinned in their half for most of the first half.
However, the hosts only manage one try in the opening 40 minutes, but two drive tries early in the second half put the game beyond Techs, who, as usual, battled hard.
The game did lack a bit of magic until the final play when Matt Smale put in a great chip over the defence that his older brother Fred caught under pressure to run in under the posts for his side’s fifth try and his second.
OPMs head coach Andy Williams was happy with his side’s display.
“I was really, really pleased with the first half performance – I don’t think they got into our 22 once in that first half,” he said.
“I think the boys are getting into the idea of how we are trying to play.
“Matt kicked really well and our forwards fronted up really well. I said to the lads at the end that it was a really good team performance.
“Fair play to Old Tech, they didn’t stop running and they deserved their try. I think it would have been a bit harsh if they hadn’t come away with something.
“But we are moving in the right direction. Obviously we have got half an eye on next year.
“From the team we put out against Exeter Athletic (in the final league game) we made 14 changes last week and have done the same this week. What is really good is that we have this strength in the depth across the club.
“When we get consistency at training then we’ll have a real dilemma at selection and that will pay dividends next year.”
Old Techs head coach Dean Oram was frustrated afterwards.
“They (OPMs) kicked well, chased well and put all their energy into playing rugby in the right areas. They fully deserved it
“We made far too many errors. We had nine changes this week from the team that played against Argaum last week. We just can’t get even close to getting the same team out every week.
“It is so fragmented and it is hindering us.
“When you look at our squad we have the boys to be able to compete, but it is just getting them all together every week. If we could get a regular team out every week we would be all right.”
He added: “Once we get into the right areas we know we can score and cause teams problems, but there were too many errors, like we scored, but then don’t catch the kick-off.
“It is a little bit frustrating at the minute as we are up and down with injuries and players in and out.
“But we still have something to play for. We just need a bit of dedication from the boys over the next few weeks and if we do then we could finish the season on a high.”
OPMs took the lead in the 13th minute when full-back Fred Smale crossed in the right corner and his brother added the conversion.
Four minutes later the younger Smale kicked a penalty to make it 10-0 before adding another on 28 minutes after Techs had Steve Wilkinson yellow carded.
Techs did have their best spell of the first half in the final 10 minutes but without really threatening and the game was decided by two James Digweed tries in five minutes straight after the break.
Alex Jewell then added a try in the left corner after good play from a line-out on the right.
Techs, who scrummed well, did have a good spell after that. They really put OPMs under pressure and the hosts gave away penalty after penalty before James Bothma finally scored for Techs in the 73rd minute and Tom Ryan added the conversion.
It looked like that was how the game would end but on the last play, Matt Smale produced two outrageous chip kicks before his brother gathered the second to run in and score again.
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