DEVONPORT Services lifted the Devon Senior Cup for the first time on Saturday as they beat Brixham 33-27 at the Rectory in a thrilling final that went right down to the wire.
Sometimes showpiece events do not live up to their billing, but this one certainly did.
In front a large crowd, the final had everything – tries, yellow cards, a red card and late drama.
For the neutrals it was a great watch, but for officials and supporters of the two clubs, the final 15 minutes must have been agony.
In the end, Services’ strength in depth and better discipline just told on a hot day.
Services had trailed 20-12 at half-time, but, boosted by replacements, they scored three second half tries to come from behind for a memorable win.
Brixham were not helped by having to play most of the second period with 14 men after picking up two yellow cards and then a red as Devonport piled on the pressure.
Services’ head coach Ben Russell admitted he was ‘ecstatic’ with his team’s win.
“I think as a spectacle for Devon rugby it was a cracking game,” said Russell. “Both teams went right to the end.
“That last kick-off, if they had got it they could have scored and won the game, but we’ve managed to secure it and kick the ball out.
“Hats off to all 22 of our lads – they were just fantastic – it was brilliant.
“We’ve done fantastically well this season and I am very, very proud of all those boys and the whole squad – ones and twos. I’m very happy.”
Russell admitted it was tense watching from the sidelines.
“It was and that’s what made it a great spectacle,” he said. “People were saying that was the most stressful game they have been to.”
Services may have been missing players like Mike Rickard, Aiden Taylor, Matt Neyle, Rhys Williams and Oli Mulberry, but the strength they had on their bench really told.
With seven replacements for the final, they were able to switch their props around seamlessly and the likes of Jonah Moore, Kieran Down, Luke Stannard and Mark Friend all came on when they were trailing in the second half and made an impact.
“The boys that came on did very well, but everyone put a massive shift in,” said Russell. “I used the interchanges more than I would normally but it was a warm day.
“In the first half we didn’t play in the right areas, but in the second half we stuck to our shape and played our game-plan and played really well.”
Services’ long-serving captain Matt Gregory was delighted to become the first Services player to lift the historic cup.
“It’s been a long 15 years (for me) at the club and this is our first shot in a long time to get into this competition so to win it the first time is fantastic,” said Gregory.
“I think we were pretty calm, to be honest. We all knew what we had to do. I feel we applied enough pressure in the second half and tired them out enough so that we could get over the line and that try in the corner at the end was testament to that.”
He added: “It has been a fantastic year. We really built on previous seasons. I think that’s two promotions and two cups in four years. We have really progressed as a club and now it is a case of progressing again for next season.
“We have the tag of winners now so we need to maintain that.”
Brixham, cheered on by a large group of travelling supporters, went in front in the sixth minute when former Ivybridge fly-half Mitch Pinkus kicked a penalty.
Services then missed touch from a penalty and that gave Brixham the chance to attack and they got another penalty, which Pinkus put over to make it 6-0.
Former Plymouth Albion winger Matt Crosscombe then nearly scored for the Fishermen, but Services did well to just push him into touch two metres out.
And a couple of minutes later Services cut the gap to just a point with a try on their first real bit of territory. They got a line-out 10 metres out and drove well. Although the drive was stopped, prop Joe Daley picked the ball up and drove over the line.
Services’ driving mauls were a major threat, but in the 24th minute they suffered a blow when an attempted chip kick over Brixham’s defence did not come off and Brixham collected the ball and attacked. Devonport had Tom Richards yellow carded for illegally stopping Brixham close to the line. The visitors did get a five-metre scrum and from it they scored their first try of the afternoon through centre JP Simonetti. Pinkus added the conversion to make it 13-5.
Devonport then had some intense pressure with Brixham illegally stopping mauls close the the line three times before Services were penalised.
But the hosts did finally get a second try in the 40th minute. They charged down a Brixham clearing kick and eventually got a five-metre scrum. From the set-piece, they went inside and there was Tom Richards to go over near the posts. Richard West converted to put his side back to within a point.
But deep in first-half injury-time, Brixham scored again with a great try from a scrum near halfway. Scrum-half Jamie Hext broke before Joel Ashworth slipped through a tackle and made 30 metres before returning the ball to Hext, who dived over. Pinkus added the simple conversion to give his side an eight-point advantage at the break.
Services came out fired up for the second period and straight away Brixham had JP Simonetti yellow carded. Seconds later Devonport were ruled to have been held up over the line from another good drive.
West then missed a penalty and it was looking like it might not be Services’ day.
But with fresh legs on they continued to attack and Brixham had Hext yellow carded for a high tackle on his opposite number Dylan Daley.
Two minutes later, Devonport did get the try they threatened when Dylan Daley went down the blind-side following a maul to score in the right corner.
And straight from the restart, Services scored another try with young winger Matt Richards crossing in the opposite corner after some good play. That put Services in front for the first time at 22-20. That advantage might have been more had they not missed four kicks at goal.
In the 63th minute, JP Simonetti caught Tom Richards with a high tackle as he attacked and the referee had no choice but to give him a second yellow card and a red.
Kieran Down kicked the resultant penalty for Services to put them 25-20 ahead.
But Brixham attacked from the restart and after intense pressure they scored on the right through replacement Jordan Green and Pinkus added the conversion to give them a 27-25 lead with just seven minutes of normal time to go.
With time running out, Services got a penalty at the other end. It was not the easiest of kicks, but replacement fly-half Down kept his calm and managed to put it over, despite Brixham’s supporters trying to put him off.
That put Services one point ahead with just a couple of minutes to play, but they did not secure the restart and Brixham really pressed. The south Devon club were so close to scoring but just when it looked like they might, they were penalised for crossing.
And, deep in injury-time, Services got a penalty at a scrum and went for the corner. They got their drive going again and Tyler Busfield managed to get the ball down for a try, which led to massive celebrations.
However, Down missed the tough conversion and the referee decided there was still time for one last play. Brixham challenged for the restart ball but somehow Services managed to secure it and kick it out for the win.
DEVON SENIOR SHIELD
IVYBRIDGE missed out on winning the Devon Senior Shield after losing 30-24 away at Regional Two South West runners-up Crediton.
Crediton, with experienced players like Dan Lee, Chris Courtier and Ollie Avery-Wright in their team, were unbeaten at home in the league and they pulled away from Ivybridge in the opening 60 minutes.
The hosts led 19-8 the break and increased that to 28-8 after the interval. It was only late on that Ivybridge, who were missing a host of forwards, really threatened.
“It ended tight, but they pushed away from us by starting really well,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Triponcy. “They are a really good team with a lot of experience.
“They played to their strengths really, really well, so full credit to Crediton.
“I think we just left ourselves too much to do unfortunately, which was frustrating as we really wanted to finish on a high and get a bit of silverware to give us some momentum to go into the summer. But it just was not meant to be.”
He added: “The last few weeks we have never really known where we are at as availability has been sporadic, but I guess it was going to be like that towards the end of the season and with the way they have done the cup draw.
“But we have no excuses. We felt the team that went out was more than capable of winning that game.
“However, our season will not be defined on just that one game as there were a lot of good things.
“We have improved. In previous seasons we might have finished around 11th, but we finished sixth this year and we have shown real progress as a group of players.
“We have felt like we have progressed this season – maybe not as fast as we would have liked, but that’s always going to be the case.
“What is important for us is that we keep this group of players together for next season as they are building and progressing nicely.”
Tom Scoles and Charlie Briant scored tries for Ivybridge on Saturday, with Matt Grieveson kicking the rest of their points.
Devon Hosegood, Ed Brady, Bobby Jenkins and Dan Yeandle scored tries for Crediton, with Avery-Wright adding two penalties and two conversions.
CORNWALL CLUBS’ CUP
SALTASH claimed their fourth trophy within the space of a week on Saturday as they beat Perranporth 47-26 at Wadebridge to lift the Cornwall Clubs’ Cup.
It followed on the back of them winning the RNEC and Pedrick Cups in mid-week and their seconds lifting the Duchy Shield last Saturday.
Saltash, who had finished as runners-up to St Ives in Counties Two Cornwall, were favourites going into the final and they were always in command in of the game that saw full-back Ryan Cruickshanks make his 250th appearance for the club.
The Ashes had a try disallowed as early as the fourth minute, but it was Perranporth who took the lead three minutes later with a well-worked try by Kris Evens on the left wing.
Will Morton then ran through to score an equalising try after 14 minutes as Saltash slowly began to take control of the match but missing some good try scoring chances too.
Greg Eatwell, playing well in the centre for the Ashes, put them ahead by touching down for a try which was converted by Jack Pritchard.
Morton, a constant threat on the right wing, increased the lead with his second try.
An Ashes penalty by Pritchard brought the interval score to 20-5. Just before the end of the first period Saltash were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes.
But they went further ahead early in the second half with a Pritchard penalty and a try by Greg Eatwell under the posts, which was converted to make it 30-5.
Perranporth also picked up a yellow card but they hit back with a converted try by Jo Martin.
Some good interchanges were followed by another Morton try which Jack Pritchard again converted to make it 37-12.
Perranporth refused to give up the match easily and Tom Simmons crossed the Ashes line for a converted try on 64 minutes.
Skipper Jay Moriarty capped a good display for the Ashes when he cut in from the left wing to score a converted try and make it 44-19.
In the closing stages of the game, Counties Three Cornwall champions Perranporth got over for a converted try to complete the scoring.
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