DEVONPORT Services continued their impressive start to the season with a 50-24 home victory over newly-promoted St Austell on Saturday in Regional One South West.
Ben Russell’s side have now picked up three bonus-point wins in their opening three games. Only Chew Valley and Exmouth have a similar record so far.
Services’ victory on Saturday against a St Austell team that included former Plymouth Albion players Matt Shepherd and Kyle Marriott was even more impressive due to the amount of players they had missing.
Matt Gregory, Mike Rickard, Andy Pond, Liam Jarvis, Joe Daley, Matt Neyle, Dylan Daley and Richard West were among the Services players either away or injured at the weekend.
“It was good,” said Services head coach Ben Russsell. “We played some very good stuff at times. We attacked really well, but we did take our foot of the gas and they came back into it before we finished well.
“They scored first and I think we were 17-5 up at half-time, so it was quite close in the first half. We didn’t play that great, but at the start of the second half we scored two quick tries and blew them off the park and it was 31-5. You are thinking then ‘come on now put the foot on the throat’ but then we conceded three tries – two very cheap – which made it 31-24, but then we pulled away at the end.”
“We are still not playing how we want to be, but we are playing half decent at times and our backs are scoring tries and doing really well.”
St Austell took the lead in the ninth minute when player-coach Shepherd did well before putting in fellow Cornwall player Marriott to score.
But instantly Services responded and they were awarded a penalty try after full-back Harrison Coonick made a great break before St Austell were penalised right on the try line. As well as awarding the penalty try, the referee also sin-binned St Austell forward Mark Vian.
On 20 minutes, the hosts went 14-5 ahead when centre Tom Davies went over for a try, which Kieran Down converted.
Down then kicked a penalty to make it 17-5 at half-time.
Services scored two tries within the space of three minutes at the start of the second period.
Full-back Coonick got the first after the interval with a great run before winger Freddie Davies scored out wide after Devonport Services passed the ball quickly across the field from a line-out. Down converted both to make it 31-5.
But then Services scrum-half Dan Goldstone, making his first start, was yellow carded and St Austell were awarded a penalty try.
They then followed that up with scores from Cam Taylor and Konnor Ewudzi. That put the Saints within just six points of Devonport.
However, the hosts lifted the pace again and Matt Richards scored a converted try before captain Shaun Crawford kicked forward a St Austell fumble and won the race to touch the ball down.
And the hosts added a seventh try two minutes from time when number eight Mark Friend broke from the back of a scrum before feeding scrum-half Goldstone to cross for his first try in Devonport colours.
Services do now face a testing month with games against Barnstaple, Brixham and Chew Valley coming up.
Ivybridge have not had the start to the season they would have wanted and they suffered a third straight defeat on Saturday as they were beaten 24-18 at home by newly-promoted Matson.
The Bridgers have had chances to win all three of their games but just have not been able to take them and have paid for too many penalties and yellow cards.
Once again they picked up two yellow cards on Saturday so have to play half the first 40 minutes with 14 players.
Matson took an early lead with a converted try before Sam Brown closed the gap with a penalty.
However, another Matson try made it 14-3, but the Bridgers gave themselves hope with a touchdown by captain Sam Furse before half-time, which was converted by Brown.
The teams traded penalties at the start of the second period to make it 17-13 before the visitors scored another converted try to go 24-13 ahead.
Ivybridge, though, set up a tense final 20 minutes with a Brown try. He could not convert his own touch-down and also missed a couple of second half penalties as Ivybridge were again left to rue what might have been.
They have picked up three bonus points from their opening three games but will be desperate to beat fellow winless side Okehampton this coming weekend.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks are the only team left with a 100 per cent record in Western West after they beat the Pirates Amateurs 24-17 at Mennaye Field.
It was their first away trip of the season and followed on from bonus-point home victories over Paignton and St Ives.
Chey Bryce, Tom Richards, Corey Jamieson and Matt Jackson score tries for them in Penzance, with Lewis Paterson kicking two conversions.
Having been 17-14 down at half-time, Oaks were delighted to come through and bag an away victory.
Away successes were hard for them to come by last season. They had to wait until December to get one and then didn’t get another until the final three weeks of the campaign.
“It’s just good getting that monkey off the back early,” admitted head coach Lewis Paterson.
“We’d had two good homes win on the bounce against St Ives and Paignton. Getting two five-point wins over them was massive.
“Fifteen points out of 15 in the first three games has put us in a good position. We will go down to Bude just wanting to get a win, but all we are doing is focusing on each week.”
Paterson admitted the Pirates did give them a tough game in wet conditions at Mennaye Field.
“They are a good side – very physical, with some good ball carriers,” he said.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves again and made hard work of it.
“The conditions were so different to last week. It was hammering it down with rain so it was wet and slippery. We had to adapt to the conditions. Last week was scorching heat but then straight into that.
“But we did well. We were losing at half-time but we just stuck to our systems, played very smart and played with width. Our discipline was a hell of a lot better, which was the big thing from the last two weeks.”
Tavistock were involved in a thrilling 37-37 draw away at Paignton in the same division on Saturday.
The visitors started really well and went 8-0 with a George Hillson penalty and a try by Jack Lewis.
But then Paignton hit back and went 17-8 ahead with touch-downs from Dewald Stoop and Tom Osborn and seven points from the boot of Brad McKee.
A converted try by Ethan Lamerton cut the gap to two points before Paignton took a 24-15 half-time lead after Alex Pozniak crossed the whitewash.
After the interval the hosts went 31-15 up with another Stoop touch-down.
A great individual try by Hillson got Tavistock going again. McKee kicked a couple of penalties for Paignton either side of a try by Al Spicer and a Hillson penalty.
Tavistock were 37-30 down with a few minutes to play but pulled it level with a converted touch-down by Jack Eaton.
However, Paignton still had the chance to win the game with a last-gasp penalty – only to miss.
“They literally had a penalty kick with the last play of the game in front of the posts, but Brad McKee shanked it to the left.
“It some ways that was a bit of justice for us. Martin Worthington (Paignton’s coach) said we were probably the better side and that they’d got a get out of jail card, but I looked on it as if we’d got a get out of jail card ourselves.
“Anyone on the sidelines was entertained.”
He added: “We did enough in the first 20 minutes to probably be out of sight, but we just made silly little errors.”
Tavistock, who claimed a bonus-point win over Kingsbridge last week, did pick up three points for their high-scoring draw.
“It’s not the same as a win, but three points is pretty decent,” said Caddy. “We have nine points from three games so we can’t grumble too much.
“I’d be happy if we could pick up another two wins this month – I’d be pretty chuffed if we could do that.”
He added: “We were probably forcing the off-loads at times when they weren’t on or putting a pass on when we should have just grin and beared it and taken the contact. Just some of our decision-making when carrying into contact let us down a few times, but those are easy fixes.
“Their pitch must be between eight and 10 metres narrower than ours and it is a lot shorter too. We did struggle to adjust to it, but I am not going to take anything away from Paignton, they played well.
“All-in-all I am happy with it. It would have been nice to get the win, but even the lads said afterwards that three or four seasons ago going that many points down they would have capitulated. Now at least we have belief and will back.”
COUNTIES TWO CORNWALL
SALTASH moved to the top of Counties Two Cornwall with an impressive bonus-point win over Veor at Moorlands Lane on Saturday.
Veor are expected to be one of the teams challenging Saltash for promotion, having finished third last season and having arrived at Moorlands Lane with two wins out of two to their name.
But Saltash ended up claiming a comfortable victory after a strong first half put them 27-9 ahead.
Veor never really threatened the home line and their only points came from the boot of impressive centre Luke Johnson, who kicked four penalties.
Saltash took the lead after only two minutes when Lewis Wells took the opportunity to touch down following early pressure.
Veor came back but could not get through the Ashes defence and the home side’s lead was increased in the 18th minute when Will Morton gave Ryan Cruickshanks a good inside pass and he scored a try which he converted to make it 12-0.
Not long later a Veor player received a yellow card and a penalty from Ryan Cruickshanks put the home side further ahead.
After 27 minutes Johnson put over the first of his penalties.
But not long later Greg Eatwell opened the visiting side up to give Morton a converted try on the right wing.
Five minutes before the interval Veor got another penalty but Wells then charged through for another Saltash try.
The first half ended with a Veor penalty which brought the half-time score to 27-9.
The second period started with some scrappy rugby mostly played in the visiting half but a penalty reduced the home advantage in the 57th minute.
This was balanced out with a home penalty three minutes later after some heated exchanges.
Lewis Woolaway, who was playing in his 50th game for Saltash, crossed the line for a converted try to make it 37-12.
Yellow cards were shown to a player from each side and just before the end Wells completed his hat-trick and the Ashes’ scoring.
Billy Dover impressed at fly-half for Saltash and they were well led by skipper Phil Eatwell. Full-back Ryan Cruickshanks kicked 12 points and again put in some good clearances, while former Old Techs prop Harley Adams made his first team debut for the Ashes.
In the same division, Liskeard-Looe were beaten 15-7 away at Illogan Park.
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
DEVONPORT Services II made it three wins out of three with a hard-earned 28-6 win at city rivals OPMs.
OPMs, who are still looking for their first victory since promotion, did deny Services a try-scoring bonus point, but were unable to get anything out of the game themselves.
“There were quite a lot of positives to take from it,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt.
“Our scrum was dominant for most of the game and our line-outs functioned really well again.
“We are just lacking in that final third of the pitch – it’s just that clinical edge. If I am honest, that is just what has let us down in the first three games.
“Chances are popping up left, right and centre, but we have just struggled to finish them.”
OPMs did take the lead with an early Matt Smale penalty, but two Matty Anstis penalties gave Services II a 6-3 half-time lead.
The hosts levelled the match two minutes into the second period with another Matt Smale penalty, but gradually Services II pulled away with tries by Toby Moss (2) and Brandon Bonsor.
Plymouth Argaum suffered their first home league defeat for more than a year as they were beaten 29-7 by Withycombe at a rainy Bickleigh Down.
Argaum were missing a host of key forwards, including Dan Smith, Tom Worboys, Tom Mann, Darren Ewers, Will Lloyd and Dave Clack, and they just could not win any set-piece ball.
They had some dangerous backs but they just could not get enough possession for them to do any real damage.
Argaum did battle hard and it looked like they were going to deny Withycombe a bonus point, but the visitors did score two late tries.
Three of Withycombe’s five tries came from scrums.
“We didn’t have a set-piece and when we did get the ball we would go through a few phases and they would give a penalty away and we wouldn’t know what to do with the penalty,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery. “If we stuck it in the corner, our line-out wasn’t functioning, so we ended up tapping and going and then they were just forcing an error.
“Credit to the guys that stepped in; they can all hold their heads up, but it is hard to compete at this level with that many people out.
“The heart was there and the guys certainly put their bodies on the line.
“Credit to them (Withycombe); their set piece functioned and ours didn’t.
“I have taken responsibility for how poor the set-piece was.
“But we’ll group together and look forward to Services next weekend.”
Argaum were struggling for front-row players and picked up a few more injuries during the game.
“Some other teams might have gone down to 14 and gone uncontested, but I didn’t want to do that as it is the wrong thing to do,” said Avery.
Withycombe took the lead in the third minute when winger Liam Daniels scored in the left corner after Argaum lost a line-out on the right.
The visitors were only denied by a last-gasp tackle on nine minutes but then did add a second try when they pushed Argaum off a scrum on their line and number eight Joe Blyth scored.
Argaum just could not get any possession due to their set-piece not functioning and Withycombe added a third unconverted try on 30 minutes with Blyth again going over from a scrum to lead 15-0 at the break.
The hosts were better in the second half and Withycombe did pick up a couple of yellow cards.
Argaum were held up over the line in the 65th minute before the visitors were awarded a penalty try at the other end from a scrum.
But credit to the Argaum players, they did defend really well and showed plenty of spirit and they were rewarded with a stunning try down the left wing by James Green, which Billy Stockwell converted.
However, the last word went to Withycombe with Daniels getting his second in the 10th minute of injury-time.
FOR the second week running Tamar Saracens were handed a walkover before taking to the field in Counties Three Devon South & West.
Last week, Plym Vic handed them a win before they played a match under the RFU’s ‘game-on’ regulations which ended with Sarries winning 72-0.
This weekend, Salcombe did not have a front-row and only had 14 players and so also handed them the full five points before Sarries beat them 33-0 away in a shortened ‘game-on’ fixture.
“Salcombe is a difficult place to go and it was a good contest,” said Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge. “We got quite a few things out of it and the boys enjoyed it.”
Sarries led 14-0 in the opening period thanks to tries by Adam Coutts and Jacob Blasdale, both converted by Tom Rigby.
In the second period, Dane Waryck, Marc Cioffi and Frazer Tatchell added further tries.
Old Techs suffered a home defeat as they were beaten 22-5 at Weston Mill by much-fancied Dartmouth in a game that saw three red cards.
Dartmouth had two players sent off and Techs one and both clubs were unhappy.
“How many times do you see three red cards?” said Techs chairman Dave Evans. “But it was not that type of a game.
“I think two of the reds were questionable.”
Evans added: “Dartmouth are a good side and they are a really good bunch of fellows.
“We’ve got no excuses. We were just maybe a little naive at the end. We should have been spinning it wide. We just did not capitalise when they were two blokes down.”
Nathan Webb scored Techs’ only try in the first half as they trailed 12-5 at the break.
Plymstock Albion Oaks II got their first win of the season in style on Saturday with a 75-0 home victory over struggling Totnes.
Oaks II had opened their season with a 20-20 draw with Paignton II before losing 53-7 at Dartmouth last weekend.
But they put on an impressive show for those that braved the rain at Horsham Fields.
Jope Qeva and Ben Turua both bagged hat-tricks for the hosts, with Steve Eaton and James Barnett claiming two apiece and Ross Perkins, Sam Luke and man-of-the-match Miti Caqara also crossing the whitewash. Centre Oli Elliot-Smith kicked the rest of the points.
“We’ve had a really positive vibe around the club since the end of last season, and so far, albeit only three games in, there has been no Saturday morning panic about not having a full squad,” said captain Stu Collyer.
“Lads are buying in to what Lewis Paterson wants from us, they’re committing to training, and it is starting to bear fruit.
“We should have beaten Paignton in week one, lost to a strong Dartmouth team in week two, and then put it all together and put on a real performance which the lads fully deserved.”
He added: “It’s always handy to have the Fijians here, and they’ve been a huge plus for us, they were all excellent. Ben Turua has been class all season so far. But the rest of the lads had to do the hard work to give them the ball.
“We stuck to our systems, did what we’ve practiced in training, and yet we know we left plenty out there that can be improved on.
“We’re all looking forwards to next weekend at home now and another great week of training to come.”
Plympton Victoria did have a full team out this week but they came up against a strong Kingsbridge II side at St Mary’s Field and lost 50-5.
Matt Galloway scored their only points with a try late on against a Kingsbridge team that had experienced Plymouth-based goal-kicking scrum-half Alex Jeffery pulling the strings at nine.
“Kingsbridge are a well-drilled side,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “But we did not play well enough for 70 minutes.
“We know we could have done a lot better. We have been training well but we just could not translate to the park this week.
“But we just have to keep going. It will come and we will get more cohesive.
“The good thing is we are getting games.”
In Counties Three Cornwall, Saltash II were narrowly beaten 18-17 away at Roseland.
In friendly fixtures, Devonport Services III beat OPM Jesters 59-0, while Tavistock II lost 46-5 to Crediton II.
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