DEVONPORT Services bounced back from their first defeat of the season in style on Saturday by running in seven tries to beat big rivals Brixham 39-22 at the Rectory.
Head coach Ben Russell had asked for a reaction from his side after their heavy 41-16 loss at Barnstaple seven days earlier and he was delighted with the response from his players.
“It was the reaction we wanted,” admitted Russell.
“We started slow and have gone 5-0 down, but if you look at the performance the boys have put in from one to 18, it was exactly what we wanted.
“We will still say we are not there yet and that wasn’t our best performance, but we have fronted up, kept on going, put pressure on when we should have and scored some lovely tries.
“Our forwards were very, very good in driving them back, so I’m very, very happy as we have come away with the five points.
“It is a good win and we have done exactly what we wanted – reacted to last week’s loss.”
Services did have to overcome a few obstacles to claim their win.
They were without a specialist hooker with Joe Daley injured and Aiden Taylor away, so prop James McFarlane, a former Brixham player, stood in and he marked the day with two tries.
They also had to overcome the loss of scrum-half Dylan Daley after just eight minutes with a head injury, which led to him going to hospital. It meant a re-shuffle in the backline, with Dan Goldstone moving from 10 to nine and centre Shaun Crawford switching to fly-half.
Services also picked up three yellow cards in the second half.
“We had resilience,” said Russell. “We had a couple of questionable yellow cards – we had three in the second half so played most of the half with 14 men.”
Russell had opted not to field a regular goalkicker against Brixham so second-row Mike Rickard took the kicks.
He said that wasn’t a worry, adding: “It was just giving people a chance who played well in the twos. It is competitive and so no spot is safe.”
Services’ lack of a specialist hooker looked like it might be a problem early on when they lost their first three line-outs and the third one led to a try for Brixham prop Nathan Reeves.
But eventually Devonport managed to get their line-out going and McFarlane pulled them level with a great try. Captain Matt Gregory, making his first Regional One South West appearance of the season, made a break before off-loading to McFarlane, who ran 25 metres to score against his former club.
And Services took hold of the game with a stunning four-minute spell midway through the first half where they scored three quick-fire tries.
Rickard got the first of those when he was driven over from a great maul that started outside the 22. He also converted his effort from out wide.
Then Services scored twice down the left in almost identical moves after Brixham messed up the restarts.
Tom Davies made a great break to put replacement Toby Knowles away for a try, before Matt Richards then went over in the same place from 40 metres to make it 22-5.
Three minutes before half-time, Brixham did pull one back when former Plymouth Albion winger Matt Crosscombe went over from close range.
Services had a great chance to get a fifth in first half injury-time but they just knocked on 15 metres from the try line after good play down the right.
Brixham made it a one-score game straight after the interval with centre Haydn Lidstone crossing the whitewash after some patient play from the restart. Mitch Pinkus converted that effort to make it 22-17.
It looked a bit worry for Services when they had replacement Andy Pond yellow carded on 50 minutes, Rickard missed a penalty kick at goal and then they knocked on when they were within a metre of the try line.
But a piece of magic from full-back Harrison Coonick, who had missed last week’s game at Barnstaple, eased their worries. Coonick brilliantly ran back a clearing kick by Brixham, who just could not stop him running through them. Rickard converted that effort to put his side 29-17 ahead.
However, Services v Brixham games are usually always tight as last year’s Devon Senior Cup final proved and the Fishermen reduced the gap again with a try by full-back Joel Ashworth.
Devonport then got their driving maul going and were pinning Brixham back. The visitors gave away a number of penalties before Jordan Watson was yellow carded. However, as frustrations boiled over, Services also had Rickard yellow carded and the referee reversed the penalty.
But the home side soon got further chances to drive and Mark Friend and Pond both had efforts ruled out before McFarlane got his second and Services’ sixth from a great drive down the left in the 74th minute.
And there was still time for another yellow card and a try for Services. Crawford was sin-binned for what the referee deemed a high tackle, even though the Brixham player was low to the ground, but two minutes later Richards, who had looked a danger down the wing, got his second try to wrap up the scoring after a poor drop-out from Brixham, who had grounded a wayward Services penalty kick in the in-goal area.
After four narrow defeats, Ivybridge finally got off the mark with a 36-35 win over St Austell at Cross-in-Hand.
Both clubs were under-strength for the fixture, with Ivybridge without the likes of Will Peakman, Sam Courtney, Marcus Prout, George Montgomey, Jed Soper and Kristian Davis and St Austell missing former Plymouth Albion stars Matt Shepherd and Kyle Marriott.
But Ivybridge showed good character to dig deep to claim the full five points.
“I’m just happy for the boys,” said head coach Davy McGregor afterwards.
“We hadn’t been far away (in the other games). This was still a tight game, but reflecting on it, I think we were a much better side than the score shows.
“They (St Austell) were very strong up front and two penalties led to two maul tries, but take those 14 points out of that and it was a different game.
“What was nice this week is we went back to basics. We did show incredible detail in the week and we have done it as if it was a team run.
“The big word this week was ‘trust’ – trust in what we are doing as coaches, trust in each other and trust that it will come if you knock on the door.
“I am just so happy for the boys.
“Hopefully this gives that little bit of a confidence boost to a lot of the lads as they did feel the pressure a bit.
“We asked for a result and we got it and it was a five pointer as well.”
St Austell did come back and had some pressure near the end to try and win the game.
“We defended incredibly well – that was the bit of heart that we talked about,” said McGregor.
“They were on our line but we defended well.
“Because of the score it was tense, but it wasn’t tense in the fact that we looked like losing it.
“We have had three results now in the 30s, so at the end of the day we are scoring points, which is a positive.”
Ivybridge scored six tries against St Austell, with front-row forward Henry Trudgill bagging three of them.
Experienced backs Ben Watts, Sam Brown and Charlie Briant also crossed the whitewash, with Brown kicking three conversions.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks have ended the first month of the season as league leaders of Western West with a maximum 25 points out of 25 from their opening five games.
They kept their run going with a 31-19 victory over winless Wiviliscombe at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
But they did pick up two red cards in the second half on Saturday, with debutant Miti Caqara shown red for what the referee deemed a high tackle and then player-coach Lewis Paterson was sent off five minutes from time after initially receiving a yellow card by the official.
Oaks had already scored five tries by the time Paterson was given his marching orders.
They got two in the first half courtesy of Ryan Wills and Alex Chapman as they led 12-9.
Corey Jamieson, Ben Turua and Paterson added further touch-downs to seal the win.
“Wiviliscombe were good, but we got the win,” said Oaks’ Mark Lenthall.
“But the boys came off and saying they did not really enjoy it. The second half was just penalty after penalty.”
Tavistock are still looking for their first away win of the season after a narrow 39-36 defeat at the Pirates Amateurs.
Tavistock, who were missing a number of players on Saturday, did pick up two losing bonus points, to go with a three-point away draw at Paignton and a narrow one-score loss at Falmouth.
“We got two points on the road with a team that had four colts from last year in the side, including two making their debuts,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“We were missing some experienced, key individuals, but the lads went out there and just went for it.
“We went 39-24 down, but we came back and were on the front-foot at the end, but they just got a chance to kick the ball into touch.”
He added: “Pirates has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Tavistock but we put on a bloody decent show and put in a lot of effort.
“We were up but then threw an intercept, which should never have been passed but these things happen, and they scored and the game swung their way. They scored a couple of catch-and-drives and it could have really gone their way.
“But the lads geed themselves up and got back into it. We got into their faces a bit. We forced a lot of unforced errors out of the Pirates with our line speed.
“We don’t lie down anymore. The Tavistock of old might have thrown the towel in when they got to 39, but we didn’t and that’s a credit to the lads, who have some pride in their shirt.
“There’s little things to work on, but on the whole I am happy with it. Given the offer of that (two points) before the match, I probably might have said ‘yeah’.”
Both teams scored six tries at Mennaye Field on Saturday.
Tavistock, without a number of forwards, were under pressure in the set-piece, but their backs were always a threat, with scrum-half George Hillson and winger Conor Packwood both scoring twice, to go with one from fellow back Jack Rock and one from hooker Hammy Kerswill.
The first half was tight, with the Pirates just edging it 15-12. Hillson and Kerswill scored Tavistock’s tries in the opening 40 minutes. They then went 24-20 ahead in the second half with further scores from Hillson and Rock before Pirates pulled away to go 39-24 ahead, only for Tavistock to come back with two Packwood tries, including a great team effort.
Ben Taylor bagged four of the Pirates’ six tries, with Ben Wragg and Ethan Wetherell getting their others. Like Hillson, Dan Rhys-Evans kicked three conversions, but a penalty effort from him on half-time proved to be the difference between the sides come the end.
COUNTIES TWO CORNWALL
COUNTIES Two Cornwall leaders Saltash produced a strong second half performance to overcome Perranporth 39-18 away in windy conditions at The Droop.
The weather did play a major part in the game between the league’s top two scorers.
Newly-promoted Perranporth were leading 13-8 at the break having played with the wind in the opening 40 minutes.
Ryan Cruickshanks had given the Ashes the lead with a 13th-minute penalty, but the Brewers equalised with one from Justin Irons five minutes later.
Saltash regained their lead with a Jason Carroll try on 23 minutes before the hosts went in front with a converted try by Tom Job and another Irons penalty.
But the second period was only seven minutes old when Phil Eatwell broke down on the left for a converted try to put the Ashes back in front and Cruickshanks then touched down to increase the lead to 20-13.
Saltash continued to dominate and on 58 minutes scrum-half Jack Pritchard, in his 50th game for the Ashes, dropped on the ball over the line for a converted try after some loose play.
Perranporth then defended well but they could not stop Carroll going over after a good break to make it 32-13.
Another Saltash converted try by impressive Ryan Rayner completed the Ashes scoring on 70 minutes.
Perranporth added to their tally just before the end with a try, but it was no more than a consolation effort against Saltash, who had Pritchard and Steve Hillman impressing in the vital away win.
In the same division, Liskeard-Looe beat Newquay Hornets 12-7 at Lux Park.
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
DEVONPORT Services II’s unbeaten start to the season was ended at Pottington Road by Barnstaple II, who triumphed 29-24.
Services II had been 17-3 down at the break but they hit back in the second half and nearly snatched it.
Kieran Down, having dropped down to the second team after Services’ first lost the previous week at Barnstaple, scored 19 of Services’ 24 points, with two tries, three conversions and a penalty.
Their other try came from scrum-half Billy Sutton, who was back in the second team after playing for their thirds the previous week.
Scott Incledon, Cameron Johnson and Ben Beattie all scored two tries for Barnstaple II.
OPMs battled hard against league leaders Torquay Athletic at King George V Playing Fields, but they were unable to get anything out of the game, losing 29-12.
Torquay took an early lead with a Mawgen Penrice penalty, but OPMs hit back with a try by number eight Pete Marr, which Matt Smale converted.
However, tries by Ryan Hanaeur and Lewis Harben gave Torquay a 17-7 lead at the break.
The visitors, with former Albion player Dan Williams among their replacements, increased that to 24-7 after the interval with another Hanaeur try before OPMs flanker Shaughn Lewis crossed for OPMs to give them hope with 12 minutes to go. But a hat-trick try by Hanaeur ended any hopes OPMs had of getting at least a losing bonus point out of the contest.
Injury-hit Plymouth Argaum conceded two late converted tries when down to 14 men to lose 38-19 at home to Exmouth II.
Argaum, without the likes of Dan Smith, Al Sullivan, Aaron Anderson-Smith, Al Percival, Reece Gocher, Tom Worboys and Owen Gocher, had gone 19-5 up against Exmouth II and were only 24-19 behind going into the closing stages.
But centre Luc Phillips was sent off for picking up two yellow cards and Chris Perkins was also yellow carded, as Ryan Tunnicliffe had been at the start of the half, and Exmouth took full advantage of the extra numbers to seal the win.
“It was actually a really well-contested game,” said Argaum chairman Stuart Quarterman. “They just got a couple of late tries to make the score look worse than it was.
“We are smashed with injuries at the moment, but the positive is that we have still got two teams out two weeks running.”
Argaum were frustrated not to pick up a bonus point having scored three tries quite early on.
Jake Turfrey got their first, before centre Adam McCrohan finished off a great flowing backs move.
And it got better for the hosts when prop Keiran Burring put in a kick forward and Perkins won the race to it to score their third.
But Exmouth II closed the gap to 19-17 before the break and then added a second after the interval before pulling away at the end.
Ivybridge II were forced to hand Honiton a walkover due to a lack of players.
“This was a weird weekend as we had a lot of people unavailable and injured,” said Ivybridge head coach Davy McGregor. “It was just one of those weeks, but as a club we need to look at why one week we had 29 players unavailable.”
TAMAR Saracens are the new leaders of Counties Three Devon South & West after they overcame previously unbeaten Brixham II 26-20 in a feisty affair at Astley Park.
Both teams had a player sent off just before half-time following a melee, with Frazer Tatchell the Saracens player shown red.
Sarries did out-score Brixham four tries to one, but the hosts kept in the game and got a losing bonus point thanks to the boot of Jack Stead, who kicked five penalties, including one at the death.
“The boys played extremely well,” said Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge.
“It was quite a feisty game in front of quite a hostile crowd.
“We didn’t know what to expect but we just wanted the five points and it was a really, really impressive performance from us. It is a hard place to go, but the boys really dug in and we are really pleased with the result.”
After Brixham took an early lead with a penalty, Sarries went in front with a try by Steve Moran, which Tom Rigby converted.
Stead kicked another penalty for Brixham before Jacob Blasdale broke through to score a second try for Sarries, which Rigby converted to make the half-time score 14-6.
Another Brixham penalty closed the gap to five points, but Adam Coutts got a third try under the posts for Sarries.
The hosts then scored their only try through Sam White and Stead kicked another penalty to close the gap to 21-17, but Ryan Currie, on his first game back, scored a crucial bonus-point try for Sarries.
Old Techs ended their three-game losing run with a 72-0 home victory over Totnes at Weston Mill on Saturday.
Techs scored 12 tries, with Dan Pullen getting four on his return to the club, but it was keeping Totnes out that also pleased them.
“Totnes did put us under a bit of pressure,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “But our defence held up and this week we did have a cutting edge.
“Totnes never let their heads dropped and kept going and I was impressed with some of our tackles to stop them and keep them at nil.
“I think we needed this win and hopefully we can push on now.”
Bedford-Smith said it was really positive for them that Totnes named their new second-rowers Ollie Davey and Lee Puleston as joint winners of the man of the match award.
As well as Pullen scoring four tries, James Douglas and Jack Williams also bagged two apiece, with Billy Evans, Jenson Baker, Rudi Baker and Ben Hocking claiming their others. Hocking also kicked four conversions and Williams two.
When Totnes did get an injury, Techs did agree to match them in numbers.
Plymstock Albion Oaks II are up to fourth in the table after they beat Tavistock II 27-7 at Sandy Park.
Oaks II have only lost once this season, while newcomers Tavistock II are still waiting for their first win.
Tomasi Keresi, Sam Luke, Connor Thomson, Nathan Akers and Scott Williams scored tries for the visitors, with Luke adding one conversion. Ben Mattey scored Tavistock II’s only try.
Plympton Victoria are still looking for their first win since returning to the league but they took plenty of positives out of a 26-0 defeat to unbeaten Dartmouth, who had put 53 points on Oaks II and 47 on Tavistock II.
“It’s probably our best losing performance of the season,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt.
“Our defence was superb. We had made a conscious decision to work on our defence and it was outstanding, but we just could not really break out.
“I am sure they probably expected to run in loads of tries, but one of the ones they did get came right at the death.
“There was a massive improvement from us and the lads defended like Lions. We just have to build on that now.
“The lads are learning and are getting to know what this league is all about.”
In Counties Three Cornwall, Saltash II enjoyed a big 63-22 home victory over Falmouth II.
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