PLYMOUTH Argaum were unable to add the Devon Junior Bowl to last season’s Counties Three Devon West title as they were beaten 31-24 by in-form Dartmouth at Wessex Way on Saturday.
The showpiece 2023 final had been delayed from April after Dartmouth reached – and won – the Papa Johns Community Cup.
Argaum, now in a division higher than Dartmouth, were left with a mountain to climb on Saturday after changing ends at half-time 25-7 behind.
They did make a game of it second half and did out-score Dartmouth on tries, but they paid a heavy price for the amount of penalties they gave away and for making too many mistakes when they did have the ball.
“We are losing the ball in contact too much,” admitted Argaum head coach Dean Avery. “But that’s probably a fault of the coaching staff for maybe not doing enough contact in training. We were just weak in the contact and spilled too many balls.
“We were also soft in defence – we didn’t organise quick enough – but all credit to Dartmouth, they wanted it more than us. You can see why they have been winning games, but we just weren’t at the races.
“We just couldn’t go through our phases. Whenever we did get the ball we gave it away cheaply. That is something we are going to look at and see where we went wrong.
“They (Dartmouth) would go through four, five or six phases and then force a penalty or an error and they deserved the win as they were the better side on the day. Fair play to Dartmouth.
“We left an awful lot of points out there, whereas they took theirs, but we can’t dwell on what happened.”
Argaum, who have only won once this term after claiming the Devon West title last season and gaining promotion to Counties Two Devon, made a promising start on Saturday, but Dartmouth defended well and then won a penalty on their first trip into Argaum’s half.
Although Jack Gordon missed that penalty the hosts kept the pressure on and three minutes later they were awarded another kickable penalty which he did put over to give his side the lead.
And minutes later it got worse for Argaum. They had an attacking line-out and initially won it, but the referee was not happy with something and so made them retake it. This time they lost the set-piece and experienced Dartmouth number eight John Dingle broke and made 45 metres before off-loading. Eventually the ball came to centre Gordon, who crossed in the left corner to put his side 8-0 up.
That became 15-0 on 19 minutes when flanker Lian Hitchcock scored from a line-out after Argaum had been penalised again.
Gordon added the conversion but he did miss a long-range penalty five minutes later.
Argaum finally got some good pressure on the half-hour mark. They were stopped illegally on the try line on 32 minutes before JJ vom Hagan did score the try they threatened two minutes later.
But after getting themselves back in the game, they immediately switched off and allowed Hitchcock to score a second try from the restart to make it 22-7.
Argaum struggled to get to grips with the referee and they conceded another penalty in injury-time which Gordon kicked to give Dartmouth, whose handling was good all day, an 18-point lead at the break.
To their credit, Argaum did come out fired up for the second period and within four minutes they had pulled a try back courtesy of hooker Darren Ewers from a good driving maul.
Dartmouth then picked up a yellow card as Argaum pressed but the visitors just kept losing the ball when it looked like they might score.
They did eventually get a third try on 60 minutes when full-back Adam McCrohan scored a stunning effort from the halfway line to make it 25-17.
Argaum needed another score then, but instead they were penalised for holding on by the referee and Sam Churchill added the three points to relieve the pressure for Dartmouth.
He then added another penalty with six minutes to go to end Argaum’s hopes. The visitors, with coach Avery coming on as a late replacement, did keep going and scored a late try courtesy of powerful centre Owen Gocher, which Jake Turfrey converted, but, frustratingly for them, the referee decided there was no time left for another play.
Meanwhile, Saltash II came from behind to beat Devonport Services III 42-33 at the Rectory in the first round of the Ellis Trophy on Saturday.
Services III had gone 19-0 in the opening 14 minutes with two tries by Tom Mullen and one from Laurence Ryan. Matty Anstis converted two of those.
But Saltash II gradually began to get their game together and play some running rugby and Pete Reis went down the left wing to touch down after 27 minutes which Billy Dover converted.
The rest of the half was fairly even and at the interval the Services III led 19-7.
The second period was only three minutes old when the home side increased their advantage with a converted try courtesy of veteran fly-half Anstis.
But this seemed to trigger a scoring spree from Saltash with tries from Dale Partington, Billy Dover and Ollie Crawford (2) before the hour. All were converted by Dover to put the visitors 35-26 ahead.
Services III closed the gap with a converted try by Connor Yeoman on 67minutes which set up an exciting and pulsating finish.
A charged down kick resulted in Devan Marshall sealing an Ashes victory with another converted try although they had to withstand late pressure close to their line from the home team.
Dover kicked all the conversions on the afternoon, while Alfie Libby also impressed for Saltash II.
Services III will now drop into the Pedrick Cup.
Tavistock II secure their first win of the season in Counties Three Devon South & West as they beat Paignton II 35-25 at Sandy Park.
Tavistock II had gone 12-0 up with tries by Rhys Hooper and Rob Grove, but Paignton II came back to take a 15-12 lead before James Lovering kicked a penalty to pull the hosts level at half-time.
Paignton went 20-15 ahead after the interval but tries by Sean Donnelly, Mack Tuckwell and Grove put Tavistock in command at 30-20.
The visitors did cut the gap but Freddie Fuller sealed the win with a penalty.
In a Merit Table game, Plymouth University III overcame OPM Jesters 39-22 at King George V Playing Fields.
The students led 15-8 at the break, with OPMs points coming from a try by prop George Harding and a penalty from replacement Smale.
The visitors extended that lead to 34-8 after the interval but the home side did make a game of it with tries by flanker James Mitchell and scrum-half Chorlick.
Elsewhere, Tavistock III were narrowly beaten 31-29 by Topsham III in a club game at Sandy Park.
Blair Vanstone, Charlie Charlton, Josh Birch, Will Carter and Aidan Mason scored tries for Tavistock III.
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