IT WASN’T particularly pretty or spectacular, but high-flying Devonport Services secured a derby victory at struggling neighbours Ivybridge on Saturday.
Services ended up triumphing 25-17 at Cross-in-Hand, which leaves them just two points behind leaders Chew Valley, who lost at Launceston.
But for second-from-bottom Ivybridge it was another game where they were left wondering what might have been.
They missed three penalty kicks at goal and failed to take a great-try scoring chance just before half-time.
When asked his views on the game, Ivybridge head coach Davy McGregor said: “The obvious thing is the amount of points we left out there.
“The game changes when there are different restart points and I think there was at least 15 points left out there. The real top teams take all those points.
“I think from our perspective, it is maybe a sign of where we are at that we just don’t have that confidence, even off the tee.
“The frustrating thing was we looked like the leading side in that game. I think we fired all the shots and really gave a good account of ourselves, but again our strength in depth is having a bit of an affect as we are picking up injuries and are having boys playing who aren’t fully fit.
“Positives are great, but we didn’t get anything out of that game.”
Services head coach Ben Russell was happy to pick up the win after losing at Cross-in-Hand in the league last year, but admitted his team were not at their best.
“They came at us, they were physical, threw into the breakdown, slowed our ball down and made it tough for us and we didn’t adapt to it,” said Russell.
“It wasn’t good, but we got four points.
“I think we made a few mistakes with our decision-making at times which cost us, but we won.
“When we got quick ball and played our rugby, they couldn’t live with us and we scored two beautiful tries and got a penalty try.
“But when they slowed it down we made the wrong decisions at times.
“We didn’t win here last year, so we will take it.”
Ivybridge had the chance to take the lead in the fifth minute but Matt Grieveson missed a penalty kick that you would have expected him to slot over.
And nine minutes later Services went in front when Matt Neyle kicked a long-range penalty from just inside his own half.
Within minutes of the restart, Ivybridge secured another penalty shot after Sam Courtney had done well to steal a Services line-out and the home side attack. However, again Grieveson missed.
The hosts lost centre Kristian Davis to a hamstring injury early on but his replacement Sam Brown came on and made a great break. He was just stopped short of the line, but Ivybridge recycled and eventually front-rower Henry Trudgill, who had a big game, managed to dive over the whitewash for the game’s opening try, which Grieveson converted.
But their lead did not last long as straight from the restart, Services attacked well and they looked certain to score on the right after good play between Tom Davies and Toby Knowles. Knowles went to off-load on the line but the ball was deliberately knocked the and the referee instantly awarded the penalty try and issued a yellow card.
Even though they were a man down, Ivybridge really put pressure on Services’ line. The visitors really had to defend hard. The hosts did get a penalty on the line, which they tapped but then knocked the ball on.
Neyle then missed a penalty after a good run by full-back Harrison Coonick, but the visitors did increase their lead on 37 minutes when hooker Aiden Taylor scored against his former club after James McFarlane had just been stopped short from a good drive. Neyle kicked the extras to make it 17-7.
It looked like Ivybridge were going to pull a try back just before the break when they attacked down the left, but Services did brilliantly to push them into touch right on the try line.
The hosts did make a dream start to the second period when number eight Adam Northcott scored in the opening minute and Grieveson added the conversion to reduce the gap to three points.
But, as so often this season, Ivybridge instantly conceded at the other end. They gathered the restart ball and kicked to touch, but Services attacked well from the line-out with Coonick making an initial break before the visitors switched it right quickly and Neyle fed Knowles, who ran in to score in the corner and make it 22-14.
The Bridgers did have a chance to reduce the gap four minutes later with another penalty but Grieveson again missed before full-back Giles Clarke was successful with a kick at goal to make it 22-17.
Neyle, who has comfortably slotted into the goal-kicking role at Services in recent weeks, made it a two-score game when he kicked a penalty on 56 minutes.
Services, who brought on Joe Daley for a final appearance before he moves to Australia, dominated the scrums second half but only got two penalties from the referee, much to their frustration.
And Ivybridge did press looking for another try to set up nerve-wracking ending, but Services defended well and ended the game pressing for a fourth try.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks claimed their biggest win of the season to go back to the top of Western West.
Oaks triumphed 45-7 at home against poor travellers Penryn on Saturday.
Penryn, who have won all their home games but not picked up a point away, actually took the lead in the opening minutes, but once Oaks got their first try of the afternoon there was no stopping them.
The hosts, unbeaten at home this season, had the bonus point in the bag by half-time and added three more tries after the interval.
“It was very good,” said Oaks coach Lewis Paterson. “I think that was more of a complete performance from us. We were just so dominant physically.
“They scored a try early on, but we weren’t phased by it and we came back and they didn’t score another point.
“We just blew them off the park really, which was great. It sends a bit of a message out.
“We are moving up each game we are playing and getting better and better.
“But we are not getting carried away. We are very much focused on just each week and making sure we rotate well.”
He added: “Penryn were a good side, they were very physical with some big ball carriers. We did score some very good broken play tries and we had a good set-piece. I think we have got a good result there against a good team.”
Alex Chapman scored two tries for Oaks, with Lewis Paterson, Duncan Bibby, Pete Keanie, Jamie Shone and Corey Jamieson also crossing the whitewash and Paterson kicking five conversions.
There was disappointment for Tavistock, who suffered their first home defeat of the season as they were beaten 16-7 by Tiverton at Sandy Park.
The loss followed on from 32-26 defeat at Bude last Saturday and it is the first time since February 2022 that Tavistock have lost two league games in a row.
Having been 10-0 down at the break, they went 13-0 behind before a George Hillson scored converted try from a tap penalty to get them back into the match. However, Tiverton kicked a late penalty to make the game safe and rob Tavistock of even a bonus point.
“Our set-piece functioned pretty good – probably as good as it has all season – and our defence was as good as it has been all season,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“So it is hard to put our finger on. We would get a bit of momentum, but then someone would just drop a straight forward pass or someone would ship on a pass they probably shouldn’t have done because they didn’t get a decent pass themselves when we should have held on to the ball and re-set and gone from there.
“The last 15 minutes we were properly in it and going for them, but we lost one or two to injuries and just came up short.”
He added: “If we had defended like that in all our other games away we may have won those games.
“It was a strange game. They didn’t appear to play that much rugby and considering we lost, our defence was outstanding, but in attack we were possibly trying to force things that weren’t on.
“It our worst losing streak for maybe two seasons. We don’t want it to carry on, but to lose two on the bounce for the first time in two seasons or whatever it might be is pretty good.
“You are not going to keep your home record forever and a day. It is what it is.
“And there were way, way more positives out of this game than at Bude where we were our own worst enemies.
“This was potentially a game that slipped away from us. On another day those passes might have stuck.”
COUNTIES TWO CORNWALL
LEADERS Saltash kept up the pace at the top of Counties Two Cornwall with a 46-0 derby win over Liskeard-Looe at Lux Park.
The Ashes produced a controlled and workmanlike performance against the Lions.
The hosts did put pressure on Saltash’s line at times, but the visiting defence held firm to claim their second successive clean-sheet.
Will Morton bagged a first half hat-trick and his first try came after just five minutes, which Ryan Cruickshanks converted before also adding a penalty not long later.
Liskeard battled hard to contain Saltash but could not stop Morton touching down following good movement in midfield.
Then Danny Snook was on hand to break through on the right wing for a try and make it 20-0 before Morton scored the final try of the first period just before the interval.
The second half started evenly and Saltash seemed to lose their momentum until the hour-mark when Devon Bennett-Murray, who was having a good game, burst through near the posts for another converted try.
Skipper Lewis Wells was leading the side as usual from the front and he charged through for a converted try on 68 minutes.
The game produced some spicy derby moments but in general was played in good spirits.
The seventh and final Ashes try came from Cruickshanks on 75 minutes after neat handling before he scored on the right wing.
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
PLYMOUTH Argaum boosted their hopes of staying in Counties Two Devon with a hard-earned 27-20 home win over fellow strugglers North Tawton.
It was a game Argaum could not really afford to lose, but they made it hard work for themselves by going 10-0 down early on.
They pulled it back to 10-10 with two tries by Adam McCrohan and Owen Gocher, but North Tawton kicked a penalty on the stroke of half-time to go 13-10 ahead and then they increased that to 20-10 after the break with a converted try.
But head coach Dean Avery brought himself on and he got a try before Al Sullivan and Gocher added further scores to secure the five points.
“We manage to pick up the win, which was good, but we made hard work of it,” admitted head coach Avery.
“But it was a lot better second half performance again, like last week.
“We got a bonus point win and hopefully it is the first of a few.
“If we want to stay in this league, which we all want to do, then we knew we needed a result. It was disappointing to give them a point, but we pulled through and got the bonus-point win, which I and the club are delighted about.
“Our forwards again were outstanding. We had a lot of driving mauls, won a lot of scrums against the head so our forwards are really functioning, but we cannot be conceding points like we are if we want to compete in this league and finish mid-table.”
Argaum have another big game next weekend against city rivals OPMs.
They are only three points behind the Old Boys now after OPMs narrowly lost 17-16 to bottom side Ivybridge II, who had one of their strongest sides out of the season.
In a tight first half, OPMs had gone 3-0 up in the ninth minute with a penalty by Matt Smale.
But on the stroke of half-time Ivybridge pulled level with a penalty of their own.
After the break, OPMs were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes and Ivybridge took advantage to score a converted try and go 10-3 up.
Smale reduced the gap with a penalty but another Ivybridge try put them 17-6 ahead.
With 13 minutes to go, OPMs were awarded a penalty try at a scrum and Ivybridge were reduced to 14 for 10 minutes.
Smale kicked another penalty and right at the death OPMs had a great chance with a scrum on Ivybridge’s line, but the hosts were penalised for a slip and the visitors kicked out and won the line-out, which ended the game.
“It was a frustrating one, but it’s rugby – you win some, you lose some,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt.
“I think that was an 80-minute game of rugby where we must have spent 60 or 70 minutes scrummaging. There were a lot of scrums.
“We were dominant in the scrums and got a penalty try from one, but our discipline killed us again.
“That was the strongest team they have put out this year, but people always turn up against us. We knew that was going to happen, but unfortunately we couldn’t see it out.”
Devonport Services II have moved to the top of the division without even playing.
They were handed a home walkover by Exmouth II, who did field a third team on Saturday, while previous leaders Torquay Athletic were beaten 16-12 away at Withycombe.
TAMAR Saracens’ unbeaten start to the season was ended when title-rivals Dartmouth scored a last-gasp try to beat them 14-10 at the Parkway.
Sarries who scored two unconverted tries were leading 10-7 with a minute to go before Dartmouth snatched the four points at the death.
“The boys were gutted afterwards,” admitted Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge.
“It was very frustrating, but we just have to build again and move on. It’s still all to play for.”
He added: “We spent 25-30 minutes in their 22 in the second half but did not convert anything and we didn’t capitalise when they had two players sin-binned within the space of five minutes.
“Our game-management should have been better, but you could not fault the heart and desire.”
Sarries, playing only their second game since September, got a great start with a try by Frazer Tatchell following a kick and chase.
Dartmouth hit back with a converted try by Arran Watkins, but then Reece Boase restored Sarries lead with another unconverted try. And it stayed at 10-7 until the final minute when Jack Gordon sprinted over in the corner.
Sarries do have a game in hand on Dartmouth, which if they won with a bonus point would only leave them one point behind their rivals.
Plympton Victoria made it two wins in a row with a comprehensive 41-12 success over bottom side Totnes.
Plym Vic, who last week had beaten Tavistock II, only led 10-0 at half-time thanks to tries by Chris Barrett and Kobe Bryant, but they produced an impressive second half display where they ran in five tries.
Harry Towle bagged a hat-trick after the interval, with Ryan Markwick and debutant Ronan Cons also crossing. Jordan Blair kicked three conversions.
“It was a brilliant day at the office,” said Plym Vic chairman Chris Hunt.
“We are improving and moving on.
“I think the lads are starting to have a bit of confidence about what they can do as a team and it is nice to see them growing.
“The good thing this week is when we made silly mistakes we manage to get the rub of the green.
“It’s just nice to pick up a couple of wins – and wins that we have earned. This is our first time back in the league and it’s great to have a couple of wins under our belt.”
Both clubs were keen to praise Jamie Hough for agreeing to step in and referee the match after they were left with no official.
Old Techs’ four-match winning run came to an end on Saturday when they were beaten 38-20 away at Torquay Athletic II.
Techs did at least pick up a bonus point for scoring four tries courtesy of two from Billy Evans and one apiece from James Bothma and Sion Norvill.
“Torquay said that was their best backline they’ve had out all season,” said Old Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “And they did have some pacey boys out the back.
“Our scrum was outstanding and we were driving them back all day, but they just had too much pace in their backs.
“We knew we didn’t have a backline this week, instead we had 15 forwards available. We had a makeshift backline and it showed.
“But we got a bonus point and we can’t be too disappointed as it was all pretty positive. You couldn’t fault anyone. Everyone fronted up and it was a good game of rugby, which both teams enjoyed.”
Plymstock Albion Oaks II took a strong team to high-flying Brixham II but were narrowly beaten 25-17.
Matt Jackson scored two tries for the visitors, with Miti Caqara also crossing on his return from suspension, while Sam Luke added a conversion.
As well as Jackson and Caqara, Oaks II’s squad also included Ryan Wills, Owen Koehler, Ben Ross, Sini Manu and Olly Whitfield, who have all featured in the first team this season.
They also handed a debut to Macdonald Lewis.
Captain Stu Collyer said: “With a bit more discipline, a bit of luck, and more time together as a squad, we’ll trouble a lot of teams this season and continue to cause some upsets.
“The squad are really getting behind Lewis Paterson and Tom Richards and training’s been great, and it’s starting to show with the first flying, and the seconds playing some fantastic rugby.”
In the same division, Tavistock II were beaten 53-12 by a strong Salcombe side, who included former Albion player Eoghan Grace and ex-Ivybridge players Jordan Anderton and Dom Loomes in their line-up. Andy Yates and Freddie Fuller scored Tavistock II’s tries.
In Counties Three Cornwall, Saltash II put up a good showing at home to Camborne II before losing 29-17.
In a club match, Devonport Services III beat the University of Plymouth III 22-5 at Stonehouse Creek.
Simon Jones, Paddy Hutchings and Ben Wadham scored tries in the first half for Services who led 17-0 at the break.
After the interval Tony Sibley added another try to put his side 22-0 up before the university scored a consolation effort.
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