Ruthless Bridgers keep to the script to book passage in cup
AS rehearsals go for their Western Counties West clash with second-place Okehampton in three weeks' time, Ivybridge got this one pretty well word perfect.
One of the fastest-improving sides in the division had far too much for a team which is perennially there or thereabouts when the race for the league title hots up in the second half of the season.
Ivybridge stuck to their script with ruthless efficiency, while Okehampton seemed to stumble over their lines.
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Of course, the league match will be a completely different game as Okes were clearly not at full strength. Be assured, they will want to expunge what turned into a humiliating defeat when the two sides do it all again in 19 days' time.
Ivybridge, playing in front of a pretty hefty home crowd at Cross-in-Hand, claimed first blood with an Adam Bradley penalty. Bradley added a second to make it 6-0, then Ivybridge shocked their high-flying visitors by scoring the first try of the game.
The Bridgers were clearly on top of the situation, although Okehampton made one or two half-hearted forays into their territory. The home side underlined their superiority when number nine Ben Watts expertly controlled a scrum 10 metres from Okehampton's goal-line and fed the ball right to Mike Cox, who moved it on to full-back Tom Scoles.
Scoles, who is having a season made in heaven, battered and spun his way through several Okehampton tacklers and fell over the visitors' goal-line right under the posts. Bradley couldn't miss the conversion and didn't as his team took a 13-0 lead.
Okehampton, belatedly alerted to the possibility they were in for a right hammering, put some pressure on the Ivybridge line, but the home defence never looked like bending, let alone breaking.
From the clearance, Scoles won the ball and charged forward, swapping passes with winger Liam Healey en route to a surging try scored from some 40 metres out. Bradley added the conversion to give the Bridgers a 20-0 lead.
Better was come, at least in the visual sense, a few moments later. Okehampton put the squeeze on Ivybridge's defence, who promptly stole the ball back in their own 22 and started a march towards the other end of the field.
After numerous Okehampton tackles which hindered the Bridgers' progress up the park, fly-half Luke Martell clearly got bored with it all, picked up the ball and scored a scorching drop-goal from inside his own half.
Okehampton were shaken out of their apparent lethargy and tried to get something off the stingy Ivybridge defence before half-time – and maybe should have done.
With their hosts' goal line invitingly close, the visitors knocked the ball on when all they had to do was hold onto it to score, then went through the same painful process not a minute later.
With Okehampton twice fluffing their lines just before the break, Ivybridge went for their jugular after it.
The home side demonstrated they have strength as well as subtlety when their pack drove second-rower Cox over from 10 metres out for his first try of the game.
Bradley missed his conversion attempt, but Cox repeated his scoring feat several minutes later for the centre to have another go. This time, his kick was spot on, giving the Bridgers a 35-0 lead and effectively the game.
In between the try scoring, Ivybridge second-rower George Wilson was yellow-carded for an offence in front of the referee as Okehampton turned up their aggression a notch.
And Scoles was taken out of the action with a crunching hit which damaged his shoulder as he battled for a loose ball. Okehampton, meanwhile, got a try back in exactly the same position where they'd muffed two opportunities in the first half, but missed the conversion.
Hurrah for the new rolling replacements rule, which allowed Scoles back onto the pitch after he'd put his body back together again.
Scoles homed in on a cute Martell kick through the Okehampton defence, beat his pursuers to the ball, showed brains as well as brawn to boot it over the visitors' try line and jumped on top of it to record a well-deserved hat-trick. One of Okehampton's players was binned for following up on the hat-trick hero's prone body with his boot.
Bradley missed the conversion, but as the referee blew up shortly afterwards to end the match, that wasn't a matter for grief.
If Okehampton had started with a few players light, senior coach Neil Thomson pointed out Ivybridge had done exactly the same thing to give some of their squad players some game time.
"We've got a good depth of players," said Thomson. "We've sidelined some players who wanted to play and gave them a rest so we could give some of the other lads a run-out. The fact is, though, we've got a good squad now of 22-23 players."
Thomson also pointed out that, although Ivybridge have won five from their last six games, they have a tough three weeks coming up against some difficult teams.
He said: "We've got Kingsbridge, then Torquay and then Okehampton in the league. Okehampton will be a different game to this one. But we've had a great month and the team's happy."
Meanwhile, city side OPMs got through to the second round without having to make a tackle in anger and are now set to play Ivybridge.
The newly-promoted Cornwall-Devon team had been due to visit league leaders Teignmouth, but their opponents handed them the tie because they were unable to raise a front-row.
OPMs' assistant head coach Steve Luffman had mixed feelings about reaching the next round without taking on the team which put 60 points on them earlier in the season.
He said: "We are disappointed, because we were going to give a lot of our squad players a chance to make a claim to play for the first team. We also had people coming back from injury, like Justin Morton, who we were going to play at number 10.
"But having the weekend off so we can concentrate on the league and staying up this season is probably not a bad thing, either."