Western Counties West: Devonport Services' defence holds firm to secure 15-8 win against Okehamton
Devonport Services…15 Okehampton…8
SAY WHAT you like about Devonport Services, but the one thing they excel at is keeping their supporters glued to the edge of their seats.
The city side could have crushed Okehampton in the first half – they set up so many chances their domination was almost embarrassing – but didn't.
Instead, a nerve-shredding second period saw two of their players sin-binned, the referee – for some reason – resorting to uncontested scrums and a colossal defensive effort by Services to keep out an Okehampton side who played with the air of men who had narrowly avoided a first-half train wreck and were determined to make the most of it.
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Winger Ben McGowan, a one-man wrecker of trains, almost smashed through on the right as early as the fifth minute before Services regathered the ball and set up forward Phil Wilson for a close-range try which fly-half Charlie Attis converted.
Attis, back in the Services ranks after a period a spent travelling, had earlier nailed a penalty to give his side a 3-0 lead and proceeded to expertly pull the strings with his right boot as Devonport threatened to go on the rampage.
A particularly cute Attis cross-field kick from the right almost found an onrushing colleague as Devonport spent most of the half in Okehampton territory but only had a 10-0 lead at the interval to show for it.
Make no mistake about it, though, Okehampton are far from pushovers. With the advantage of a pack roughly the size of a car transporter, Okes began to shove their hosts around in midfield and dug a toe-hold in the game as Services conceded far too many penalties trying to get the ball back.
Services spent nearly 12 minutes defending their goal-line from the Okehampton juggernaut in a classic example of an unstoppable missile hitting an immovable object.
The object in question, Services' defence, eventually did give way as Okes forced over a try, but missed their conversion attempt.
Devonport, however, are masters of the lightning strike and set up a quick break on the right as, for once in the second period, they got into Okehampton's half. A neat lay-off 10 metres out found Attis, who streaked over the Okes' line as though his life depended on it.
Attis missed the conversion, but his try gave Services a 10-point lead. It was Services' awesome defence which restricted Okehampton to just a penalty after that and although the visitors were given the benefit of five minutes' overtime to play with, the home side stood firm to keep themselves in fourth place in the table.
Head coach Bryan Crichton rightly praised his defence, saying: "The win was a good one – we knew it was going to be a hard game from when we played at their place earlier in the season.
"But the guys ground out a win on what could have been a depressing day. We defended a lot – Okehampton had the majority of the possession – but you couldn't fault what our guys did. They kept their heads and played what was in front of them.
"When we turned around 10-0 up, I felt pretty comfortable – maybe a bit too comfortable and that got to the lads, as we ended up defending most of the second half. But we worked hard and that's all I can ask for."
TAVISTOCK boss Mike Lewis confessed himself a frustrated head coach after his side undeservedly lost at Truro in the game's last play.
The home side were awarded a contentious penalty right under Tavistock's posts after flanker Duncan Law – wrongly, in Lewis' opinion – was adjudged to have committed an offence as he won the ball for his side.
Truro, of course, couldn't miss and Lewis said afterwards: "Even Truro weren't sure why they got the penalty. They thought it was the final whistle and they were saying to us 'Good draw, boys'.
"When they realised they had been given a penalty, they were asking if the referee was sure. The worst thing for me, though, was that (back) Danny Luffman went down earlier with a suspected broken ankle and the ref tried to continue play around him as we were trying to get a stretcher to him."
Tavistock, who are scrapping for every available point to stay out of the division's drop zone, gained a valuable losing bonus point and are five points clear of second-bottom Exeter Saracens, who lost 30-5 against Kingsbridge.
But Lewis said: "It wasn't the game I was so worried about, it was Danny Luffman. You can always tell when somebody's in real agony and I thought he didn't look too bad. Hopefully, it's only ligaments and not so serious as we thought. I have to say, though, I was very disappointed in the refereeing."
Winger Charlie Furnival scored Tavistock's try, while the rest of the moorlanders' points were kicked by fly-half Richard West.
IVYBRIDGE, who have been looking over their shoulders at the relegation slog beneath them, are now surely safe from the drop after a convincing win on the mud-bath which is basement side Honiton's pitch.
The Bridgers followed up their must-win victory over lowly Exeter Saracens last week with two tries from Liam Healey and one each from George DeMendonca, Justin Rogers, Dan Burnard and Tommy Newman. Matt Grieveson added a conversion off a surface which made it difficult to lift the ball out of the mud.
On-off rain turned Honiton's pitch into a quagmire, which frustrated Ivybridge's attempts to play their usual brand of expansive rugby.
But head of rugby Paul Setter was more than happy with the performance of his young team. He said: "I'm very pleased. Honiton's one of the places we always have on our minds – they beat (high-flying) Torquay Athletic on their own pitch and it's always a difficult place to come to.
"Our lads did very well – we've got players in there like George DeMendonca and George Wilson who are 18 and they had excellent games. Tom Scoles, who was probably the oldest player in our side at 22, had another really good game.
"To be honest, despite the conditions, we were always in control of the game and I never really had any doubt about the final result."