Services edge narrow win to move up to fourth in the table
Bude…12 Devonport Services…13
DEVONPORT Services moved up to fourth place in the division with a morale-boosting win at resurgent Bude – and helped neighbours Tavistock into the bargain.
Tavistock did not play on Saturday, their pitch being one of the numerous victims of torrential downpours on Friday night, but relegation rivals Bude's defeat keeps them within the sights of Mike Lewis' second-bottom team.
Services head coach Bryan Crichton admitted they had worked hard on the training ground to improve different aspects of their game after their lacklustre defeat by title-hunting Bideford on their own patch last weekend and a previous loss at Truro.
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That defeat broke Services' run of wins this season at The Rectory, but Crichton was delighted with the commitment at Bude, whose recent scalps have included leaders St Austell.
Crichton said afterwards: "It was an absolutely great result, because there are not many teams who will come to Bude and go away with a losing bonus point, let alone a win.
"All right, we didn't get a winning bonus point, but our past couple of games haven't been the best and we put in a good performance against a team who are difficult to play against at home.
"We lost (forward) Jason Stead before the game, but we moved things around a bit and I have to say our forward line did an excellent job.
"In training, we've been working mainly on ball retention and it seemed to pay off."
Crichton got his tactics spot on, as having won the toss, Services elected to attack up the slope of Bude's seaside pitch, which left the Cornish side having to battle the conditions, the slope and a resolute Services defence in the second.
A try by John Mellor, with a conversion by Matt Anstis and two further penalties from the Services kicker was enough to keep the visitors' noses in front.
Crichton added: "The good thing is that we only had four or five penalties against us and that was for things like offside, rather than at the break-down.
"When we lost at Truro, the number of penalties against us must have been in the 20s. I am over the moon."
The win puts Services 16 points shy of third-placed Torpoint Athletic, who they play at The Rectory on Saturday.
Meanwhile at Tavistock – as at many other pitches around Devon and Cornwall – it was a case of new year, same old weather.
Tavvy's first-team pitch at Sandy Park was unplayable after uncountable gallons of rain and although prospective opponents Kingsbridge arrived at the ground and we offered the chance to play on the club's old first-team pitch, they probably wisely declined.
However, Services' win at third-bottom Bude means Tavistock are now only three points shy of getting out of the relegation zone.
Ivybridge were due to play at Wellington, but the match was postponed, again because of a waterlogged pitch.
Senior coach Neil Thomson admitted he was now worried that the Bridgers' own pitch at Cross-in-Hand might not be ready in time for Thursday night's Devon Intermediate cup clash against Plymouth side OPMs, a match which has already been postponed twice.
Thomson was watching the second team play at home with the idea of giving some of less-used squad the opportunity to strut their stuff on Thursday night against an OPMs side who will be well up for the game.
One player coming back from a lengthy spell of injury, second-rower Dom Loomes, impressed Thomson to the point where he will almost certainly be in the frame to start on Thursday – if the game goes ahead.
He said: "It is frustrating that we didn't play against Wellington, because with the Christmas break, we've had one match in the last three or four weeks. I hope the game does go ahead on Thursday, because we want to give a couple of our players a chance to see what they can do."
While the Western Counties division lost two games to the weather, the situation was rather bleaker in the Cornwall-Devon League, where only two from seven matches were played.
Plymouth Barbarians' match at leaders St Ives went to the wall early because the city side could not raise enough forwards, but waterlogged pitches also claimed Saltash's game at Withycombe, Liskeard-Looe's match at Crediton and OPMs' trip to Tiverton.
Wessex against Newquay Hornets also went to the wall, with only Falmouth against Hayle and Teignmouth versus Pirates Amateurs going ahead.
Because of soaking grounds, OPMs have had problems getting a training session in, let alone playing a match.
Assistant head coach Steve Luffman said the team decided on a training session on Saturday as opposed to having the day off.
He said: "We just haven't been able to train, so we've managed to get a slot at the 3G (all weather) surface at Plymouth Albion for tomorrow.
"With that and Thursday's game against Ivybridge under our belts, we should be all right for Saturday (against Wessex)."