Western Counties West: Tavistock boost survival hopes with 43-8 win against Kingsbridge
IF A VISITOR from another planet crashed his flying saucer next to Sandy Park – and if he had survived to watch Saturday's game – he would have undoubtedly concluded Tavistock are on their way to a second successive promotion and Kingsbridge are clinging on to Western Counties rugby for grim death.
The reality is, of course, practically the reverse. It is Tavvy who are in the bottom two and Kingsbridge who are, in theory, safely tucked up in mid-table – although they may be looking over their shoulders a tad after the pasting they received in west Devon.
It helped, obviously, that head coach Mike Lewis has signed centre Kyle Browne, who unexpectedly left National Three South West side Brixham – where he was their top try scorer – and who has promised to help his old mate out until the end of the season.
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Browne, on his first start, nailed a try hat-rick, with man-of-the-match Duncan Law adding two tries and Dan Oner and kicker and scrum-half Ewan Smith getting one apiece.
The ex-Brixham and Devonport Services man took less than four minutes to register his first. Kingsbridge, who looked a little like they were already on their post-season holidays, put over a try and a penalty but were never at the races. It comes as no great surprise they have not won in their last eight matches, a far worse record than Tavistock, who had won at Okehampton three matches previously.
The visitors got as close as 12-8 after Browne and Smith struck, but Law's try just before the break gave Tavvy a comfort zone of 17-8 at the break before the flanker cantered over for his second of the match shortly after the restart.
Impressive centre Viliame Masirewa, back in the side after an extended period overseas with Her Majesty's forces, created the next touchdown when he stole a Kingsbridge ball 25 yards out and handed off to Tavvy winger Charlie Furnival.
Furnival battered his way forward, then gave the ball to Browne, who had too much pace and power for the Kingsbridge defence and finished the move off with aplomb.
Tavistock were 29-8 ahead, but not yet home and hosed. On one of the few occasions Kingsbridge managed to open up a stingy home defence, they appeared to have scored. But a timely tackle by Furnival edged a goal-line bound visitor into touch within falling distance of a try.
That was the last alarm call Tavistock had to respond to, captain Doug Lloyd creating an opening for Browne, his try killing off any prospect of a Kingsbridge revival. Smith, who had replaced the absent Richard West as extra points kicker, was taken off with an arm injury, but Tavistock finished the job when second-row Dan Toner took the ball out of the defence, sprinted 45 yards and finished emphatically under the posts.
Head coach Lewis was glowing – and not just with the cold – after a victory which could yet provide a platform for his side's great escape.
Lewis, however, refused to look any further than the next match, which happens to be Wellington at home next Saturday.
He said: "We've set ourselves short-term goals, which is the next match and longer-term goals, which is staying up. If we can play some good rugby, get a few wins and stay in this league, then that will be great. But as I said last season, when we won the Cornwall-Devon League, we take each match as it comes, then go on to the next."
Lewis added: "I was pleased with the side on Saturday – everyone, from one to 18, went out there and gave 100 per cent and more. Throughout this season, we've been looking for a bit extra and it came here.
"The people I was really pleased for were the players who are always at training, who are the core of the club and I'm proud of them."
IVYBRIDGE threw away a chance of taking a huge step towards confirming their league status next season by succumbing to the acute lack of concentration which has bedeviled their last two home matches.
When Ivybridge are good, they are very, very good. When they switch off, they invariably lose matches. Against Bude a fortnight ago, they switched off after putting themselves into a commanding position. Against Truro, they had the game won until they lost focus just before the final whistle, which cost them a two tries and a four-point victory.
Ivybridge were 5-0 down and then 10-0 down, before Adam Bradley pulled them back into the match with a penalty just before the before the break.
Head of rugby Paul Setter and senior coach Neil Thomson put their points of view across in a robust fashion during the interval and a different Ivybridge came out of the huddle.
This Ivybridge, as opposed to their first-half persona, scored an unconverted try through a chance set up by excellent second-row George Wilson, which winger George de Mendonca finished off. Then Tommy Newman and Matt Grieveson concocted an opportunity for full-back Tom Scoles. Scoles, who had been off the field injured for 20 minutes, gobbled up the chance.
Bradley converted to give his side a 15-13 lead, then added a penalty for good measure. Dan Barnard went over for another converted try to increase Ivy's advantage to 23-13. That should have been that.
Truro, however, scored a converted try to level the scores, then did it again just before the final whistle sounded.
While Ivybridge aren't in relegation trouble yet by any means, they are still one of a group of teams warily eyeing the improving fortunes of Tavistock, Exeter Saracens and Bude.
Senior coach Thomson admitted: "That was probably our worst first-half performance of the season.
"For whatever reason, we weren't there on Saturday. We had the game won, then we switched off like we were playing the first half all over again.
"It was frustrating, because I had Truro targeted as a team we could have won against and it was a game that should not have got away from us in the second half."
Thomson, however, was convinced his young team – some of them are as young as 18 – would get it right.
He said: "We'll get back to training tomorrow and Thursday and get ready for Exeter Saracens next weekend."