November 22nd 2014 BRIXHAM 25 NEWTON ABBOT 22
Rugby is an 80 minute game, and, not for the first time this season, the Fishermen used the last one to good effect. Victory in the local derby kept them in second place in the League but a sterner test awaits next week when they visit Redingensians, the current leaders.
An early penalty put the All Whites ahead but Brixham soon struck back. After winning a Newton lineout on the left the ball sped out to the other flank where winger Jonny Brown dashed in for a try.
Newton promptly regained the lead with a converted try. The game swung from end to end as the first half went on. A penalty apiece kept the scoreboard moving.
Brixham were denied a try when the ball was knocked on over the line but another penalty goal reduced their arrears to just two points.
The final ten minutes of the half belonged to Newton whose forwards threatened the Brixham line. Outside-half Martin Worthington was sinbinned as the Fishermen defended valiantly but Newton slotted two penalties to give them a 19-11 lead at the break.
Playing down the slope in the second half Brixham started strongly and after just three minutes had the deficit down to a single point. After the forwards were held up short of the line scrum-half Andy Sandercock darted through for a try which he also converted.
The momentum was not maintained and for the next twenty minutes play was almost all in the Brixham half. The defensive task was made no easier after lock Adam Thomas was judged to have put in a high, and dangerous, tackle. The red card ensured he played no further part in the game.
Twenty minutes of attacking earned Newton just a solitary penalty goal and with 15 minutes left they were just four points ahead.
Despite being a man short, Brixham attacked for most of the remaining time. On occasions they came close to crossing the try line but were held short. Newton often infringed in defending but a penalty goal would have been insufficient for Brixham.
"Never say die" has become something of a catchphrase for the Fishermen and the last move of the game saw Brown again over in the corner. In truth he grounded the ball short but it bounced up backwards and winger Matt Crosscombe caught and dived over. Perhaps they should share the honours as the referee's hand was up for the try before Crosscombe touched down!
From the touchline Ben Lovell slotted the conversion despite losing his footing in the process. The final whistle followed immediately and then the loudest cheers heard at Astley Park for years.
15th November 2014 HORNETS 25 BRIXHAM 30
Hornets used to be old adversaries of Brixham so this was a case of renewed rivalry. After a period in the doldrums Hornets have rebuilt and after two promotions have proved to be one of the surprise packages in the League this season. Brixham expected a stern test and got it!
Brixham were in the lead after five minutes. From a promising position in front of the posts they fainted right but changed direction and went out to the left where winger Matt Crosscombe went over. The strong wind did nothing to help the kickers and Ben Lovell missed the conversion.
With play ebbing back and forth penalties were traded before Hornets used their powerful pack to take the lead. A maul from over 20 metres out ended with a converted try. With Hornets now beginning to get the upper hand it got worse for Brixham. Powerful running and passing stretched Brixham one way and then the other before a long pass set up their second try ten minutes before the break.
Brixham regained some initiative in that time and had their hosts pegged back. Lovell missed a penalty attempt but made up for it with a successful one to leave Brixham trailing 15-11 at the break.
Immediately from the restart Brixham were penalised and the gap was out to seven points again. Brixham pressed forward and Hornets earned a yellow card in defending. A lineout was followed by a maul and the pack rumbled over for hooker Chey Bryce to ground the ball. Jonny Brown took over the kicking duties but failed to add the extras.
Within five minutes Hornets had extended their lead to nine points. Brixham had lost Brown to the sin-bin and Hornets set up a maul from the penalty and resulting lineout. After making good ground the ball was released and, taking the ball at pace, their winger was in under the posts for an easily converted try.
The final 25 minutes were all about Brixham battering away at the Hornets' defence. To no avail. Scrum-half Andy Sandercock took over the kicking but two penalty goals were missed. The clock was ticking down but Brixham maintained the effort.
Less than ten minutes and it looked as though Hornets were going to maintain their 18 month unbeaten home record.
Centre Tom McLean made the breakthrough. After eluding tacklers the defence seemingly parted to allow him through; the cover defence could not reach him in time to prevent his try. Sandercock converted to leave Brixham two points behind and the likely consolation of a losing bonus point.
More Brixham pressure, more heroic defence by the homesters. When the referee called "last play" Hornets had the ball at a ruck and only needed it to go into touch for victory. The kick was poor, Jonny Brown charged it down and recovered it. Brought down just short the ball was released quickly to centre Martin Worthington who crashed over for the Fishermen's fourth try. Sandercock converted with the final kick.
Brixham and their supporters were ecstatic with victory from the jaws of defeat.
8th November 2014 BARNSTAPLE 10 BRIXHAM 15
The Fishermen progressed to the semi-finals of the Devon Cup after a hard-fought victory in North Devon. Injuries and unavailabilities forced several changes to both teams.
Brixham had the strong wind, and intermittent rain, at their backs in the first half. The opening five minutes developed into a game of aerial ping-pong as the kickers practised their arts. This ended when Barnstaple were penalised and winger Jonny Brown secured the points from long range.
Brixham then started to enjoy more territorial advantage and extended their lead ten minutes later. As he had when the two sides last met, hooker Chey Bryce got the opening try. Picking up the ball 20 metres out he shrugged off tackles as he powered to the line. Brown's conversion attempt went wide; deflected by a rushing Barnstaple player.
Almost twenty-five minutes of, for the most part, Brixham pressure saw them close to scoring but unrewarded. A scrum in the Barum 22 provided the platform for the second try. Jarryd Harris, back from injury at No 8 broke off the base, centre Dean Squire continued the move before passing to fellow centre Tom McLean who used his strength to go over in the corner. Brown landed the difficult conversion.
Barnstaple were now 15 points behind but started to string phases together and started to test the Brixham defence. On the stroke of halftime they were camped on the Brixham line. From a tap penalty their forwards drove for the line but when it was released full-back Will Topps emerged from their midst to dive over.
The missed conversion left the hosts ten points behind at the break but with the elements in their favour in the second period, and their tails up, turning the deficit around was clearly achievable.
In the opening ten minutes of the second half Brixham were largely confined to their own 22 and defending valiantly. When their forwards had failed to score the ball went wide and winger Linford Brock touched down in the corner.
Further Barnstaple pressure, and occasional break-outs by Brixham, was the pattern of the second half. A yellow card for Squire put additional pressure on the Brixham defence but it held firm. As the time ticked down Barnstaple began to tire and Brixham started to push them back. The final ten minutes saw Brixham come close to extending their lead and they closed the game out in the Barnstaple half.
November 1st 2014 BRIXHAM 27 BRACKNELL 26
Brixham remain fourth in the League, on points difference, after a thrilling encounter with their Berkshire opponents. Bracknell were one of the pre-season promotion favourites and clearly felt that this was "the game that got away".
Despite playing uphill and into the strong crosswind, Brixham got off to a flying start with a try in the first minute. A strong run by lock Luke Maggs set up a ruck on the Bracknell 22; swift hands then took it out to the left wing where Matt Crosscombe had the space to go over.
A penalty for Bracknell from long range was quickly followed by one for Brixham from winger Jonny Brown. A second try for the Fishermen rounded out the opening ten minutes. From a lineout on halfway Brixham moved the ball across the pitch at speed; Brown took it close before off-loading to Crosscombe to go over in the right corner.
Bracknell now began to show their strength and pressure on the Brixham defence brought another penalty. This was missed but was soon followed by a converted try when a neatly angled run took them through the centre of the defence.
The Brixham lead was down to three points and a penalty each left it that way. More Brixham attacking brought a third try when flanker Scott Puleston was propelled over the line from a lineout catch and drive. The conversion was missed and Bracknell reduced the deficit with a penalty on the stroke of halftime.
Leading 21-16 at the break, and with the wind and slope in their favour in the second half, Brixham might have felt that the hard work had been done. In National League rugby nothing is ever that simple.
Attacking from the restart, Brixham won an early penalty but Ben Lovell, having taken over the kicking duties, missed the chance. Minutes later the lead changed hands. A neat chip over the Brixham defence was recovered by the visitors for a converted try.
When Lovell knocked over a penalty from the halfway line Brixham recovered a slim lead and another penalty, after a spell of attacking, extended it. When Bracknell were reduced to 14 men after a yellow card, Brixham might have made that advantage count. Bracknell played out the period keeping the ball alive through numerous phases and Brixham were starved of possession.
Despite their pressure, Bracknell could find no way through and their only reward was another penalty goal. Restored to a full complement they continued to threaten. Another penalty, in front of the posts, would have given them the lead but was missed.
In the final five minutes Brixham relieved the pressure on their line by mounting attacks of their own but were held out. Bracknell's final chance came from an attack started deep in their own half. Only a last ditch tackle from Brown prevented a try. Bracknell were penalised at an ensuing ruck and it was game over.
October 25th 2014 CHARD 27 BRIXHAM 31
South Somerset is somewhat unknown territory for the Fishermen. Despite having lost their first seven games Chard were buoyed by a shoal of returning, and new, players and hoped to kickstart their season. Their compact town-centre ground was not suited to Brixham's style of play and they made the Fishermen struggle until the very end.
Territorially Brixham dominated the game but the well-organised Chard defence held the fluent back division while in the set-pieces honours were more or less even.
Brixham were behind after just two minutes when Chard attacked down the left and scored a converted try. Brixham then spent almost the whole of the first period in the Chard half. Opportunities to trouble the scoreboard with penalty goals were turned down in the hunt for the greater rewards of tries. Handling errors and mistakes at scrums and lineouts enabled Chard to clear their lines.
With half time approaching the hosts sallied into Brixham territory and with a two-man overlap should have scored their second try. They did not and the penalty Brixham conceded in defence was also missed. Further attacking made up for these lapses, however. A chip over the Brixham defence brought a try and the conversion brought the half-time whistle.
Fourteen points adrift and stern words from the coaches during the break. Brixham attacked from the kick off and virtually set up camp in the Chard 22. Eight minutes in and they got a breakthrough. A 5 metre lineout and drive powered over the line. Flanker Scott Puleston grounded the ball beneath the pile of bodies; fly-half Ben Lovell added the conversion and the deficit was halved.
Chard responded immediately and mounted an attack from the restart. Their reward was a penalty goal but this was a mere hiccup in the Brixham comeback.
A second try for the Fishermen soon followed. From a scrum close to the Chard line the ball was released and Matt Crosscombe, off his wing, looped behind and crashed over.
Further attacking saw prop Russ Morris brought down inches short of the line and No 8 Sam Thomas denied a try for a forward pass. Chard were under continuous pressure but defended well but the short range drive by Brixham prop Declan Sexton was unstoppable. His try, and winger Jonny Brown's conversion, put Brixham ahead for the first time.
The Fishermen could not hold onto the lead, A couple of strong rolling mauls took Chard deep into Brixham territory and a penalty goal regained the lead. Five minutes later they extended it when an astute kick through resulted in them scoring a try. The conversion left Brixham eight points behind with as many minutes to play.
Staring down the barrel of defeat the Fishermen pressed forwards. A quickly taken tap penalty in the centre went wide for centre Tom McLean to go over in the corner. The conversion was missed and Brixham still trailed.
Time enough to launch more attacks but Brixham left it desperately late. The referee called "last play" and Brixham had another penalty. A kick would have meant a draw but from the tap Morris went through with the added power of Trae Gosling behind him. Brown converted and the final whistle sounded.
Chard were stunned, Brixham mightily relieved.
October 18th 2014 WESTON-s-MARE 19 BRIXHAM 29
Brixham were far from their best at Weston's Recreation Ground but had far more firepower than their hosts and have now moved up to third place in the league.
In the first quarter Brixham enjoyed virtually no possession and spent almost all the time in their own half. Two penalties gave Weston the lead, and they probably thought they deserved more.
Brixham roused themselves. The first real attack resulted in a 5m scrum and centre Tom McLean made inroads in the middle. Quickly recycled the ball went out to the right where winger Jonny Brown crossed for a try.
Five minutes later and the Fishermen were back on the attack. A Weston clearance kick was recovered on halfway and Tom Goodman set off. His looped pass found centre Tom McLean in space and with Brown in support he ran straight through the final tackle before touching down
Another five minutes and the third try. A five metre lineout gave Brixham the platform and when lock Trae Gosling was brought down inches short of the line, prop Declan Sexton picked the ball un and dived over for his maiden try. Into the wind, Ben Lovell missed all three conversions.
Before halftime he re-found his kicking boots to slot a penalty goal. One in reply for Weston left the Fishermen 18-9 ahead at the break.
The second half began with Weston again dominating proceedings without any reward. Ten minutes in and Brixham struck again. Prop Kyle Mason and flanker Ronny Hannaford contributed textbook passes to move the ball to McLean who crossed in the corner. Yet again Lovell missed the conversion.
Weston strung a number of phases together before scoring an unconverted try to keep their hopes alive. Lovell subdued them somewhat with a penalty goal but Brixham found themselves under real pressure when two yellow cards in quick succession reduced their numbers for almost ten minutes. The defence held firm and with the final whistle approaching Brixham had the game won.
Goodman was denied a try when the referee deemed the ball held up. A third Lovell penalty extended the Brixham lead and another try went missing when Gosling fumbled the ball.
Weston scored a late consolation try but their afternoon was summed up by the conversion coming back off the crossbar.
October 11th 2014 BRIXHAM 38 BOURNEMOUTH 26
Bournemouth are in the process of rebuilding following relegation last season, the departure of a number of players over the summer and some early defeats. They were never going to be an easy nut to crack and Brixham needed to up their game in the final quarter to overcome them.
With the wind and slope in their favour the Fishermen attacked the Mudstone end and took an early lead when Ben Lovell slotted a penalty goal. Almost the next attack provided the opening try. Winger Dean Squire sprinted down the left touchline but was brought down a yard short. Fellow winger Matt Crosscombe, in support, scooped the ball up and dived over. Lovell missed the awkward conversion.
Further attacking ended in a near-disaster for Brixham when a pass in midfield was intercepted. The Bournemouth centre sprinted 80 metres to the posts and the conversion reduced the Brixham lead to a solitary point.
Undaunted, Brixham resumed the offensive. Lovell slotted a second penalty, a second try was disallowed for a forward pass and Lovell secured three more points with the assistance of the post.
The visitors now began to get back into the game but a spell of attacking brought nothing as the Brixham defence held firm. With ten minutes of the first half to play a scrum in midfield provided the starting point of the best try of the game. No 8 Sam Thomas peeled from the back and his powerful run took him twenty-five yards and through three tacklers. The ball emerged from the ensuing ruck and centre Tom McLean's equally powerful run took him the same distance, and through more tacklers, to the try line.
With the conversion Brixham had a 14 point lead heading to the interval but Bournemouth had other ideas and some lax tackling turned an attack on the left into a try. With the elements in their favour in the second period Bournemouth had the scent of victory.
When Lovell slotted his fourth penalty early in the second half it only provided slight relief from the pressure that the visitors were putting on Brixham. Slick offloading and good support play enabled Bournemouth to thoroughly test the Brixham defences.
Having withstood the pressure for 20 minutes, Brixham buckled twice in the space of five minutes. Two tries, one converted, put the visitors ahead for the first time and the omens were not good.
Brixham were re-energised. From the restart they attacked. Forwards and backs combined to stretch Bournemouth and replacement wing Jonny Brown had enough pace and space to go over in the corner for a try. Lovell succeeded with the difficult conversion despite some attempted distraction.
The game could still go either way and tension rose as the clock counted down. Both sides struggled for the final breakthrough but the Fishermen achieved it when they attacked from within their own half and Crosscombe dashed away for a try - his spectacular diving touchdown brought the cheers of the supporters.
October 4th 2014 BARNSTAPLE 12 BRIXHAM 45
Barnstaple have not had a great start to the season and their faithful supporters seemed to be less numerous than normal. From the opening whistle they had little to cheer about.
Having safely gathered in the Brixham kick-off, the attempted clearance kick was charged down by hooker Chey Bryce. A kindly bounce returned the ball to his hands and a 20 metre dash for a try in the corner. Just twenty seconds on the watch. Outside-half Ben Lovell, with the wind advantage, converted
Five minutes later and the lead was gone when Barnstaple went over from a lineout catch and drive. Brixham now began to set the pace of the game with a series of attacks. Another five minutes was all that was needful to restore the lead. Centre Dean Squire received the ball as it sped along the backs, ghosted through a gap and eluded several would-be tacklers on his way to the posts to give Lovell an easy conversion.
Next on the scoreboard was winger Matt Crosscombe. Again the ball was spun out but he changed the attacking angle and powered through to the same spot under the posts; and the same easy conversion.
The game was marred somewhat when over-aggressive play resulted in Brixham lock Luke Maggs and the Barnstaple hooker both receiving red cards. Lovell slotted the ensuing penalty kick and Brixham went straight back on the attack. No. 8 Sam Thomas went over, with assistance, from short range. Lovell converted and Brixham had secured a bonus point.
Cue the comeback. A spell of pressure from Barnstaple marked the closing stages of the half and an unconverted try cut into the Brixham lead. Unfortunately one of their props was injured in the build-up and had to leave the field. Equally unfortunately the comeback consisted of no more than the try and Brixham turned around 31-12 ahead.
With scrums uncontested in the second half, the game faded as a spectacle. Barnstaple tried to run the ball at every opportunity but very often made little progress in the face of the Fishermen's firm tackling. By contrast the Brixham attacks kept the homesters pegged back. Lovell missed a penalty opportunity when his kick into the wind fell just under the crossbar.
Brixham extended their lead when centre Tom McLean sold a dummy to wrongfoot the defence and went through under the posts. Lovell added the extras.
Further tit-for-tat exchanges followed, culminating in Barnstaple virtually camped on the Brixham line. The defensive net held firm and the danger was averted.
Back to the other end of the field. A McLean run set up an attacking position on the right and quick hands took the ball across the park. Crosscombe received it on an angled run and crashed through two tackles before grounding it. Lovell again provided the icing on the cake.
At Astley Park the Crusaders beat Barnstaple Reserves and in Plymouth the third team defeated OPMs second string.
September 27th 2014 BRIXHAM 29 EXMOUTH 31
Cockles are not a staple of the Brixham fishing industry and the Fishermen failed to land any at Astley Park on Saturday. Exmouth won the game in a nail-biting finale that had their coach Jon Hill doing a celebratory cartwheel on the pitch at the end.
Brixham went off at high speed and rattled the Cockes' shells. Indiscipline cost the visitors two penalties in the first three minutes; Ben Lovell secured the points. Exmouth got one back but the Brixham lead was extended by another Brixham brace as matters got somewhat heated among the forwards. Hill was castigated by the referee for his "unhelpful comments" and the game proceeded.
Exmouth recovered their composure and reduced the deficit with two penalties of their own in quick succession. The kicking duel had to end and did so when the Exmouth pack were penalised at a scrum. Brixham took it quickly and swift hands took the ball along the backs for winger Dean Squires to cross in the corner. Lovell added the extras for a ten-point lead.
Brixham continued to press forward but when the ball was turned over in midfield the Exmouth backs found an opportunity to run the ball back. Unexpectedly slack defence let them in for a converted try.
Before the break prop Declan Sexton earned his first yellow card in Brixham colours and Exmouth slotted a penalty to level the scores at 19 each.
In the second half Exmouth came out fired up. With Brixham a man short they used their forwards to batter the defence. In the first minute they were denied a try when the ball was held up over the line. Continued pressure eventually resulted in the Cockles' second try and they had the lead for the first time in the match.
Exmouth were unable to dominate the Fishermen, however, and a spell of Brixham pressure midway through the half culminated in a penalty. Lovell landed his fifth of the afternoon and the arrears were reduced.
Five minutes later a strong run by centre Tom McLean broke the Exmouth defensive line and Matt Crosscombe was on hand to finish off. Lovell's conversion gave Brixham a three point lead with ten minutes remaining.
Exmouth reverted to plan B, using their forwards to gain ground and test the Brixham defensive wall. In the last minute they found a chink and grounded for a try. The conversion came back off the posts but they had the lead back.
Brixham had time to restart and won a scrum in the Exmouth 22. The attacking possibility was denied as the final whistle sounded - just as the forwards prepared for the final push. Relief and delight for the Exmothians; no shellfish platter for the Brixhamites.
Next week Brixham have another Devon derby - at Barnstaple.
September 13th 2014 BRIXHAM 30 OXFORD HARLEQUINS 15
The Fishermen continued their bright start to the season when they overcame a determined Oxford side in a pulsating game at Astley Park on Saturday.
Oxford won promotion as champions of SouthWest 1 East last season and heavily beat Bournemouth in their opening fixture. With ex-Tongan International Keni Fisilau coaching, and playing, for them they were sure to provide a stern test for Brixham.
After a tentative opening ten minutes Ben Lovell got the scoreboard moving with a penalty goal but this was followed by ten minutes of Oxford pressure. An equalising penalty concluded this period - from the restart Brixham were on the attack.
A sequence of attacks saw Brixham threatening the visitors' line. On the half-hour mark, with quick ball from an attacking scrum, outside-half Martin Worthington split the defence and put scrum-half Andy Sandercock in under the posts for the opening try. Lovell added the extras.
The remaining ten minutes of the half produced tit-for-tat play; Oxford having the edge in possession and territory.
From the opening whistle of the second half Oxford were determined to overturn the 10 points to three deficit and it took just two minutes to level the scores when they found space on the right wing.
The parity they gained was short-lived. Brixham attacked and from a ruck on the left, swift handling moved the ball to winger Jonny Brown to go over in the right corner.
Further attacking by Brixham went unrewarded; twice the referee denied their claims for tries. Undaunted, the attacking continued. A strong run by centre Tom McLean took him through the first defensive line. When he was brought down short of the line the ball was swiftly recycled and flanker Sam Thomas went over despite the efforts of four Quins players.
With a Lovell conversion Brixham now led 22-10 but with over twenty minutes to play it was by no means over and both sides attacked when the opportunity existed. Brixham still wanted a fourth try for a bonus point and when they won a scrum against the head on the Oxford 22 the opportunity seemed to be there.
The ball was spun out left but the final pass went awry. The Oxford winger plucked the ball up and scooted down the touchline for a try.
Four minutes later and an identical scrum in the same place. Brixham again took it and a long looped pass by Sandercock found Brown in space and the desired try.
Before the final whistle Lovell converted his second penalty and the Fishermen had found a safe harbour.
September 6th 2014 OLD REDCLIFFIANS 7 BRIXHAM 18
Old Reds home at Scotland Road in Bristol has never been a happy hunting ground for the Fishermen but on a sunny, hot and windless Saturday they overcame their bogey.
Knowing that they would be playing up the slope in the second half Brixham needed to establish an early lead. It soon became apparent that they had the edge in the scrums which they never lost. The hosts were penned back in the early stages and Brixham capitalised on their errors and lack of discipline.
Ben Lovell slotted two penalties in the first ten minutes to ease Brixham ahead and added a third soon after.
Throughout the first half Brixham had the territorial advantage but could find no way through the Reds defence. The hosts' rare attacks showed more potency but were held by the Brixham cover defence. Lovell added a fourth penalty - and was just wide with his fifth attempt - before the half-time whistle.
Reds had ended the first half by threatening the Brixham line and resumed the offensive in the opening stages of the second. With eight minutes of the half played they got their reward when their winger outstripped the defence to claim a try. The conversion left the Brixham lead at just five points.
More attacks by the homesters were held by the defence and Brixham mounted only rare forays into their half. With fifteen minutes left on the watch one attack resulted in a penalty on the halfway line. At the limits of his range Lovell stepped up to earn the three points and extend the Brixham lead.
Reds still fancied the game was theirs and the offensive pressure was stepped up. After a missed drop-goal attempt they failed with a fairly straightforward penalty and might have guessed that this was not going to be their day.
More attacking and Reds won a scrum in front of the posts. The Brixham pack drove them back in considerable style and earned a pressure-relieving penalty. Two minutes later Lovell had landed his sixth penalty to give the Fishermen an eleven point lead.
Brixham still had to hold out for another five minutes before the joy of the final whistle.
This was a hard fought match between two teams who both made mistakes and seemed lacking in match time. For Brixham a welcome victory and a good start to their third season in National 3 South-West.