The driving rain on Saturday did nothing for the game. Barnstaple, with players who were used to playing in the level above, were always going to be a tough nut to crack; and so it proved.
Playing down the slope, and into the wind, the visitors were on the attack from the kick-off and took the lead in just two minutes with a penalty goal. A second penalty on the quarter hour mark extended their lead and with their large pack dominating proceedings Barum were well set.
Having gone behind, Brixham settled down and after a number of attacks Brixham got their noses in front. A powerful run from No 8 Sam Thomas broke the defensive line; his loopy pass found scrum-half Jamie Hext who juggled and caught it before touching down for the opening try. Conner Bedwell added the extras.
This was a high point for Brixham. Barnstaple used their large pack to good advantage and for the remainder of the first half had Brixham on the defensive. They got close to the try line on several occasions and Brixham’s concession of penalties enable them to maintain the pressure. Brixham lost one man to the sin-bin but the defence still held. The loss of a second on the stroke of halftime was too much and Barnstaple regained the lead with a converted try.
After the restart Brixham fared better but a second try for Barum extended their advantage. Unusually, the conversion attempt was charged down. Brixham continued to make occasional attacks but the visitors coped well with the pressure and used the wind at their backs to make good ground with clearances. Barnstaple went further ahead with a long range penalty but from this point on Brixham came back into the game.
A series of assaults on the visitors’ line took flanker Joe Lovell over it but the referee ruled out the try. A yellow card for Barnstaple and a penalty for Brixham was the decision. A minute later in almost the identical spot and Lovell could celebrate his try. Bedwell again converted and Brixham were back in the game.
Barnstaple were stung. They went upfield and resumed their assault on the Brixham line. After a series of scrums at close range they claimed their third try and a conversion.
With ten minutes left to play Brixham could gain a losing bonus point with a converted try; Barnstaple could gain one with a fourth try. Both sides had something to play for and Brixham did everything they could. When all other options seemed to have failed them a neat crossfield kick by Joel Ashworth was collected on the touchline by fullback Bedwell to score the try Brixham needed. Unfortunately, into the wind, his conversion failed and the final curtain fell on a disappointing day for the Fishermen.