Hakes suffer blow to title hopes with first league defeat
Tiverton 41, St Ives 12
ST IVES' 100 per cent record this season finally came to an end as they were thrashed by third-place Tiverton at Coronation Field.
If you add in the victory over Plymouth Barbarians last September, now expunged from the results after their withdrawal from the league, and the cup triumph over Hayle, the Hakes had gone 18 matches without defeat.
They travelled to mid Devon full of confidence following the previous weekend's superb victory over leaders Teignmouth, but Tiverton away was always going to be a big hurdle to climb, and their cause was not helped by a red card and two yellow cards.
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The defeat leaves St Ives six points off top spot with seven matches remaining, but Teignmouth still have to entertain Tiverton, on March 2 – a game that will prove crucial to the destiny of the title.
Player availability was an issue for head coach Joff Rowe and he was forced to select a number of less experienced players who have not trained with the first team on a regular basis due to their commitment to the Colts side.
Rowe also had to pick a number of second-team players in the absence of hugely influential fly half Ceiron Thomas, talented scrum half Max Bodilly, backs Tom Nicholas, Jacob Ninnes and Ian Veal, and forwards Tyler Gendall and Sean Stevens.
Rowe said: "I am disappointed that our 18-match unbeaten run this season has ended.
"To achieve that run of matches without defeat is very special, but we must remember this is only one defeat and we must bounce straight back next week, make a difference and put the things that have gone wrong right.
"My thanks go to all the players who travelled but especially Harry Parton, who is developing week by week, and also to Joe Rouncefield, who made his league debut and showed signs of his ability on the wing and also at scrum half."
Despite the personnel changes, St Ives started well and Tiverton, who were playing down the slope, struggled to break down the resolute Hakes' defence.
The hosts took a sixth-minute lead when fly half Jimmy Atkins kicked a penalty for collapsing a maul.
The Hakes responded well and were awarded a penalty, but captain Ben Taylor turned down the kicking chance and opted for a scrum, and that saw scrum half Josh Palmer break through the home defence to touch down for a try, with Jamie Prisk adding the extras to make it 7-3.
Tiverton lost their No.8 to the sin bin, and despite being down to 14 men, missed a couple of penalty opportunities.
However, when St Ives infringed at a scrum, home scrum half Jack Sampson took it quickly and offloaded to inside centre Jeff Robinson to run in unopposed for a try, converted by Atkins, who also slotted a penalty, to put Tiverton 13-7 ahead at the break.
It was a different story after the interval though, as Tiverton pulled clear.
An Atkins penalty was soon followed by a try from winger Henry Frankpitt, converted by Atkins, and disaster then struck the Hakes as Prisk was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on replacement Callum Stone that resulted in a penalty try, again improved by Atkins to make it 27-7.
St Ives No.8 Neil Corin was also sent to the bin, but despite being reduced to 13 players, the Hakes battled well and hit back with an unconverted try from loose-head prop Ben Wheeler.
The visitors suffered another blow when replacement flanker Charles Anderson-Smith was sent off for what the referee deemed was a tip tackle, and Tiverton took full advantage to add a further 14 points, with tries by Blake Lugg and Sam Smith, both converted by Atkins.
St Ives were due to play Wadebridge in the Tribute Cornwall Cup on Saturday, but instead they have a re-arranged league game at Withycombe.