Brixham 46 Launceston 31

LAUNCESTON fell to a second successive defeat as free-scoring Brixham ran in six tries at Astley Park in a 46-31 victory.

The Cornishmen had conceded just 169 points from their opening nine games, but trailed 36-17 at the break despite leading 10-0.

The second half was much more even, but the damage was done.

With the game being a rearranged contest following a postponement three weeks earlier, both teams were far from full strength.

Launceston had fly-half Glenn Coles and key centre Cam Fogden missing, while several of Brixham’s pack were absent.

Coles’ and Fogden’s replacements were scrum-half Adam Collings and winger Jamie Chapman, which meant a big reshuffle as full-back James Tucker took Coles’ spot with skipper Tom Sandercock moving from nine to take Fogden’s slot at 13 and Ben Bryant moving from the wing to full-back.

In front of a good sized crowd in South Devon, it was the visitors who actually started the better.

They scored within four minutes with a fine team try.

After making up to 15 metres from a driving maul, several phases later ended with inside-centre Todd Crofts sending through a grubber kick from just inside the 22 that Sandercock managed to get to first to score. Winger Dan Pearce added the extras (0-7).

Brixham’s pack was inexperienced, and after they collapsed a scrum on their own 22, Pearce made no mistake to make it 10-0 after eight minutes.

But that was as good as it got for the visitors as the hosts ran riot.

Brixham soon got their first try as a kick to the corner ended with number eight JP Simonetti crossing after a few phases. Full-back Joel Ashworth made no mistake.

Flying winger Matt Crosscombe soon added a second in the corner as Launceston’s usually miserly defence went missing, and although Ashworth missed the conversion, he soon slotted a 40-metre penalty to make it 15-10.

While that was frustrating, their third try was even more so.

Launceston made a good break into the home 22, but the ball broke out of the ruck which allowed Crosscombe to run 60-plus metres before offloading to Andre Simonetti to go the rest of the way.

Ashworth added the extras for a 22-10 lead after just 24 minutes.

That deficit was reduced to just five points three minutes later as number eight Brandon Rowley powered over from close range, which was converted by Pearce.

Brixham, though, looked ominous every time they attacked, and although outside-centre Louie Drennan was denied a try by knocking it on over the line, he scored soon after.

To compound a poor first half from the visitors, lock Aidan Ivey crossed on the stroke of the break to give Launceston a mountain to climb. Ashworth added both conversion to make it 36-17.

Joint head coaches Ian Goldsmith and Ryan Westren made all three substitutions at the break as they brought on Alex Bartlett in place of hooker Levent Bulut, which meant Mitch Hawken moved inside, while lock Dan Goldsmith and blindside-flanker Tom Bottoms were taken off for Leion Cole and George Bone respectively.

That made a bit of a difference at the start of the second half as the visitors mounted some early pressure, but within a few minutes the game was all but up as Brixham scored again as JP Simonetti crossed from five metres after spotting nobody was covering the blindside. Ashworth’s boot was good again (43-17).

Crosscombe was sin-binned 15 minutes in after catching Bryant with a stray arm, and soon after Rowley grabbed his second try with a brilliant solo effort.

He picked the ball up on the left wing just inside the Fishermen’s half, and after showing a turn of speed, he cut inside before getting to the line. Pearce added the extras (43-24).

Launceston continued to enjoy much of the play and got back to within two scores 12 minutes from time.

After a lineout, plenty more phases ended with lock Albert Horne dotting down. Pearce made it five from five for the day.

It was now squeaky bum time in the home ranks as they were forced to defend for their lives, including seeing a catch-and-drive held up.

However with eight minutes to go, Bottoms, back on the field, was yellow-carded for a tap tackle.

Then, with four minutes to go, the game was sealed as Crofts came in from the side and was sent for an early shower, which meant the visitors finished with 13 players.

Ashworth converted the simple penalty to make it 46-31, which was how it stayed.

Launceston round off the first half of the season on Saturday as in-form Exmouth visit Polson Bridge (3pm).

LAUNCESTON: Ben Bryant, Jamie Chapman, Tom Sandercock (capt), Todd Crofts, Dan Pearce, James Tucker, Adam Collings; Ethan Pearce-Cowley, Levent Bulut, Mitch Hawken, Dan Goldsmith, Albert Horne, Tom Bottoms, Lloyd Duke, Brandon Rowley. Replacements: Alex Bartlett, Leion Cole, George Bone.

Tries: Sandercock, Rowley (2), Horne; Convs: Pearce (4); Pens: Pearce.

Launceston man of the match: Brandon Rowley.