Tribute Devon Two
A hard-fought win saw Dartmouth remain top of the league with a near-perfect 29 points out of a possible 30, only one dropped try bonus point eluding the team.
But the guys were made to dig deep with this win, victory only being secured with the last play of the game.
Dartmouth knew the old boys would be a stern test at home, especially if they had their ‘Fijian’ contingent available to play, big men with big hits and plenty of ball skills, which was indeed the case.
The Riversiders knew the way to play against this team was keep things tight and kick to the corners to secure territory and allow their strong driving maul to come into play.
The Darts started well, with Gary Rooney making a great break and offloading to Tom Clark, who put away Nick Shillabeer for the score, Jack Clark making an easy job of a tricky conversion.
The Darts then seemed to lose their way and concentration after this bright start, with some wayward kicking and loose passes giving the Old Boys plenty of ball to run straight back at them.
The Plymothians were rewarded with an unconverted try on the 20-minute mark.
Dartmouth had the last word when, after a late hit on prop Dec Hammond, the Old Boys number eight was yellow carded.
From the ensuing penalty Dartmouth went for a line-out, which was comfortably caught and set up by flanker Ricky Seymour to enable Karl Caunter to score from the driving maul, a facet of Dartmouth play that the Old Boys had no answer to.
The conversion was wide so the teams turned around with the score 12-5 in favour to the visitors.
Dartmouth, with a one-man advantage from the first-half yellow card, now rein- forced their position with another try from a line-out and maul, Alex Parrot getting the plaudits this time.
The conversion from wide out hit the upright and bounced back; Jack Clark’s kicking was good in this match, but he certainly didn’t get the rub of the green.
After the yellow card expired and Old Boys were up to full strength, they dominated for the next 15 minutes. With a converted try and penalty going their way, a nail-biting finish loomed with the score now 17-15 to Dartmouth.
After the penalty Dartmouth freshened up their attack, with Tom Clark off for Lorien Spurdel, fly-half Aaron Hunt making way for Luke Chase, Dominic Calvert replacing an injured Alex Parrott and Martin Pearce on the wing for Xav Picot.
The changes seemed to steady the ship, with the Dartmouth team taking stock, making the kicks more accurate and denying the Old Boys the ball. The pressure was eased with a penalty for Dartmouth 10 minutes from time to give them breathing space.
Then for the grandstand finish as Dartmouth attacked looking for the try bonus point. With time just about up the Darts secured a penalty; many older heads thought the safe option was to kick the ball dead as with no time for the line-out the game would have been over.
However, deep in the opposition 22 the decision was made to go for it and run the ball, which was vindicated when scrum-half Spurdel got the try, with Dave Champion adding the conversion for a final score of 27-15 to Dartmouth.
Dartmouth now have a two-week break in the league programme before the final game of the first round of fixtures on January 7 when Dartmouth take on second-placed OPMs at home, a game that could go along way to deciding the future of the league title.