Good evening, everyone and welcome to another fun packed blog as we enter the final match of the regular season and boy what a season it has been, a very successful one for Barnstaple Rugby I might add. This weekend’s blog will focus on the Counties 2 Tribute Devon champions Barnstaple Athletic who play their final game of the regular season here today against Plymouth Argaum, kick off is 2.30pm.

The Chiefs travel to Weston Super-Mare this afternoon for their final game and congratulations to Devonport Services who have had an outstanding season, in winning the Regional 1 South West league and promotion to National Two West next season. A very good team who thoroughly deserve their success and we wish them all the best next season.

The Bucc’s travel to Exeter Saracens still needing all five points to ensure home advantage for the semi-final of the Dave Butt cup, the final of which will be played on April 27th here at Barnstaple Rugby club. The Colts finished their season a fortnight ago with a narrow loss at Ivybridge, putting in a great performance to finish their season.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of Saturday’s contests, we have several announcements including some important dates for you in April coming up. We start with a message to members that you can now apply for tickets for both the Autumn Internationals and next years 6 nations on the new revised form found on the members page here https://www.barnstaplerugby.co.uk/membership-2/

Beginning next weekend the cup season gets fully underway with Barnstaple Chiefs first game in the Papa John’s Community Cup as they welcome our friends from across the border, Launceston, to Pottington Road. Kick-off is 2.30pm and we have a special on the menu, Curry and a pint for just a tenner, details below.

On April 20th Barnstaple Athletic are in the final of the Devon 2nd XV Cup here at Pottington Road as Athletic look to do the double. Their opponents are yet to be decided and kick off for that one is 3pm.

Then on 27th April the Dave Butt cup is to be played here and with fingers crossed, it could feature our very own Barnstaple Buccaneers, kick off TBC. Exciting times ahead as we enter cup season.

BARNSTAPLE Athletic

What a fantastic season Athletic have had as they confirmed their status as the best team in Counties 2 Tribute Devon a fortnight ago, with a massive 0-66 win at Old Plymothian & Mannamedian, confirming their dominance of this league with their 12th successive win which stretches back to 18th November 2023.

With 10 tries scored on the day, Athletic earned their try bonus point before the 15-minute mark with tries from Connor swan, Ryan Lee, Ben Beattie and captain Oli James. Connor and Oli would go on to score a brace each whilst Ben Jago and Ryan Jago also scored a try each with Alex Penny and Tom Swales again on the score sheet. Tom Swales also converted seven of the tries with Harvey Rostock converting one at the end.

Despite the dominance that Barnstaple Athletic have shown in the second half of the season with both home and those important away wins against their closest rivals Devonport Services II and Torquay whereby they took control of the league and never looked like giving it up, the season did not start with such authority as their first game was also the Tic’s first loss when they travelled to today’s opponents, newly promoted Plymouth Argaum losing 29-24. First day nerves, possibly, but it wasn’t long before the next defeat, in fact the following week at Ivybridge. Worrying signs to start the season with.

Their first home game against South Molton settled some of those nerves as they shut out the visitors 33-0, another close game at Withycombe was won 27-31 then the first big test which they negotiated well, beating Devonport Services 29-24 at home and it appears they were starting to find their stride as September gave way to October with Autumn in the air. As any regular readers to my blog will attest, the biggest criticism I had at this point, was Athletics second half performances which were not at that time, up to the standard they should have been.

A successful October with three wins including a tough 17-14 win over Torquay and everything so it seemed, started to click together including playing for the full 80 minutes. Then disaster away to North Tawton, Athletic slipped up losing 26-24. That was, however, to be their last loss as Coaches Luke Berry and Scott Warren turned that loss into the motivation needed to get the team firing on all cylinders and so they progressed through out December and into 2024 undefeated including two important wins away to Devonport Services II and Torquay, both of whom had not lost at home and in Torquay’s case, it was their first home defeat for several seasons. At the heart of this winning run, in fact all season, was Athletics defence which at times seemed completely impenetrable, as both Devonport and Torquay found to their dismay as neither could score a try against the visiting Barnstaple team, reduced to only scoring from penalties.

Here we are today then, with not only the Championship but promotion to Counties 1 Tribute Western West and a date with Bideford Chiefs. Top try scorer, at least until this game finishes, is Joe Messenger with 10 tries followed closely by Morgan Gabe before he journeyed to South Africa and Alex Penny, both of whom came into the senior squad from last season’s colts which is impressive to say the least.

In the latter part of the season, the rugby displayed was truly remarkable. As previously mentioned, the defensive prowess of the team stood out significantly. Equally impressive was their offensive strategy, particularly when handling the ball. The Tic’s exhibited a blend of confidence, composure, and authority as they relentlessly pressed their opponents creating some great tries. The big thing for me though was how Athletic progressed as a team through the season, with points coming from across the team.

Today then will be a day of celebration as we welcome Plymouth Argaum to Pottington Road. A chance to enjoy Barnstaple Athletics rugby as they look to exact revenge for that opening day loss to today’s visitors and to celebrate with them as they are truly crowned champions.

Here then is the team to face Plymouth Argaum.

BARNSTAPLE chiefs

For the Chiefs it is second place they need to secure as Chew Valley are a mere 4 points behind and the win will be crucial to secure that spot. Not only that but the team will want to be energised for next weekends cup game against Launceston and a good win with plenty of points will be just the ticket to keep what has been an impressive 2024 for the Chiefs.

Another interested party in today’s game is Okehampton as they sit just 2 points ahead of WSM and will be willing the Chiefs to win this one. A real change in fortunes as their seven game losing streak which also included a home defeat against WSM, coincided with WSM winning three of their last four games to narrow that gap to where it is today, just 2 points between them.

A win today will be Barnstaple Chiefs 8th successive win, their best run this season and joint best in the league with Devonport. Top try scorer for the season, by a country mile, is Brandon Moore, currently tied with Harrison Coonick of Devonport as the top try scorers in the league on 22 tries apiece. Top points scorer is Tyler Gordon-Oke on 117 points, a mere 7 points ahead of Brandon and currently third in the league with Jake Murphy in 6th with 95 points. These aside there has been a lot of tries scored right across the team with no less than 25 players scoring 1 or more tries, truly a team performance this season which only got better as the season progressed, especially the penalty count which improved dramatically as we headed into the second half of the season.

Here then is the Chiefs travelling to WSM.

The Buccaneers

Another successful season for the Buccaneers nears it’s end, although not today as they have their final game next weekend at Honiton before they find out if they have won the Devon Merit Table 1 NE and home advantage in the semi-final of the Dave Butt cup. Chasing them all the way towards that title is Exeter Engineers who although 6 points behind with be right on the Bucc’s coattails if they slip up today at Exeter Saracens II.

It should be plain sailing for the Bucc’s today as Exeter Saracens have only won two games this season and did not travel to Barnstaple for their match against the Bucc’s earlier in the season, but any over confidence could undo all the hard work they have done throughout the season.

Personally I have no doubts that the Buccaneers will come through this on with a convincing win and with next week to go will be on course for that semi final home tie on April 20th.

Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap for the regular season with me as your host! It’s been an exhilarating time for Barnstaple Rugby, with resounding success across the board. As we shift our focus to the cup season this April, I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the players, coaches, and backroom staff who have given us an electrifying season of rugby to watch. It’s been an absolute pleasure to witness, and the icing on the cake is Athletic’s crowning as League Champions.

But let’s not forget the unsung heroes: the dedicated volunteers who toil behind the scenes to make rugby possible. Whether it’s preparing the grounds and facilities for our enjoyment or ensuring the pitches remain playable during the winter, particularly this winter, their hard work is invaluable. From the gate staff to the matchday volunteers, committee members and beyond, they’ve made this successful season possible ensuring our Saturday afternoons at Pottington Road are always a success.

And a heartfelt shout out to you, the supporters—the loudest and most passionate bunch in the Southwest. Your unwavering presence in your hundreds, at every game has made a world of difference. Thank you!

Next weekend, join me for the Papa Johns Community Cup 1st round as the Barnstaple Chiefs face off against Launceston. Kickoff is at 2:30 PM. But for now, let’s aim for a resounding Barum clean sweep!

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