ST AUSTELL had the edge over Bideford last season – and they showed they are still ahead with a six-try win in the rivals' first meeting in Tribute South West One West.
The home side made a good start at King George's Field and seemed to have put their heavy opening-day defeat at Bridgwater and Albion behind them as they took a 12-0 lead with tries by Sam Olde and James Scott.
But St Austell, who beat Bideford to the Western Counties West title last season, fought back over the next hour to win 38-12 – not that much fight was required amid missed tackles, passes and kicks.
"The first two things you are taught in rugby is how to pass and tackle," said Kevin Booth, the Bideford coach.
"Our tackling was abysmal. There was a lot of shirt-pulling and a lot of going up too high against big men."
Having seen St Austell turn a 12-0 deficit into a 14-12 lead at half time, Bideford had a chance to regain the lead six minutes into the second half with left wing Andrew Baxter charging up on the outside of Olde.
But Olde's pass was poor and Baxter fumbled the ball, allowing Sam Tank to grab it and make tracks into the Bideford half before passing to Curtis Newberry to score in the left corner.
Three minutes later, a gaping hole was opened up in the home defence and Matt Shepherd ran through for a try.
Instead of leading 17-14, Bideford trailed 24-12 and St Austell went on to score two more converted tries in the closing minutes.
"Sam's pass was worthy of (going to) a second row, there was no chance Kiwi (Baxter) was going to catch it and go," said Booth. "The tide turns pretty damn quick in rugby.
"We have got to be clinical. Too many times we were turned over in their 22 – it was like taking candy from a baby."
Off the back of a scrum, Olde linked up with new signing Neil Giddy for the first time to put Bideford ahead after six minutes.
Five minutes later, another five-metre scrum saw Bideford repeatedly pick and drive before centre Scott, stepping up from the second XV, found a way through.
Pat Sanders converted Olde's try but missed the second chance as well as two penalties. With Giddy also missing a penalty, Bideford were well short of getting full value for their strong start.
Once they got a foothold in the game, St Austell began to benefit from their opponents' tackling troubles.
On 31 minutes, from a free kick awarded for a crooked feed at a scrum, Paul Winterbottom, the outstanding blind-side flanker, scored their first try.
From the last play of the first half, Andy Ashwin threw such a huge dummy it may actually be that he had intended to pass before realising there was no one there to receive it. Whatever his intention, the scrum half found he had created a gap through which he could dive to score.
Shepherd, the fly half and captain, converted both for his side's half-time lead.
After the double blow in the second half, Bideford were given a let-off when Tank had a try disallowed for a forward pass by Newberry.
It was only a brief reprieve, though, as replacement prop Hugh Noott barged through on 77 minutes.
Then Bideford again spilled the ball in attack and Shepherd raced away from his own half to score under the posts.
Shepherd converted both tries for a personal tally of 18 points.
"They were a really well-drilled side who had played some tough pre-season games," said Booth.
"They were fitter, stronger and wiser.
"Going into this league, survival was key and there is plenty of time to do that. It's not the end of the world, we can rebuild."