HEAD coach Dave Maddick has praised his Tiverton players for turning around the club's fortunes and making them promotion contenders in the Cornwall & Devon League.
Maddick, who has coached at Brixham, Teignmouth, Torquay, Newton Abbot and Paignton during a long career, took over during the close season with Tiverton's fortunes at a low ebb.
Having hung on in Western Counties West for the previous two seasons, Tiverton had been relegated into the Cornwall & Devon League for the first time in their history.
Previous coaches Simon Morrell and Chim Gale did not make it to the end of the season, leaving Tivvy to get by with senior players.
This time last year Tiverton had gone 13 games without a win and many predicted that they would find it hard despite being relegated. However, roll forward 12 months and they are fourth in the table with 10 wins and only three defeats.
However, Maddick, rather than commenting on the impact he has made, modestly praised the players for the turnaround.
"I think we are getting somewhere, but it is down to the players turning up for training, being prepared to listen and putting the work in," said Maddick.
"We have a young side who are mostly very athletic and have played some fantastic rugby.
"Of course I am pleased with where we are – 10 wins and 49 points – but there is always room for improvement.
"Although we were not looking for promotion this season, that's not to say we aren't in the running.
"The first three matches after Christmas – Hornets, home to Bude and away to Saltash – will be crucial to where we finish."
Charlie Burt, Tiverton's chairman of rugby, said he had nothing but praise for the work Maddick had done so far.
"For someone in his 60s as Dave is, his enthusiasm and passion for the game is fantastic," said Burt.
"That enthusiasm is infectious and because of the sort of bloke he is he has spread it around the club by talking to absolutely anyone and everyone, pressing his ideas and listening to what they think.
"The young players have responded to him brilliantly. He hasn't done anything radical, just concentrated on getting the basics right and keeping it simple."
Meanwhile do not write-off Withycombe as possible promotion candidates in the second half of the season.
That's the view of Withies' director of rugby Nigel Symons as he surveys the table at the halfway stage of the season.
Withies are in fifth place on 42 points with a game in hand on all four teams above them.
It is hard to see anyone catching top two Teignmouth (64pts) or St Ives (62), but Symons is not betting against it.
"Our main aim this season is top four – and I think that is definitely achievable," said Symons.
"As for going any higher, I would not dismiss it out of hand. All the sides above us – Saltash, Tivvy, St Ives and Teignmouth – have to come to us in the second half of the season. No one has beaten us at Raleigh Park this season so that counts for something – there is a lot to play for."
Wessex have it all to do in the Cornwall & Devon League to avoid a prompt return to Devon One having only won once before Christmas.
A combination of player departures and injuries caused problems for coach Dean Jeffery.
Wessex are 16 points adrift at the foot of the table so the odds on staying up look long already.
Jeffery will not run up the white flag just yet though.
"In most of the games we play we are creating plenty of chances," said Jeffery.
"What we aren't doing is turning those chances into points and coming away with results.
"It seems we are panicking in situations near the line where it should be the other side who are doing that."
Wessex return to the fray on January 5 with a home game against fellow strugglers Liskeard-Looe.