HEAD coach Will Croker described as “the best win in my time in charge” Bournemouth’s 16-7 triumph over Barnstaple.

The South West Premier title chasers sent out a huge message to their nearest challengers after coming from behind to win in a mud bath at Pottington Road.

Skipper Joe Rees touched down Lions’ only try of the afternoon in north Devon, while points also came from the boot of Adam Davies and Grant Hancox.

Bournemouth have now won 13 of 14 league fixtures this season. They have a seven-point advantage at the top of the pile.

But it was by no means plain sailing for the Chapel Gate side, who were hampered by a number of incidents in the build-up to the contest.

The director of rugby told the Daily Echo: “I would go as far as to say it was the best win in my time in charge.

“It was a real battle against a quality team in tough conditions away from home.

“We had lots of hiccups right at the last minute. Adam Higgins dropped out, he was taken into hospital overnight with a virus.

“Mike Davies took a bang right on the point of his elbow and that ruled him out – 10 minutes before kick-off we had to bring Tom Napier into the side.

“Ben Allman’s ferry from the Isle of Wight was cancelled. Ben Roberts, who drives from Portsmouth, was due to be picking him up so we couldn’t leave until 45 minutes later than we should have done.

“They were the sort of things which, had you lost you’d think ‘oh, it’s just excuses’ but it goes to show the mental toughness of the side.

“Barnstaple are a really good team. They will push us all away for the first spot and I would be surprised if they didn’t quite pip Ivybridge to the second-placed spot.

“They had a big vocal crowd who got behind them, we knew that would be the case and it was a case of us maintaining our composure when the heat came.”

Bournemouth were powerless to prevent a 40-metre rolling maul early on, with Barnstaple number eight Danny Southworth touching down a converted score.

Two Davies penalties reduced to one point the deficit before the break before Rees crashed over to put Lions ahead.

Davies stepped up once more to add the extras before Hancox slotted a penalty of his own to deny the hosts a losing bonus point.

“I was a bit disappointed at the end of the first half, where we had such domination in terms of territory and possession, that we didn’t convert more than six points,” added Croker.

“But in the second half we came out and we were incredibly smart in the way that we played. Mike Pope from scrum-half moved us around the pitch beautifully.

“Karim Lynch showed why he was considered to be the best full-back in National One. He was so solid, took the right decisions and kicked well off both his left and right foot.

“Conditions were very heavy – not to say that the game shouldn’t have gone ahead, it was just old-fashioned rugby and the scoreline suggests that.”

Lions host Weston-super-Mare in their next league contest on January 5.