IVYBRIDGE head to Newton Abbot on Saturday for their fourth consecutive Devon derby in National Three South West.
The league newcomers, who sit third in the table, have so far impressed in their previous matches against county rivals this term, beating Brixham and Exmouth at Cross-in-Hand and narrowly losing 25-23 at Barnstaple in their only away game so far.
This weekend, though, could be their toughest test yet as Newton Abbot have a formidable home record.
Newton Abbot, whose pack contains Plymouth-based players Colin Stewart, Dean Avery and Martin Browne, have been boosted in recent weeks by the return of winger Kyle Browne from Launceston and the arrival of Albion development players Shek Sherrif and Mounga Molisi.
“They have got a really good home record,” said Ivybridge team manager Neil Thomson. “I think last season they only lost once at home.”
But after proving themselves against fellow Devon sides Exmouth, Brixham and Barnstaple, Ivybridge should travel with belief.
Thomson admits the Bridgers have enjoyed having so many Devon derbies in the opening weeks of their debut season in National Three and feels it has helped them.
“We know all the coaches, a lot of the players and the style of play of all the other Devon teams, whereas they have probably not seen us as much.”
He added: “Home games count a lot in this league. If we can get anything out of Saturday then that would be a real bonus.”
Ivybridge were left without a first team game last weekend after Teignmouth pulled out of their Devon Cup fixture. However, the club’s second team did play Devonport Services seconds and claimed a big 50-11 win and a number of players who featured in that game have pushed their claims.
Second-team captain Pete Abraham is added to this week’s squad with player-coach Gareth Elliott unavailable, while centre Toby Evans, who impressed for the seconds after recovering from a toe injury, could also feature.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST & DEVON/CORNWALL LEAGUE
In Western Counties West, Devonport Services will be looking for revenge when they travel to Sidmouth on Saturday.
Services narrowly lost 27-24 to them last week at the Rectory in the Devon Intermediate Cup – the visitors wining the match with a late penalty.
Third-placed Services will be keen to get back to winning ways after back-to-back league and cup losses.
The city side had won their opening three games with maximum points, but lost 21-7 to St Austell in their last league outing before their cup defeat against Sidmouth.
Meanwhile, seventh-placed Saltash face a good battle with sixth-placed Wadebridge at Moorlands Lane.
The two Cornish sides have similar records this season, with both winning two games and losing by one score in their other matches.
Both teams won on their last league outing, with Saltash overcoming Truro away 33-29 and Wadebridge seeing off Penryn 37-22.
In the Cornwall/Devon League, Plymouth Argaum will not be taking anything for granted when they travel to winless Newquay Hornets.
Argaum have made a great start to life in the Cornwall/Devon League, losing just once – a controversial one point defeat at Falmouth.
They did lose 28-13 to Western Counties West side Tiverton in the Devon Intermediate Cup last Saturday but director of rugby Dave Sansom was delighted with the performance against higher league opposition, especially as he used the game to have a look at a host of second team players.
“I don’t get to see the seconds play too often, so I thought it was a good chance to have a look at some players.
“I think we had about 75 per cent of the game but they won 28-13.”
Sansom does not know a lot about struggling Newquay and is not interested in looking at their form this term.
“We’ll just go down there and see what we can do,” he said.
“I have been really pleased with our start – three wins and a losing bonus point, which should really have been a win as well.
“What’s good is the whole club is doing well. Our colts beat Devonport Services last weekend. We’ve also got a second and a third team playing Saltash this weekend.”
Also moving up the Cornwall/Devon League table is fellow newcomers Plymstock Albion Oaks, who sit seventh with two wins out of four.
They face fourth-placed Pirates Amateurs at Horsham Fields on Saturday. The Pirates arrive in good form, having only lost once so far this season.
Tavistock, who have been improving week-by-week, will be hoping to cause an upset at Sandy Park when unbeaten Bude visit.
Bude have won three and drawn one of their opening four games, while 11th-placed Tavistock only have one win to their name, but the west Devon side will have been boosted by their performance against Western Counties West neighbours Okehampton last weekend. Okes needed a last-gasp converted try to win 10-6.
DEVON ONE & TWO
In Devon One, Tamar Saracens will be hoping to continue their good form at Topsham.
After a narrow 8-5 opening day defeat at North Tawton, Saracens have beaten OPMs 56-0 and last week overcame Totnes away 21-13 in the Devon final of the RFU Junior Vase.
“We’re away at Topsham, who are always strong at home,” said Tamar Saracens coach Stuart Busfield.
“Some teams only have one way of playing, but we have been working on trying to be able to play a number of ways, from having a backs-orientated game to having a forward-oriented game.
“If you are playing against teams and what you are doing is not working you have to be able to switch it around.”
Saints, still looking for their first win, travel to Totnes.
In Devon Two, the big game is at Weston Mill where Old Techs entertain DHSOB.
Old Techs opened their league season with a 15-7 away win at Dartmouth, while DHSOB were well beaten 42-0 by Ilfracombe. However, Old Techs will be wary of DHSOB as they will be unsure of what type of a team they will be facing.
DHSOB have signed a host of the Plymouth Fiji rugby team, but they were not registered in time to face Ilfracombe on the opening day.
Plympton Victoria made the worst possible start to the season, losing 92-0 away at Buckfastleigh. On Saturday they play their first home match against Dartmouth.
Plym Vic have only won two league games in three years and have finished bottom four seasons in a row. This summer they also lost a couple of their best players to OPMs.
But coach Howell Phillips refuses to be disheartened. His target for this season is to fulfil every fixture and to keep improving.
“It is hard to keep going as no-one likes to be losing,” said Howell.
“I felt last season we did a lot with the team after Christmas and I felt they did improve.
“We have lost two or three players and the biggest problem is trying to get commitment on a regular basis.
“One of the targets we have is to fulfil every fixture and to play with commitment. We want to know we have played well when we come off the field and not have our heads down.”
Phillips said Plym Vic would, like last season, be targeting games they think they might have a chance of winning.
South West rugby fixtures HERE