THE big rugby match this weekend is at Horsham Fields, where in-form Plymstock Albion Oaks entertain city rivals Plymouth Argaum in the Cornwall/Devon League.
The teams were both promoted from Devon One last season, with Argaum beating Oaks to the title.
Plymstock, though, rebuilt their squad in the summer and brought in Tim Mathias and Richard West as player-coaches.
After a slow start to the season, Oaks have been in fine form recently and are unbeaten in eight matches.
In three of those games, including their last two, they have scored more than 55 points to move up to fourth in the table. They are just three points off second-placed Bude.
Argaum, in contrast, enjoyed a great start to the season, winning four of their opening five matches, but have gone through a tricky patch recently.
However, Dave Sansom’s side returned to winning ways last weekend by beating Exeter Saracens 27-10.
“It is a derby but we’re just looking on it as another game,” said Sansom.
“We’re not getting too worked up about it.
“They (Oaks) are having a good season. They’ve swapped a lot of people from last year and we are under no illusions it is going to be a tough game. But we’re just going to enjoy it.
“We got a win last week but we have been playing pretty well for ages and we have got really good depth in our squad now.
“We have also got a good colts side and we are looking forward to a few of them joining the senior side next year.”
Argaum’s resources will be tested this week as they have got a few players missing.
“We have got a few away but that’s par for the course at this time of year,” said Sansom. “I think we will be a lot stronger outfit after Christmas.”
NATIONAL THREE SOUTH WEST
IVYBRIDGE will be missing a number of key players for their home National Three South West match against bottom club Chippenham at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday (2.30pm).
Captain and hooker Jay Geraty is facing a number of weeks out of the game after badly dislocating his knee at Hornets last weekend, which led to that match getting abandoned just before half-time with Ivybridge leading 12-0.
Flanker Alex ‘Reggie’ Hall also suffered an elbow injury in last weekend’s trip to Weston-super-Mare so he will also miss this weekend’s clash.
Richard Luscombe has also not recovered from a knock, while player-coach Gareth Elliott and influential centre Jordan Anderton are unavailable.
But the club are confident they have got the resources to overcome their loss and claim a valuable win in their final home match before Christmas.
Matt Ash is set to take over at hooker in place of Geraty, George de Mendonca is expected to come into the backs in place of Anderton, while Peter Abraham could start in the back-row.
The club are also looking at possibly promoting a few of their promising colts players into the first team.
That is a policy Ivybridge have used over the years, with most of their current first team coming through their junior ranks.
“The colts train with us and are getting used to signals and line-outs calls and it may be time to bring a few into the team in the new year,” said team manager Neil Thomson.
Ivybridge want to try and get a win this weekend to make up for last week’s abandoned game.
“We really wanted to win last week and I’m sure we would have gone on and done that had the game unfortunately not been abandoned,” said Thomson.
“Chippenham do score a lot of points but also concede a lot. We’re just glad that we are at home this weekend. Next week when we go to Old Centralians we should have a few more players back.”
Ivybridge are ninth in the standings but are only 15 points behind leaders Barnstaple, having played a game less.
“It is all still pretty close in the league,” said Thomson. “Our win against Bournemouth in our last home match looks like a really good win as they beat Brixham last week.”
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
IN Western Counties West, Devonport Services and Saltash both have tough home games.
Services entertain leaders Kingsbridge at the Rectory, while Saltash welcome third-placed Exeter University to Moorlands Lane.
Ninth-placed Saltash are desperate for a win after four defeats in a row.
They have been picking up plenty of bonus points but not victories, with their last coming on October 24.
Exeter University have only lost three games this season, but two of them have come in their last three matches, including a defeat at Devonport Services.
Services will be hoping they can rekindle that type of performance this weekend against a Kingsbridge side who have only been beaten twice this term – away at Tiverton and a narrow home defeat to Exeter University.
Services’ defeat at Tiverton last Saturday dropped them down to 10th in the table, one point behind Saltash.
IN Devon One, Tamar Saracens are hoping to finally get to play St Columba and Torpoint away.
The match was postponed twice last month by the Saints due to a waterlogged pitch.
That has resulted in promotion-hopefuls Saracens not having played a league match since November 14, but they remain fourth, just five points behind second-placed North Tawton.
And coach Stuart Busfield admits a number of players pushed their claims for places last weekend.
He is forced to call on a few second teamers this Saturday as the club are without a number of key players, including star goalkicker Tom Rigby.
“It’s Black Saturday for us as we have got some serious unavailabilities,” said Busfield.
“We are short of about six regular players, but having said that the way some people played last week they may retain their places.
“A couple of guys really surprised me. They have come on leaps and bounds.
“It shows how far Tamar Saracens have come in the fact we can pull players into the first team and still get a second team out as well.”
Saints might be struggling at the bottom of the table without a win to their name but Busfield knows they could still be dangerous.
“We hope our club XV can do a job, but you can’t take anything for granted,” he said.
“St Columba can be strong depending on which ship is in or who is based at HMS Raleigh.
“I just want our guys to stay focused on doing their job on the day.”
Meanwhile, Devonport High School Old Boys will play OPMs seconds in a friendly at Brickfields at 5pm on Saturday after Albion’s home match against Loughborough Students.
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