IVYBRIDGE will be hoping they can continue their impressive success rate in Devon derbies on Saturday when they entertain leaders Barnstaple at Cross-in-Hand in National Three South West.
The Bridgers won three of their four Devon derby games in the first half of the season, beating Exmouth, Brixham and Newton Abbot.
It probably should have been four out of four but they lost 25-23 to a last-gasp score away at Barnstaple in their second match of the season.
“It was close,” said player-coach Lewis Paterson. “And we probably deserved to win, but we were still learning.”
Paterson and Ivybridge would love to complete the set of victories over the other Devon sides in National Three South West, but they know it will be tough against a Barum side who have only lost twice this season.
“I think it’s going to be a good game,” said Paterson. “Hopefully the weather holds out.”
He added: “We are very up for it. The key focus is on it being a derby, but we still need to focus on our performance and ourselves.
“We’ve just got to try and put in a solid performance, which can get us on the right track going into the new year.”
Ivybridge, who sit eighth in the table with a game in hand, will be missing a few players due to holiday commitments and injuries. Forwards Jay Geraty, George Wilson and Elliot Worrall are among those still on the sidelines with injuries, but Ivybridge can welcome back Gareth Elliott, Mike Cox and Dom Loomes this weekend.
There is also a welcome return to the first team squad for experienced back Tommy Newman.
Newman, who can play scrum-half, fly-half or centre, has been training with Ivybridge but has not been able to commit to playing for the last couple of seasons due to work.
But he is available on Saturday and is set to start on the bench for Ivybridge.
“We’re looking forward to seeing him back,” said Paterson. “He brings a lot of experience and will put some pressure on key positions.”
Prop Stuart Kirkwood is also rewarded with a place on the bench.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
In Western Counties West, both Saltash and Devonport Services are in need of a win.
The duo will start 2016 in the bottom three in an incredible tight league where just six points separate sixth from 13th.
Saltash, who came in to the league at the start of the season, have lost their last six matches after winning four of their first six games.
On Saturday they entertain ninth-placed Cullompton at Moorlands Lane. A victory for Saltash could see them leapfrog their opponents.
Devonport Services, meanwhile, have to travel to seventh-placed Truro.
Services, like Saltash, could jump into mid-table if they were to pick up a win.
Teenage prop Curtis Reynolds, who has been on loan at Devonport Services from Plymouth Albion, is set to join Launceston to offer front-row cover for the struggling National Two South side.
PLYMOUTH Argaum director of rugby Dave Sansom is expecting a tough start to 2016 with a trip over the Tamar to Hayle on Saturday in the Cornwall/Devon League.
Argaum finished 2015 on a high with consecutive victories over Paignton, Plymstock Albion Oaks and Exeter Saracens to leave them in seventh spot at the halfway mark in their first season in the division.
The Bickleigh Down side are only five points behind fourth-placed Falmouth.
If they could beat 10th-placed Hayle then they could open a 20-point gap between themselves and the bottom five.
“I think two more wins would make us safe and that’s always your first priority,” said Sansom.
“Then when you know you are safe you can cut lose a bit more and really enjoy your rugby.
“We are aiming to be in the top half of the table this year, but as we have said all along we just want to enjoy ourselves.”
Argaum, though, have not had much enjoyment down in Cornwall this season. Their only win over the Tamar was against bottom side Newquay.
“Any 50-50 down there are not going to go your way,” laughed Sansom. “You’ve just got to understand that and get on with it. You have to make sure you are 10 times better on the day.
“But I think we are now learning how to play this league.
“We know it is going to be a real toughie this weekend. Hayle is a real tough place to go and with the weather like it is it’s going to be a real forwards game and we’ll probably be throwing mud at each other.
“We’ve got four or five guys away this weekend but we are going down there with our best squad available and, like always, we’ll be looking for the win.
“Like I said, it is going to be a real toughie but I think our lads will be up for it.”
In the same division, Plymstock Albion Oaks will be hoping to return to winning ways after two disappointing results at the end of 2015.
Oaks, promoted to the Cornwall/Devon League with Argaum, went eight games unbeaten and got up to fourth in the table.
However, neighbours Argaum beat them 16-10 at Horsham Fields and then in their final match of the year they went down 45-7 at free-scoring promotion hopefuls Bude.
This weekend they entertain ninth-placed Bodmin at Horsham.
Tavistock, meanwhile, could drop into the relegation zone if they fail to beat Pirates Amateurs at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Tavvy, who dropped out of Western Counties West in April, are only staying out of the bottom three on points difference.
There is a big game for OPMs in Devon One on Saturday.
They travel to Totnes in a rearranged match, which is vital for both teams.
OPMs leapfrogged above Totnes and into sixth-placed spot in the nine team division with an impressive win at South Molton, despite missing a host of players.
The Old Boys are again without some key members of their squad but that result before Christmas will have given them confidence.
A win for OPMs, who are just three points off a relegation place, would lift them up to fifth in the table and give them some vital breathing space.
OPMs Devon One rivals Tamar Saracens are playing in the RFU South West Junior Vase semi-finals. Full preview of that match HERE.
You can view South West Rugby fixtures HERE