PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks overcame their new Cornwall/Devon League rivals Tamar Saracens 31-10 in a pre-season match played in wet and dark conditions at Horsham Fields on Thursday night.
Both teams used the fixture to have a look at players and try out different formations, with neither outfit keen to give too much away.
Oaks made an impressive start and were 26-0 up after 20 minutes but after that Saracens made changes and got back into the game with two tries from close range within the space of 10 minutes before half-time.
Plymstock dominated possession and territory after the break but Saracens defended well and also impressed at the scrums. Oaks, though, did manage one more try before the final whistle of a game hampered by the tricky conditions.
Oaks, who finished fourth last year, have a tricky start at home to Cornish side Penryn, who have come down from Western Counties West, while 2015/16 Devon One winners Saracens host last year’s Cornwall One champions Lanner.
“If you compare where we are now to where we were last year, I am really, really happy,” said Oaks coach Tim Mathias afterwards.
“We have got more guys training and second team guys are really pushing our first team players.
“What me and Rich West tried to do when we came in (last year) was to try and increase players’ skill levels and get them enjoying playing with the ball in hand and I think you can see that is paying dividends.
“We have looked a lot sharper this pre-season, but we have just been struggling getting games.
“Doing this (playing Tamar Saracens) was great. It is a shame it is against a team in our league as you don’t want to show them too much, but it is difficult to get games unless you are prepared to travel a bit or play a team a few leagues above.
“The 10s stuff we did down at Services with them and Argaum was also good and what we did with Ivybridge last week.
“I think everyone is keen and looking forward to the season now. They just want to get cracking and get on with it.”
Tamar Saracens’ backs and fitness coach Tim Rogers said: “We would have preferred to have won, but we put out kind of a scratch side to start with and then brought on more experienced players as we went.
“We made a slow start, but it was a good experiment. We found out a few weakness and what we need to work on in training.
“But we can certainly take a lot from the game. We found out a bit about our new league level having had two promotions in two seasons.”
As well as Oaks, Saracens have tested themselves out against higher league Devonport Services and Brixham. In all those games, Saracens’ scrum has impressed.
“We have got a strong scrum,” said Rogers. “We have some really good lads in there – some good workers and people who want to improve.”
Meanwhile, Devon Two side Plympton Victoria continued their preparations for the new season with a 34-5 defeat at Salcombe on Thursday night.
Although Plym Vic lost they made Salcombe work hard for the victory and took positives out of the game.
Other Plymouth Combination teams will continue their pre-season preparations on Saturday.
Ivybridge are expected to field a mixture of development and first team players when they host newly-promoted Western Counties West side Bude at Cross-in-Hand (3pm).
National Three South West club Ivybridge were boosted last week by pushing Plymouth Albion hard at Brickfields before their second team beat Plymstock Albion Oaks at home the following night.
Devonport Services, who will open their league season against Bude on September 3, will be expecting a tough contest when they travel across the Tamar to take on Saltash at Moorlands lane (3pm).
The teams were both in Western Counties West last season before Saltash were relegated.
Plymouth Argaum have a busy weekend. They have three teams in action on Saturday. Their firsts will host Paignton at Bickleigh Down (3pm), their second team will play OPMs on the neighbouring pitch at the same time, while their colts will travel to Polson Bridge to take on Launceston (2.30pm).