IVYBRIDGE coach Lewis Paterson says his team are going into their second season in National Three South West in positive mood.
The South Hams side open their 2016/17 campaign on Saturday when they welcome Hornets to Cross-in-Hand (2.30pm).
Last season, Ivybridge finished eighth in the table, with the Hornets four points above in seventh, but Paterson would love his team to improve on that this coming campaign.
“In terms of preparation for ourselves it (pre-season) has gone really well,” said the player-coach.
“I think the boys are really looking forward to it.
“I also think (new forwards coach) Jamie Tripcony is excited as well. It will be his first league game as a coach.”
Paterson added: “We finished pre-season on a massive high with two good wins against Plymstock and Bude.”
However, the former Launceston centre admitted it was their performance against Plymouth Albion, who play two divisions higher, at Brickfields that has really boosted his side.
Although Ivybridge lost 38-3 to a strong Albion team, they felt they matched their higher league hosts for large spells. Plymouth had previously beaten Exmouth 62-5 and Camborne 43-12.
“I think that was a big turning point for ourselves and a good confidence boost,” said Paterson. “Individuals realised that they are not far off playing at that sort of standard.
“It was massive in what we wanted to get out of it, in the fact that we kept the score down quite well and we really showed some good character in the second half.
“We were able to test our line-outs and mauls against a really well-drilled side and we were able to improve and work on it.
“When you play sides like Albion and you keep the score like that it just builds massive confidence going into the league and the rest of pre-season. Everyone blossomed from that and played some fantastic, attacking rugby against Plymstock and Bude.”
Last season Ivybridge proved on their day that they could beat everyone in the league.
Paterson, though, would just like his team to be more consistent throughout the whole campaign and, hopefully, turn some narrow defeats into wins.
When asked if Ivybridge had set a target for the forthcoming season, Paterson said: “I’ve got personal ambitions and some people say I might be too ambitious, but as a club we are just setting small goals.
“We’d like to win some Devon derbies – hopefully do the double on our local rivals or if not at least win one of them. We were quite good in that area last year. Apart from Barnstaple we beat every other Devon club at least once.
“There were a couple of teams that did the double on us last year and we’d like to change that.
“But I’d just like to start the season well and then hopefully keep the wins going. The last two years we have always started the season strong but I’d just like us this time to keep that going and maybe just be more successful in the wet.
“We missed out on a lot of victories last year by one or two points. Hopefully, we can turn that around and we can win by one or two points.”
He added: “In terms of league positions, it’s always nice to try and better what you did the previous year. So eighth or above would be really good for us and show consistency. If we finish any higher that would be really, really good.
“I have got a lot of faith in the team and I would like us to be a lot higher, but a realistic goal is just to do better than last year and just crack some wrongs on the teams that did the double on us.”
Ivybridge have been handed two home games to start their new campaign. After Hornets visit Cross-in-Hand, the Greens will then welcome Salisbury to their South Hams ground.
“We have just had two home pre-season games against Plymstock and Bude and now have two home league games,” said Paterson. “But that’s good for the club.
“It has been really difficult picking the side for this Saturday with it being the first league game and being at home.
“There’s going to be a few disappointed people, but the side that has been picked is going to be very exciting.
“We just have to try and make our home ground a fortress.
“We did let a few wins slip at home last season. The best sides in the league have this kind of aura about their home pitch.
“That’s what Jamie Tripcony is trying to instil here. He has said to the lads that when we are at home we have to make it really difficult for sides to play here and we have to love it.
“We have to make sure we are bouncing off the walls because we are playing at home.”
The weather forecast is not the best for Saturday, but Paterson said: “Come rain or shine on Saturday I think our players are going to be up for it.
“You never know who the Hornets have signed, but we just have to focus on ourselves, make sure what we are doing is right and make it a tough afternoon for them. We have to make sure they have to work for anything they get.”
Ivybridge are likely to have one of the most stable sides in the league.
It is possible that former Launceston and Plymouth Albion forward Tripcony will be the only new signing making their Ivybridge debut this weekend, with Ryan Dingle unavailable.
However, the Bridgers do have a few players coming back into their first team squad who did not play much rugby last season due to injuries.
“We have got returning faces like George Wilson and Justin Rogers,” said Paterson. “Justin did not play a game last year as he was injured.
“Full-back Haydon Coles also missed a lot of rugby last year, but he’s been brilliant this pre-season. He has really put his hand up.
“All the boys are hungry for success. They like winning. We have got a team of winners.”