IVYBRIDGE will be looking to keep the pressure on the three teams above them in National Three South West on Saturday when they visit Bracknell.
The Berkshire club were in National Three London last season but were moved into the South West division this summer and like, Bromsgrove, who were moved from the Midlands league, they have found the switch difficult.
Bracknell, who were in the same league as the likes of Exeter, Worcester and London Welsh in 2002, currently sit 11th in the table and have not been able to win away from home yet.
But on their own patch they have been good. They have only played three home games but have won two of them, beating Bournemouth and Lydney. Only third-placed Dings have so far won at Bracknell, so Ivybridge are certainly not taking them lightly.
“I think this is pretty much our longest away journey,” said Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson, whose team beat Bournemouth 35-10 last Saturday to make it six wins from eight.
“I know Bracknell are a very good side, who have pushed a lot of good teams.
“They seem to be very good at home.
“It is a funny old league and we just have to try and prepare for that unpredictability of sides like Bracknell, who we don’t know too much about.
“It’s a long bus journey for us and they will be looking to capitalise on that.
“But there were so many positive to take from the Bournemouth game last week and we are looking to carry that forward.
“Hopefully, we can take that momentum into this game. We are going to stick with what went well for us.”
Ivybridge are just two points behind second-placed Old Redcliffians, who face leaders Camborne this weekend, and just one point behind third-placed Dings.
The Cross-in-Hand should be able to welcome back Jamie Tripcony to their pack.
Prop Matt Finn is also available again following suspension. He is likely to start on the bench, alongside Hayden Coles and Justin Rogers.
“Matt is a massive asset,” said Paterson. “There are not many props that can play 80 minutes of rugby week-in, week-out.”
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services are expecting a tough test from St Austell at the Rectory on Saturday in Western Counties West.
Services, who beat Sidmouth away last weekend, sit fifth in the table, having won six of their eight matches, while St Austell are seventh.
St Austell may have only won three of their eight games but all their defeats have been by one score and three of their losses were by just one single point.
“All their games have been pretty tight,” said Services’ joint coach Mike Lewis. “They haven’t won by much and haven’t lost by much, which is a bit like us.
“It does show the quality of the league. Crediton are bottom of the league but no-one has really beaten them by big figures at their place. All the teams in the league are competitive this year and you have to keep performing week-after-week to finish near the top.
“There’s no weeks where you can say ‘we’ve got bottom of the league this week so it’s going to be 50 points’. Instead you are thinking if we don’t play well we are going to get beaten by the bottom of the league.
“It does seem like St Austell have the right attitude and a good approach to the game. It sounds like they have been a bit unfortunate in some games.”
Services lost their last home match, going down 20-12 to Torquay. That was their first defeat at the Rectory this season.
“We played well in that last home game, but we were just not clinical enough – we didn’t take our chances,” said Lewis. “Torquay defended well. They have some good players and were well organised.
“We know St Austell have quite a big bunch of forwards and, hopefully, we can take advantage of that around the park as we have quite a young and athletic team.
“But at the same time we know they are going to be strong up front and we need to counteract that and we also need to play for the whole 80 minutes and not just 60.”
Services have been boosted by the return to the club of prop Jack Martin. He came straight in and started last Saturday’s game at Sidmouth after signing from Tamar Saracens.
“It’s fantastic to have him back,” said Lewis. “He’s a good bloke to have on the team and a good front-row forward, who can play tight-head and loose-head.
“We have had a few injuries in the front-row and some unavailabilities and have been struggling there, so having him come back did help us out a lot last week.
“He came in and with his second touch of the ball scored a try. He was dead chuffed about that and was talking about it all evening.”
Services will be missing winger Phil Greensides this weekend but they do have Tony Sibley and Adrian Montague back in contention, although Devon Brown is still on the sidelines.
Devonport have warmed up for Saturday’s match by having a joint training session with National One outfit Plymouth Albion this week.
“Plymouth Albion came down to train with us, which was a good eye-opener,” said Lewis.
“We did a few line-outs against them, some mauling and some backs plays and then came together for a multi-start sort of game. It was good for our guys and they learnt a lot.
“They realise what sort of standard they need to aim for and what sort of intensity they need to bring to sessions and games if that’s where they want to be.
“We have got some young lads who want to play rugby and maybe in a couple of years they might be good enough.
THE big match in the Cornwall/Devon League is at Falmouth where the league leaders take on third-placed Saltash.
Falmouth’s winning start to the season was ended last Saturday when they lost 14-9 away at Plymstock Albion Oaks.
That will give Saltash even more confidence as they head to the Recreation Ground on the back of a seven game league and cup winning run.
Saltash would move above Falmouth if they could sneak a win at their Cornish rivals.
Meanwhile, Plymstock Albion Oaks coach Tim Mathias is hoping his team do not take their foot of the gas after their impressive victory over previously unbeaten Falmouth last weekend.
Oaks face a trip to mid-table Bodmin on Saturday, with Mathias telling his team that last week’s win will count for nothing unless they back it up.
“Bodmin is a difficult place to go and they will present another challenge to us,” said Mathias.
“The challenge is, we have beaten the top of the league, which is an easy game to prepare yourselves for, but now we have to go to a difficult place and try and make sure we come away with a result.”
With Falmouth playing third-placed Saltash, fifth-placed Oaks have a great chance to close the gap. They start this weekend just eight points off the top.
There is a big match at Sandy Park where ninth-placed Tavistock host 13th-placed Tamar Saracens.
Tavistock are hoping to bounce back from their 48-5 defeat at Saltash last weekend, while Tamar Saracens are keen to build on their positives from their 29-18 defeat to Withycombe last Saturday.
Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill has said this weekend’s match is a ‘massive’ game for them.
He is hoping his team can show a cutting edge this week, which he feels they have been lacking slightly in recent weeks.
“We’ve concentrated a lot on our structure this week and we hope to be more clinical than we have been in the last few weeks,” said Kerswill.
“I have played against Tamar a lot over the last few years from when I was at North Tawton and I know they have a very steady set piece which we must combat if we are to get the result we want.
“We’ve had a good week in training knowing the importance of a good result this Saturday.”
Tavistock are set to back youngsters Seb Cox and Billy Spencer and hand them starts in their second-row. Cox, just 18, made his debut from the bench last week.
Behind them, though, will be an experienced back-row of Martin Budden, Mark Friend and Andrew Schuttkacker. They have not lined up together since Tavistock beat Pirates Amateurs 38-19 on October 1.
In the backs, Callum Thompson gets the nod at fly-half, while on the bench, Tavistock will include front-rower Ash Martin, who could get his debut after impressing in the second team.
Saracens coach Stuart Busfield believes if his team play like they did the previous week against Withycombe they could return from Tavistock with something.
Busfield said: “We are all geared up for this weekend. We are really looking forward to it.
“Any points would be good at the moment, given where we are, but without doubt we have been improving every week and if we can continue with that this week then we should be able to put a good performance in. We have to be targeting a win.
“We started the season slowly, but we are getting better and players’ attitudes to training and matchday are improving.
“I think there was a bit of panic for the first month of the season with us being in a higher league but we are settling down now.”
Saracens are boosted by the return of a number of players this weekend.
Joe Wyatt has returned from travelling and should be in the squad to play Tavistock. James Hannaford, Dane Waryck and Fin Gilding are also available again, but Tom Rigby is missing.
Another boost for Saracens has been the form of youngster Reece Boase, who appears to have really found his feet at senior level after moving up from colts rugby.
Plymouth Argaum are hoping they have learned their lessons from last week’s 23-10 home defeat by Bodmin.
They are back at home this weekend when they host newly-promoted Topsham, who sit one place and four points behind them in the Cornwall/Devon League.
“We made loads of mistakes last week which we have been working on in training,” said club spokesman Stuart Quarterman.
“We’ve got to learn from last week. A lot of players were upset about it and this weekend will probably tell us more about the team.”
Argaum had a tough start to the season and find themselves in 10th spot, albeit with a game in hand.
“People always say it is better to have points in the bag,” said Quarterman. “The pressure is now on us because we have not got those points.”
Everyone at Bickleigh Down knows that the next month will be crucial to Argaum’s season.
After hosting Topsham on Saturday, they will then play Tamar Saracens away, Honiton at home and Lanner away – all teams currently below them in the table.
Argaum have not played Topsham for a couple of seasons and so are not totally sure what to expect.
“We are going into the game a little bit blind,” said Quarterman. “But this league is proving massively competitive this season.”
Argaum have been struggling badly with injuries this season, but they are hoping Troy Gobey will be fit for Saturday’s game after going off last week against Bodmin. They also should have Paul Walters and Aaron Anderson-Smith available for selection, but John Ireland is unavailable.
South West rugby fixtures can be viewed HERE