IVYBRIDGE are hoping for a bumper crowd on Saturday for their Devon derby with Brixham in National Three South West (2.30pm).
The sides sit fourth and fifth in the table, with Ivybridge having lost just twice this season and Brixham only three times.
Last year’s matches produced two good battles, with Ivybridge winning 20-12 at Cross-in-Hand and Brixham triumphing 13-12 at Astley Park.
Ivybridge’s player-coach Lewis Paterson says his team are relishing taking on their Devon rivals again.
“There’s lots of positive vibes around whole club,” he said. “Our second team are also playing Brixham and both teams are excited. Everyone’s looking forward to this weekend.
“It is two Devon clubs doing well, which is good for the county. Our club get on well with Brixham and this is normally an enjoyable derby.”
He added: “Brixham are going to have a big pack. But, like I’ve said before, we know what to expect with Brixham as we have played them before in this league. We know what they are about.
“We are just working on trying to have some unpredictability. We want to make sure we have enough in our locker that we can keep Brixham guessing.
“We beat them at our place last year. We played some good running rugby that day and we only lost by a point at their place. We put a really good shift in but just lost by a point.
“And I would like to say we are an even better team than last year.
“Our pack is ridiculously strong this year. If you ask any side that has played us, I think they will definitely say our pack has been the much stronger of the sides. There are not many teams that can scrum Camborne for a penalty try but we did.
“We are up for it. Brixham are going to be in for a hard day, but we know we are as well.
“We know it is going to be tough, but it should be a good game for people to come and watch.”
Ivybridge are able to welcome back young flanker Seb Slade and fly-half Matt Grieveson after missing their previous two games. They are both likely to start on the bench.
In Grieveson’s absence, teenager Mitch Pinkus has taken his chance at fly-half and he will keep the number 10 shirt this weekend.
“It is good to have Matt Grieveson back,” said Paterson. “He’s got a massive role at this club. He’s a senior player. He has been at that fly-half role for so many years and played so many consecutive games that it’s good to have that experience there. He will help Mitch come along and help the side.”
Paterson said Grieveson understood that Pinkus deserved to keep his place and he feels both players could play a part on Saturday.
“The way Mitch has played and trained has been fantastic,” said Paterson. “But Matt Grieveson is also a very, very talented player. It is just fantastic to have two players like that. Any club would love to have those two players and we have to use them wisely.”
Prop Matt Finn is likely to return to the starting line-up, while Brixham could include former Albion first-team players Ed Barnes and Davy McGregor in their squad.
Plymouth University student Malcolm Onsando, who played for Albion’s development team last season, has become a key member of Brixham’s pack since joining them in the summer.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
Services currently lie fourth in the table, but are just two points behind leaders Exeter University.
Devonport have only lost twice in the league this season and are hoping their good form can continue at sixth-placed Tiverton, who are coached by former Albion forwards Wayne Sprangle and Tom Skelding.
“I know Wayne Sprangle well – I played with him for years,” said Services’ joint coach Mike Lewis. “He always gets an organised team together and he is still playing himself. He is a great player.
“Tiverton are always a decent side. They always finish mid-table and some years push on further.
“We know it is going to be a tough test, but we are confident going into it.”
Services go into the game having had a weekend off, which Lewis believes will prove beneficial.
“We are revitalised and ready to go,” he said. “It has been nice to have a break. I think the players have enjoyed having a week off as some have been to every training session since the start of July. It’s just nice to get away from it for a bit.
“The week off was welcome but at the same time everyone is ready and raring to go.”
Tiverton have only lost once at home this season, with all-but one of their wins coming at Bolham Road.
“I think most teams do better at home,” said Lewis. “We’ve been good at home, but we’ve also been quite strong away.
“We have not lost away in the league since Bude on the first day of the season. We are quite strong away.
“When we go into games we are not really thinking of home or away, we are just thinking about what we are going to do to beat them.”
Services expect to be close to full strength, although they will be missing number eight Matt Gregory, who is unavailable due to family commitments.
After a tough start to the season, which saw them face most of the top teams and pick up a host of serious injuries, Argaum have beaten Tamar Saracens and Topsham in their last two matches.
They currently sit 10th in the table, with four wins out of nine, but they could move up to eighth this weekend if they were to overcome struggling Honiton.
They should be boosted by a return of a number of players who missed last weekend’s 12-7 away win at Tamar Saracens.
They were without 17 players who have featured for their first team last weekend, but they are able to welcome back the likes of John Ireland, Mason Edwards and Jamie Burton.
However, they will be saying goodbye to scrum-half Ellery Jones, who is moving to Cardiff after this weekend’s game.
Although Argaum will be expected to win, with Honiton still looking for their first victory of the season, club secretary and spokesman Stuart Quarterman said they will not be taking anything for granted, especially after losing 23-10 at home to Bodmin at the end of last month and Lanner recently beating Penryn.
“I think the Bodmin game taught us a lot,” said Quarterman.
“I think we are very aware that every team in this league can win games.
“We respect other teams. We did get caught out against Bodmin and so we will go into this game with Honiton knowing we have to put a performance in.”
Saracens have not won since beating Lanner on the opening day of the season, while Falmouth have only lost once – a narrow defeat away at Plymstock Albion Oaks.
Tamar were frustrated last weekend at not beating Argaum. That rearranged match has left the Parkway pitch in a bit of a state but Saracens are hopeful it will be playable on Saturday.
“Hopefully, it will be okay,” said coach Stuart Busfield. “We have not trained on it and we will be honest with Falmouth. What we don’t want to happen is for them to travel and then for it to be called up.”
But Saracens know if the game does go ahead they need to make the conditions and home advantage work in their favour.
“All games in this league are tough,” said Busfield. “We’ve also got quite a few missing again this week.
“But we are looking forward to it. They (Falmouth) are on a great run, but our ambitions are the same as they are every week.
“The aim is to try and get a win, but the important thing is to be in the game.
“We need to quickly understand Falmouth’s qualities and what they are about.
“I think there is a turning point coming for us.
“Last week was a good opportunity for us to take some points. I didn’t think the best team won. We had a disallowed try and their first try was an absolutely shocking charge down.
“We didn’t win but we look at the fact that we got a point out of the game as a bit of consolation. We just have to start building these points up.
“Our task is just to keep progressing.”
Oaks currently sit fifth in the table but are only four points off second-placed Penryn.
This weekend Oaks entertain 12th-placed Topsham.
Oaks are unbeaten at home this season, beating Falmouth, Penryn, Withycombe, Argaum and Tamar Saracens at Horsham Fields.
They will be expected to claim another win, but they will not take Topsham lightly.
Third-placed Saltash will also be wary when they host Bodmin at Moorlands Lane on Saturday.
Although only leaders Falmouth have beaten them in the last seven league matches, Saltash will expect a tough test from an ever-improving Bodmin side.
Bodmin won 31-10 at Withycombe last weekend and have beaten the Pirates Amateurs 53-10 in the last month, as well as winning at Argaum.
Bodmin’s recent form has lifted them up to sixth in the table, six points behind Saltash.
Ninth-placed Tavistock are also at home this weekend. They host the team immediately above them in the table, Withycombe, at Sandy Park.
“Withycombe are going to be gunning for a victory after going down at home to Bodmin last week,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill.
“I’m sure they will be confident after scoring 100 points against Tavistock in fixtures last season.
“But, that being said, I’d like to think our run in to Christmas should offer an opportunity to get a fair few ‘Ws’, proving we continue our weekly improvement – hopefully, starting this Saturday.”
Kerswill could pull on a Tavistock jersey for the first time in four years on Saturday, with lock Dan Clark out with a shoulder injury.
Tavistock are set to have a new half-back partnership with Mark Friend moving from the back-row to fly-half to partner Sam Smerdon.
Friend did play at 10 for most of last season but has impressed this term in the back-row, alongside Martin Budden and Andrew Schuttkacker.
Prop Joe Hair is set to come onto the bench for Tavistock.
OPMs could not have asked for a better start to life in Devon Two. They beat DHSOB 59-7 in their first match and then last week beat Plympton Victoria 78-0.
But they know this weekend will be their toughest test yet.
“We have sort of ear-marked this game,” admitted captain Henry Matthews. “This will be the big start of the season for us and we’ll see where we are. It will be a challenge.”
Techs, who finished third in the league last season and reach this year’s David Butt Trophy final, are desperate to win after losing to fellow promotion-hopefuls Dartmouth at home in their opening match of the season.
They are struggling with injuries at the moment and last week had 14 players unavailable as they narrowly beat DHSOB 31-24 at Stonehouse Creek.
Coach Shaun Bedford-Smith, who had to play last week due to late withdrawals, is hoping to have a few more players available on Saturday.
“We have had some tough games lately, including the David Butt Cup,” said Bedford-Smith. “And, unfortunately, it has left us a bit short with injuries.
“That caused us a bit of a problem last week, but we managed to get a team together and get a win.
“We have got some players back this week, but we are just going through one of those unavailability spells. We’ve got players out with broken ribs, bad backs and all that sort of stuff, but it is just part and parcel of rugby.
“Maybe doing so well in the cup cost us a bit as people picked up injuries in the last two games. That was always a concern of mine playing a cup competition before the league.
“However, although we were very short last week we still came out with a result and five tries against a DHSOB, who were pretty strong on the day especially out in the backs, so fair play to the players who turned up. It just shows our depth. This time last year we would probably have not got a result from that.”
Bedford-Smith is looking forward to this weekend’s big match.
“Fifteen years ago we used to have some ding-dong battles with them but we’ve not played them for a long time.
“So we are looking forward to it. You get used to playing the same teams every week. They were not in the same pool as us for the David Butt Cup. Last week was the third time we had played DHSOB this season.”
He added: “They (OPMs) are normally a team who are pretty good outside with some quick lads and good hands out in the backs, but I don’t know too much about who they have now.
“Two years ago they were in the Devon/Cornwall League. I think they have had problems with injuries long-term and availability problems and they’ve fallen down a couple of leagues, but they may well be in a false position in this league.
“They have certainly started the season well.
“On our day with everyone available I think we can match anyone.
“We’ve just got to set out a game-plan on how we are going to play.
“Whatever happens I think there’s still a long way to go in the season and there’s a lot of good teams in the league.”
There is another derby match at Defiance Field where St Columba & Torpoint host DHSOB.
Both clubs will be looking for their first win of the season.
DHSOB did pick up two bonus points last week against Old Techs, but they felt it should have been more.
“We’ve got Torpoint away and we just have to see what happens,” said DHSOB’s director of rugby Mike Freeman.
“There’s no nailed on wins. Our challenge is getting a team out every week. We have got one or two boys who, if they are available, we know they can win us games.”
St Columba, relegated from Devon One, have had a tough start to the season with matches against Buckfastleigh and Dartmouth, who are both unbeaten.
They lost 43-5 away at Dartmouth last weekend, but after going 31-0 down in the first half after arriving late, they produced an encouraging second half display which they hope they can take into Saturday’s match against DHSOB.
“We couldn’t warm up until after 2pm because some lads got a bit lost on the way,” said head coach Damien Chambers.
“Lads were turning up in dribs and drabs and you could feel that we were under cooked in the first half and Dartmouth did all their damage then.
“The second half was a different game. We dominated the set piece again but couldn’t take our chances.”
Saints are likely to make only one change to their side with available marine Pete Maughan set to come in at full-back in place of veteran Mike Grieve, who is likely to start on the bench against DHSOB.
Grieve is normally a prop but has stood in at full-back for the last two games and as claimed a man of the match award.
“Mike is a player that every club wishes they had 15 of,” said Chambers. “He’s been here since he was 16 and hardly ever misses a game. He has played every position at one time even though he is a tight-head prop.”
Meanwhile, Chambers has applauded the standard of rugby he has seen so far in Devon Two.
“I have been impressed by Buckfastleigh and Dartmouth,” he said. “I thought games would be won by grunt up front, but both teams have really thrown the ball wide which has made for a better fast flowing game even though we have been made to pay because of it.”
Winless Plympton Victoria will host Buckfastleigh this weekend.
Buckfastleigh have won both their opening league matches, beating Saints and Salcombe.
South West rugby fixtures are available HERE