IVYBRIDGE player-coach Lewis Paterson is hoping his side can show their attacking flair as they bid to return to winning ways on Saturday against bottom side Bromsgrove at Cross-in-Hand.
The Bridgers have yet to win in 2017, narrowly losing to Cornish sides Camborne and Launceston in their opening two matches of the year.
However, they still sit fourth in National Three South West, just nine points off leaders Dings Crusaders, and Paterson is confident his team can re-find their winning form.
“We had so much momentum going into Christmas and it was almost gutting to have that two-week break,” admitted Paterson.
“But now we are back into it and we just have to go out and look to perform – look to right some wrongs. If we put the performance in the win should come.”
He added: “We have had two tough games against two tough Cornish sides.
“There were some improvements against Camborne from the Launceston game and the atmosphere around the club is still pumping.
“We have addressed some of the areas where we went wrong and we just have to target this game.
“There is not much we can do about the last two results. We just have to go out and be hungry against Bromsgrove.
“The positives are we have come away from the last two games with at least a point and that could pay off come the end of the year.
“We’ve had a couple of losses but so have other teams. It has kept the table kind of tight.”
Bromsgrove might be bottom of the table, but last week they beat seventh-placed Hornets.
They also pushed Ivybridge all the way earlier in the season, with the South Hams side coming from behind to win 30-28.
“Bromsgrove have a massive journey and if we don’t come out of the blocks firing straight away then we will be in for a tough game,” said Paterson.
“They have got a big set of forwards and they pushed us all the way up there. They are also in a good run of form. They are a very physical side.
“This weekend it has to be about attacking flair.
“Let’s enjoy our rugby and enjoy where we are. We are fourth in the table, just nine points off the top. It’s all there for the taking. We just have to get into that bit of form.
“As soon we get the win under our belts I think that will be it.”
Ivybridge are set to welcome back experienced hooker Jay Geraty, who missed last week’s game at Camborne.
Full-back Charlie Briant (pictured top) is also set to start his first game of the season after returning from travelling. He will come into the team with Damon Akerman out injured.
Sam Kingscott will also return to the matchday squad, while Courtney Richards is set to start his second match in a row at number eight.
Richards’ brother Tom has also moved to Ivybridge and is pushing hard for a first team spot.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services will be aiming to bounce back from their first defeat since October when they host a resurgent Wellington at the Rectory on Saturday.
With fellow title-rivals Cullompton and Exeter University playing each other, Services could move back to the top of the Western Counties West, if they did win.
Devonport’s impressive winning run came to an end last Saturday when they went down 27-19 away at Cullompton, who overtook them at the summit courtesy of a better points difference.
“We have looked at last week’s loss in a positive way,” said Services coach Mike Lewis.
“We were a bit off the pace of the game in the first half last week. I think maybe the occasion got to some of the guys – not in a way of under-performing but maybe they were over-thinking things and trying too much.
“We just didn’t do the basics well. We tried to do too much early in the game.
“We were 10 points down at half-time, which was not great, but it was not a bad position. However, then we conceded two soft tries off scrums at the start of the second half and that put us really on the back foot.
“But after that we played some fantastic rugby. We had the lion’s share of possession in the first and second half. It was just some uncharacteristic errors, which we don’t usually do, that cost us the game.
“But we have to take the positives out of it and that last 20-25 we produced some great plays.
“We have to remember what we are good at and how we do those good things consistently.
“We have managed to do that week-in, week-out since October. Last Saturday was just one of those slip-ups.
“Everyone was a bit disappointed after the game, but we march on and go again.”
Services beat Wellington 31-6 away at the start of October, but recently the Somerset club have really picked up form.
Although they sit third from bottom in the table they have won three out of their last four games. Their only defeat was a narrow 19-13 reverse at Cullompton.
“Their results seem to have picked up,” said Lewis. “They even ran Cullompton close away.
“We know they are going to be a good side. When we played them up there it was end-to-end. It was a battle of attrition for 60 minutes but then we came away in the last 20.
“We know we might have to butt heads for at least 60 minutes before coming away with any points.
“We are just looking to put the wrongs right from last weekend. We are not looking to set the world alight. We just want to make sure we find out feet again. We don’t want two consecutive losses.”
Whatever the outcome at the Rectory, Services will be keen to see what happens in the match between Exeter University and Cullompton.
“A low scoring draw would be brilliant,” admitted Lewis. “But I can’t see that happening.”
Services are likely to be without second-row Andy Pond and Matt Gillard due to injuries, but they are hopeful Matty Anstis will be fit to play, despite suffering a nasty knock last weekend.
“Matty took a big knock in the fourth minute,” said Lewis. “He was hit really late and got a real bad dead leg. His quad has been black and blue but he seems to have shaken it off quite well.”
Services are set to welcome back Joe Daley and Tony Sibley, while Alex Matthews or Max Vangorkum could be in with a chance of replacing Ponds in the squad.
THERE are two big Plymouth Combination derby matches in the Cornwall/Devon League this weekend at opposite ends of the table.
At the top end, second-placed Saltash head across the Tamar to play sixth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks, who are unbeaten at home this season.
When the sides met earlier in the campaign, Saltash, having been totally out-played for 60 minutes, came back from 21-0 down to win 25-21 thanks to a try with the last play of the match.
Oaks coach Tim Mathias admits that loss at Moorlands Lane still hurts.
“We were in real control of the match, but came away losing it with the last play of the game,” said Mathias. “I said to the lads you don’t need much motivation to try and put that right.”
He added: “We know what they (Saltash) are going to do and they probably know what we are going to do.
“But we have not lost at home this season and we don’t want to start doing that now.”
Mathias said Oaks are happy with where they are in the table and he feels his young team will keep progressing.
Saltash moved back up to second last weekend by running in 11 tries to beat out-of-form Plymouth Argaum 69-0 at Moorlands Lane.
Argaum will be desperately hoping they can end a six-match losing run when they entertain city rivals Tamar Saracens at Bickleigh Down in the other big Cornwall/Devon League derby this weekend.
Plymouth Argaum’s loss of form has seen them drop down the table. They are now fourth from bottom, just six points ahead of the relegation zone.
Worrying for them is that they have only scored 11 points in their six matches – one try and two penalties.
Bottom side Tamar Saracens, without a victory since the opening day of the season, make the short trip to Roborough knowing they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
They were massively encouraged last week in their narrow 10-7 home defeat to the Pirates Amateurs at Ernesettle.
“We will work off what we did last week,” said player and spokesman Marc Cioffi. “Hopefully, we can do exactly the same but get a few tries. It was a great team performance.
“We have got Argaum at theirs, but we won’t look at their performances or how they are doing, we’ll just look at our own.”
Argaum, meanwhile, remain confident they can re-find their form.
Secretary Stuart Quarterman says spirits are still high at Bickleigh Down and the club are still attracting new players.
Among their new arrivals are Spanish centre Mikel Ayesa and former Plymouth College winger Tom Turner.
“There’s a massive air of positivity around the club,” said Quarterman. “We had 30-odd players at training and 40 available for selection this weekend, with our seconds also playing.
“People are coming back and we also have recruited some new players, so we are hopeful.
“We know they (Tamar Saracens) will be pulling out all the stops for this game.
“But I think last week taught us some lessons and made somethings very obvious, which we have been working on this week.
“I am optimistic. I think we are about to turn the corner.”
Ryan Chivers is finally set to make his long-awaited return from injury this week. The club had hoped he might be back last week but he was not quite fit.
They did hand a debut to colt Jake Stanton in the back-row last week.
Elsewhere, in the Cornwall/Devon League eighth-placed Tavistock travel to Pirates Amateurs, the team immediately ahead of them.
Just one point separates the two teams, with both clubs winning eight and losing eight of their matches.
The main difference between the sides is the Pirates’ points scoring ability. The Cornish club have managed to score nearly 100 more points that Tavistock.
Tavvy, though, did beat them 38-19 at Sandy Park at the start of October.
The west Devon club are looking to bounce back after losing to Penryn last weekend, which was their first defeat since November.
They are boosted by the return of Martin Budden, Dan Oner and Mark Friends.
Tavistock will also hand debuts to wingers David Milligan and Morgan Warnett, who replace the unavailable Sam Smerdon and Kyle Maslen.
They will also give a start to Matt Witcher, who has rejoined Tavistock from Devonport Services. He will line-up at scrum-half in his first appearance for the club in three years.
“We were massively disappointed last week with our performance,” said coach Hammy Kerswill. “We lacked a lot of structure.
“But we had a good session on Thursday and revisited a few basics around our structure and hope to get a difficult win on the road down at the Pirates.”
Tavistock suffered yet more sad news this week with the death of club president Jeff Lawson, who lost his battle with cancer.
His passing comes just months after the death of club secretary Peter Garland.
Kerswill said: “Jeff had been involved with the club for over 30 years and coached many of the current first XV as colts during his unquestionable stint as colts manager.
“Jeff lived and breathed rugby and did so whilst embracing the core values of the game. Win, lose or draw there was never a day he couldn’t bring joy to all those he coached. He also selflessly put himself out for the expense of others.
“As a club we send our condolences to his wife Theresa and sons, James and Sam, in this difficult time.”
NOT many games this season are likely to come much bigger than OPMs’ clash with city rivals Old Techs at King George V Playing Fields on Saturday.
The teams sit second and third in the table, with OPMs three points ahead of Techs.
With only two sides promoted from the division, there is a lot of stake this weekend for both clubs.
OPMs are unbeaten at home in the league, but Techs have not lost away.
“It is going to be a big game,” said OPMs captain Henry Matthews.
“We have really tried to build a home ethos. It is our pitch and we really try to focus on our games at home. We really don’t like conceding tries at home.
“We are looking forward to this game. It’s going to be a big test.
“They didn’t play last week in the league. We thought if a strong DHS side went up against them we would have seen what they were about. But they did get a massive result against Buckfastleigh.”
When they sides met earlier in the season, OPMs narrowly won 10-6 thanks to a charged down try.
Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith knows his team cannot really afford another defeat if they do want to win promotion.
He admits this weekend is like a cup final for his team.
“It is a huge game,” he said. “It is going to be like a cup final.
“We know really in all honesty if we lose then our chances of going up are going to be really slim.
“We’d be relying on OPMs to start slipping up, which they haven’t done yet only against Dartmouth.
“Our players know they have to go out there and win the game. If we don’t then its OPMs’ to lose.
“It is a massive game for us and the players know that.”
He added: “It was 10-6 at our place but the game was decided by a charged down kick. That was the only difference really. If a few decisions had gone our way we could have won. I felt it was a game we should have won.
“They (OPMs) have got some big boys in the pack and some players out wide who can play a bit as well, but I think we are pretty evenly matched.
“It is going to be an interesting game on Saturday. I’m certainly looking forward to it and I think the players are. I’m sure OPMs are also. They also know what is on the game. We could overtake them and then it’s all to play for.
“There’s a lot of pressure on but I like it when it’s like that.”
Although Techs were left without a league game last weekend when DHSOB pulled out of their match, they were able to find another fixture at short notice. They ended up playing and beating Saltash seconds, who were also let down.
“Luckily we did get a game,” said Bedford-Smith. “Saltash seconds’ game got called off and they came over to us, which was really good of them.
“We would have loved to have played DHS, but that didn’t happen. However, it was just good to get a game.”
DHSOB will be hoping they can regroup and play their first match of 2017.
They are due to host fellow strugglers St Columba & Torpoint at Stonehouse Creek, but they have pulled out of their last two games against Old Techs and Plympton Victoria.
It means DHSOB now find themselves at the foot of the table having had points deducted.
St Columba were supposed to host leaders Dartmouth last weekend but that match was postponed due to an unfit pitch. It means Saints only game since December 17 was their 54-0 defeat at Salcombe.
Plympton Victoria will be hoping to build on their second half display against OPMs last weekend when they travel to Buckfastleigh.
Plym Vic had been 40-0 down at half-time, but improved massively in the second half with the match finishing 52-6 to OPMs.
South West rugby fixtures can be found HERE.