PLAYER-coach Lewis Paterson is expecting a ‘cracking battle’ when his third-placed Ivybridge side host National Three South West leaders Old Redcliffians at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday (2.30pm).
“It is a very big game and the pressure is on both sides,” said Paterson.
“You can say the pressure is on them because they are top of the league and have a point to prove, but the pressure is also on us as we are at home and we are joint second.
“It should be a cracking battle on the day. It is just going to be about who has prepared well.”
He added: “We are looking forward to it. We know they are going to be a tough side. We just have to be ready for them. Our advantage is that they have to travel to us.
“We want to go out and try and get a massive win. We are at home so we should be hunting for that win.
“But, like always, we just want to make sure we come away with something, whether that be four points, five points, two points or one point.
“Whatever happens this weekend there are still plenty of games left in the season.”
Ivybridge sit in third place but they have the same number of points as second-placed Dings Crusaders and are nine points behind Old Redcliffians.
Old Reds beat Ivybridge 31-14 away in October, which is one of just three games this season where Ivybridge haven’t picked up at least a bonus point in.
The Bridgers will go into Saturday’s game in confident mood after becoming the first team to beat Newton Abbot at Rackerhayes this season in their last outing two weeks ago.
The South Hams side should have played Tiverton away last Saturday in the Devon Cup, but the quarter-final tie was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
However, the postponement did not upset Ivybridge too much, according to Paterson.
“You could have picked up any sort of an injury on a pitch like that,” said Paterson. “And it was nice to have a weekend off.
“We had four tough games in January so it was nice to relax and let some people who had picked up some knocks have a rest.
“It was more frustrating for the lads that were going to get some game-time so that we could have a look at, but their opportunities will come.
“The likes of Tom Richards and Max Coles will definitely feature at some point this season and we still have to play Tiverton later this month.”
Ivybridge are still without front-rower Nathan Reeves and youngster Marcus Prout is missing the week after suffering injuring his thumb in an accident with an axe.
That means there is a chance for Stuart Kirkwood, who will come on to the bench, while Damon Akerman (pictured top) will come in on the wing after starting on the bench against Newton Abbot.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
PROMOTION-chasing Devonport Services will be aiming to return to winning ways when they travel to Torquay Athletic on Saturday in Western Counties West.
Services were knocked off the summit of the table in their last outing two weeks ago when they were beaten 43-15 by a strong Exeter University side, who replaced them as league leaders.
Devonport head into this weekend’s game in third place, level on points with second-placed Cullompton.
Not only do Services want to make up for that loss in their last outing but they also want revenge for a 20-12 defeat at the hands of Torquay in October.
Apart from Exeter University, Torquay are the only team to win at the Rectory this season.
“When we played them at home they were quite well organised and we found it hard to break them down,” said Services coach Mike Lewis.
“We know what to expect – we know what they have got. They have got a real powerful scrum and we struggled to deal with that on the day last time. We have been preparing for that this week – making sure our scrum is an acceptable level to make sure we don’t allow them to get the upper-hand.”
Lewis feels the Services players will have benefitted from a week off after their loss against Exeter University.
And, despite that result, he felt there were positives from that game.
“We put up a great fight against them, to be honest,” he said. “They (Exeter) had seven first team players from the Wednesday (BUCS Super League match) playing on the Saturday and some of them have got National League caps from the Championship and National One. They have got some really experienced players.
“On the day we were a bit disappointed, but, in hindsight looking back, the way we played and the way we conducted ourselves was good.
“We never gave up. It was just the last 10 or 15 minutes that we ran out of gas and they scored a few tries and made the result look a lot better in their favour.
“After that Exeter University game the boys were battered and bruised. You only have three subs at this level and when you are playing big, physical teams, it does take it out of you.
“So that week off was perfectly timed. It has given the boys a bit of time to recover.”
Services will be missing centre Ben McGowan this week as he has to work, while the club have also lost young hooker Devon Brown for the rest of the season. However, they are able to welcome back Joe Wyatt this week.
Meanwhile, Devonport Services’ under-15 girls play their Area One Cup final first leg against Winscombe on Sunday at the Rectory (2pm).
The second leg will take place on March 5, which is also the date Services’ under-18 girls will play either Winscombe or Crediton in their regional final.
TAVISTOCK will be hoping they can finally claim their first win of 2017 when they travel to Horsham Fields to face Plymstock Albion Oaks.
Tavvy, who are now in eighth spot, were in good form before Christmas but have lost their four games since the turn over the year.
Sixth-placed Oaks, meanwhile, have had a mixed start to the year, winning two and losing two of their four matches in January.
However, they have only lost once at home all season, but that came in their last outing at Horsham against second-placed Saltash.
Oaks certainly will not be taking Tavistock lightly after the meeting earlier in the season at Sandy Park. Although Plymstock won 17-12, Tavistock totally dominated the second half and could easily have won.
Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill said: “Their home record is strong but we need a win.
“If we play with confidence we have everything we need to get the result we want.
“At home against them we paid for a slow start and would have won if we had an extra 15 minutes.
“Our pack dominated but we under-utilised our back line and their defence was very good up front.
“Hopefully, we can chuck the ball about a bit more than we did at home and enjoy as much possession and territory as we did then but with more success.”
Tavistock will give a late fitness test to Matt Witcher, but will start with Andrew Smerdon at fly-half, while Josh O’Neill and Joe Hair come into the front-row.
There is another derby match at Moorlands Lane where promotion-chasing Saltash welcome their cross-river neighbours Tamar Saracens.
Saltash were the only team in the region to play last Saturday when they beat Withycombe in the RFU Senior Vase.
That was their fourth straight win in all competitions, but with Paignton just one point behind the Ashes know they cannot slip up.
They will be odds on favourites against bottom-of-the-table Tamar Saracens, who have not won since the opening day of the season, but they will know their visitors will turn up with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Plymouth Argaum have recently returned to form, winning their last two matches, but they face a difficult test on Saturday when they host high-flying leaders Falmouth at Bickleigh Down.
Falmouth have only lost once all season – a narrow away defeat at Plymstock Albion Oaks – and average 34 points a game. They beat Argaum 41-13 in Cornwall earlier in the season.
“We have got a bit of belief back now. We have had two decent wins and the last game we produced a really good performance,” said club secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“We’ve just got to try and play the way we want to this weekend.
“We are playing the top of the league and they (Falmouth) have got everything going for them. They have got a fantastic set-up.
“The last four times we have played them for large periods of the games we have been equal to them, but you know you’ve got to play for the full 80 minutes.
“We know it is going to be tough this weekend, but the most important thing for us is the performance.”
Argaum do not have any real selection issues this week, although they are without Mason Edwards.
THE battle for promotion to Devon One continues for OPMs and Old Techs this weekend.
OPMs are currently in second spot in Devon Two – the final promotion place – three points ahead of third-placed Techs with four games to go.
OPMs have on the paper the trickier test on Saturday when they host fifth-placed Salcombe at King George V Playing Fields.
Old Techs, meanwhile, entertain struggling St Columba & Torpoint, whose only win this season was a narrow home victory over fellow bottom two side Plympton Victoria.
OPMs will certainly be on their guard against Salcombe after making hard work of beating them away in December, eventually triumphing 13-10.
Salcombe, along with Buckfastleigh and DHSOB are the three sides that could have a major say in who does win promotion.
Techs will be expected to beat St Columba, but coach Shaun Bedford-Smith has warned his team about complacency.
“We certainly won’t be taking them lightly,” said Bedford-Smith. “We don’t take any team lightly.
“We’ve just got to go out there and do a job. We can’t afford to look too far ahead, we’ve just got to go out on Saturday and do what we have been doing and make sure we execute our game-plan.
“We have got a few people away, but what is good this season is that we have got good strength in depth, which is something we didn’t really have last year. We can have four, five or even six players out and it does not affect us too much.”
Dartmouth top the table. They sit three points above OPMs with a game against St Columba in hand.
Plympton Victoria will be their visitors at Wessex Way on Saturday.
When the sides met at Marsh Mills in December Dartmouth won 43-0 but Plym Vic did produce a good second half display.
Possibly the toughest game to call will be at Stonehouse Creek where DHSOB host Buckfastleigh Ramblers.
The Old Boys pushed the Ramblers all the way at their place in December, with the hosts eventually winning 17-10.
DHSOB are hoping for good support on Saturday as they are hosting their VPs and former players day to tie with the Devon Two match and England’s Six Nations clash with Wales in Cardiff.
“There should be a good atmosphere as it is our VPs and ex-players day,” said director of rugby Mike Freeman.
“We are looking to build on our performance against Salcombe and victory over St Columba and then we’re all going to watch Wales v England.”
He added: “We always seem to have competitive fixtures against Buckfastleigh. We went up there this season with players short but got a bonus point. We would like to get a result this time.”
Freeman did admit that the Old Boys’ main focus now is the cup competitions. They are still in the Lockie Cup and Ellis Trophy and are drawn at home against Salcombe in the first round of the Devon Junior Cup.
“We got to three finals last year and we’d like to get to at least one this season and make it a positive year,” said Freeman.
South West rugby fixtures can be found HERE.