IVYBRIDGE will be without their player-coach Lewis Paterson for this weekend’s important National Three South West match at Bournemouth.
Paterson, who has been in good form for the Bridgers, will be swapping walking on to the pitch at Chapel Gate for walking down the aisle on Saturday, as he is getting married.
However, he is hoping his team can manage without him in Dorset as they look to bounce back from last weekend’s frustrating 25-24 home loss to league leaders Old Redcliffians.
Ivybridge were winning 24-12 in the second half and were still in front going into injury-time, but conceded a late penalty and then missed one with the last play of the game that would have secured them a vital victory.
Yet, despite the defeat, they stay third in the table, level on points with second-placed Dings Crusaders.
This weekend’s game, though, against Bournemouth could be crucial.
The Dorset team have enjoyed a good run of form, losing just once in their last seven games, to move up to fifth in the table, just five points behind Ivybridge.
Ivybridge will certainly be expecting to face a different side to the one they beat 35-10 at Cross-in-Hand in October.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
Third-placed Services are looking to keep the pressure on Exeter University and Cullompton in the battle for promotion.
Cullompton, who play St Austell on Saturday, are just one point ahead of Services, while Cullompton, who host Torquay this week, are six points in front.
But Lewis knows his team cannot underestimate seventh-placed Sidmouth, who pushed Cullompton hard last weekend.
When the sides met earlier in the season, Services narrowly won 29-26.
“They are a tricky team,” said Lewis. “When we played them earlier in the year we were up by a considerable margin, but in the last 15 minutes they came back at us and scored three tries to make a game of it.
“We know they are capable of attacking and playing good rugby. Historically, from the reports we’ve had, they tend to only really play for 20-30 minutes of a game, but when they do they are really tough to stop.
“We just have to make sure we play for the full 80. If we do that then, hopefully, we’ll be okay, but it is all about getting that mind-set right.”
Lewis believes some of the mid-table sides in the league are the biggest threat to the clubs chasing promotion.
“Teams that have nothing really to play for are possibly the most dangerous, especially if they have a full team out,” said Lewis. “They go out with the attitude ‘let’s have a bit of fun today’. Sometimes when you take that pressure off it allows you to play a better.”
Lewis felt his team took the pressure off last weekend when they went to Torquay and won 20-3 after losing to Exeter University in the previous match.
However, that win in south Devon did come at a cost, with hooker Sam Bennett suffering ankle ligament damage, which will keep him out for six to eight week.
With fellow hooker Devon Brown unavailable for the rest of the season, it means prop Joe Daley will wear the number two shirt this week against Sidmouth. However, Services are hoping to make a new signing to strengthen their front-row options.
Services are boosted by the return of Arran Webb, Tony Sibley and Ben McGowan, who all missed last weekend’s game.
Alex Matthews, though, who impressed at lock after coming in from the second team is unavailable.
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks believe they will face a fired up Falmouth side on Saturday when they make the trip to Cornwall.
Oaks are the only team to have beaten Falmouth so far this season – triumphing 14-9 at Horsham Fields at the end of October.
Plymstock coach Tim Mathias feels Falmouth, who are nine points clear at the top of the table, will be looking for revenge for that loss this weekend.
“It’ll be a bit of a test, especially after we beat them at our place,” said Mathias. “I think they will be up for a bit of revenge.
“I think we drew down there last year as well.”
Mathias is hoping playing the top of the league once again inspires his fifth-placed side.
He said: “If you look at the way we play, we generally play better against the better teams in the league.
“When we are not under pressure we generally perform better.
“If we start as well as we have the last few games then we’ll be in it for the first 20 and then you never know.”
Plymouth Argaum, who are in 11th spot, are also in Cornwall this weekend. They travel to Clifden Park to play Bodmin, who sit just one place and once point above Argaum in the table.
Bodmin beat Argaum 23-10 in October. The Plymouth side felt their Cornish opponents had improved a lot from the previous season.
“They won fair and square at our place,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “They played the better rugby.
“They were very organised and their forwards were more dynamic than last year. We were impressed with them, so we’re expecting a tough test.
“It should be an interesting game.”
Argaum took plenty of positives from their performance against leaders Falmouth last week, despite losing 34-0.
That defeat was their first in three games and they will be hoping to get back to winning way this weekend.
They are without front-row forwards Mason Edwards and Calum Mills.
Mills might be struggling to play again this season after needing surgery last weekend for appendicitis.
As Argaum and Plymstock Albion Oaks head over the Tamar into Cornwall, promotion-chasing Saltash will be going the other way as they visit Plymouth Combination rivals Tavistock on Saturday.
Second-placed Saltash are unbeaten since January 7 and claimed a big 48-5 win over Tavistock in October.
Tavvy have lost their five matches, but Saltash will know their west Devon rivals are still tough to beat on their own ground.
Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill said: “We have nothing to lose. Saltash looked the most organised side in attack we’ve played all season, but I hope we can put in a worthy performance and get our season back on track.
“Last week (against Plymstock Albion Oaks) we played with much more enthusiasm than in previous weeks.”
Tavistock, though, have suffered a blow going into the week’s game with news that influential back Doug Lloyd has broken his leg and will miss the rest of the season.
Fortunately, it was a clean break and so, hopefully, he should have a straight forward recovery.
Aidan Mason is also unavailable but Tavistock can welcome back Mark Webber at full-back, while James Perkins keeps his place on the bench after impressing on his debut last week.
Bottom side Tamar Saracens face a tough trip to Withycombe on Saturday – providing they are able to field a team this weekend.
Saracens pulled out of their match against Saltash last week, which leaves them 27 points off safety with eight games to go – two of which are against Falmouth.
OPMs remain in second spot – the final promotion berth – with three games to go, but Techs are just two points behind.
Both clubs have potential banana skins this weekend, with OPMs heading to fourth-placed Buckfastleigh and Old Techs travelling to fifth-placed Salcombe.
“We’ve said we’ve got to win every game to be certain of promotion. It is in our own hands,” said OPMs captain Henry Matthews.
“This week is going to be a big test. Buckfastleigh are a very good side. Potentially, it is a big banana skin. We have to be out there strong.
“But we don’t have any easy games now. After this weekend we have Dartmouth, then a cup fixture possibly against Old Techs and then DHS on the last league game of the season, which is the same day Dartmouth play Old Techs. It could go right down to that.”
Old Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith added: “We’ve both got a couple of tough games this weekend.
“But I think it will just be a matter of concentrating on our game. We can worrying about other results afterwards, but, first, we have to go and get a result.
“If we don’t get a result, it doesn’t matter about the others.”
Techs have not played a game since January 28 as St Columba & Torpoint pulled out of last weekend’s scheduled league match.
“We were frustrated as it means we have gone two weeks without a game,” said Bedford-Smith. “I tried my hardest to find a friendly.
“That’s three home games we have had cancelled which is frustrating, but I don’t blame the teams as we’ve all been there.”
Although disappointed Techs did not get to play last weekend, it did allow Bedford-Smith to watch Salcombe play OPMs.
“I think they will be a different side at home,” said Bedford-Smith. “But they were very resilient last week.
“OPMs probably had 75 per cent of the possession, but they didn’t get over the try line. They only got three penalties in the second half. Salcombe’s defence was very good.
“OPMs might have had a lot of possession but Salcombe didn’t let them over the line.
“We know it is going to be hard. I think they will be a tough nut to crack at home.”
Salcombe did make Techs work hard earlier in the season for a 15-6 victory at Weston Mill.
DHSOB also have a tough away game. They visit unbeaten league leaders Dartmouth on Saturday.
However, the Old Boys will travel to south Devon in positive mood after beating Buckfastleigh last weekend.
“We were encouraged by last week,” said DHSOB director of rugby Mike Freeman. “We had a really good game against Dartmouth at home and if we travel with a strong side then we will give them another good game.”
The only Devon Two match in Plymouth this weekend is at Marsh Mills where Plympton Victoria host fellow strugglers St Columba & Torpoint.
Plym Vic beat Saints at home in the David Butt Trophy, but the Cornish side narrowly triumphed 18-13 in the league game at Defiance Field in December.
Plym Vic did take plenty of encouragement from their performance against Dartmouth last week, despite not travelling with a full team.
South West rugby fixtures can be found HERE.