ALL EYES this weekend will be on Devon Two, where Old Techs could win promotion if they beat Buckfastleigh at Weston Mill and city rivals OPMs lose at home to newly-crowned champions Dartmouth.
However, if OPMs could become the first team to beat Dartmouth this season then they would go into their final league match of the campaign knowing they would have a great chance of snatching runners-up spot.
OPMs had been in the top two all season, but slip down to third, two points behind Old Techs with just two games to go, by losing to Buckfastleigh in their last match. After hosting Dartmouth on Saturday, their final game will be away at the unpredictable DHSOB.
Techs, unbeaten since mid-November, host fourth-placed Buckfastleigh on Saturday (2.30pm) before then visiting champions Dartmouth.
It’s a tough finish for Old Techs, but they are just happy that their destiny is in their own hands for the first time this season.
“It is nice to be in that position where it is in our own hands,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith, whose side have recovered after losing two of their opening three games. “We thought we would probably have to win every game to just stand a chance, but OPMs slipped up, so that has let us in a little bit.
“But if we lose against Buckfastleigh, all that hard work (to get up to second) has gone.
“It is a big game this weekend. We turned Buckfastleigh over at their place, but they beat OPMs in their last game and so I think they are going to come down full of confidence and will be looking to turn us over as well.”
Although he knows it is possible his team could win promotion this weekend, Bedford-Smith has told his players not to get ahead of themselves.
“It is obviously an important game, but they all have been,” he said.
“It is about trying to put that (possibly winning promotion) out of your mind, because if we don’t get a result on Saturday then we are back to square one again, especially if OPMs win.
“It’s about not looking too far ahead as it could all easily switch around again. We have to concentrate on our game and then worry about other results afterwards.
“It is a massive weekend for both us and OPMs. Dartmouth are promoted now, but I don’t think that is going to change them. I think they will want to go undefeated all season.
“But, like I’ve said, we’ve just got to keep focussed on what we have to do.
“We are hoping to get a decent crowd and I think the players are looking forward to it.
“These are the games you want to play in when there’s pressure and you know you’ve got to win.”
OPMs captain Henry Matthews insists his team will not be even thinking about what is going on across the city at Weston Mill. He says their focus is just on trying to beat Dartmouth at Elburton.
“We can’t worry about anyone else,” he said. “We just have to go out and win the game.
“We just have to make sure we are as good as we can be. We can’t rely on anyone else.”
Dartmouth will arrive at King George V Playing Fields with an impressive record and they beat OPMs 20-10 in January.
“If you win all your games you become champions – and that’s what Dartmouth have done so they deserve it,” said Matthews. “That’s what we wanted to do at the start of the year but we’ve not done it.
“However, we’ve still got a chance (of promotion). We’ll just go out on Saturday, have a run around and, hopefully, we can get the win.”
Elsewhere in Devon Two, DHSOB will travel to Marsh Mill to play Plympton Victoria.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Stonehouse Creek, but as DHSOB pulled out of visiting Plym Vic at the start of January, they now have to forfeit home advantage in the second fixture.
Even with two games to go, Plym Vic know they will not finish bottom of the league having beaten St Columba & Torpoint 21-0 in their last league outing.
DHSOB are in a good run of form. In the last three weeks they have beaten Buckfastleigh in the league and the Peninsula Medical School in the Lockie Cup, with a narrow 22-14 loss at champions Dartmouth their only defeat in the past month.
Meanwhile, St Columba & Torpoint will be hoping they can get a team together to host Salcombe at Defiance Field after pulling out of two of their last three fixtures.
NATIONAL THREE SOUTH WEST
IVYBRIDGE will be hoping they can get their play-off hopes back on track when they entertain in-form Bracknell at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday (2.30pm).
Back-to-back narrow defeats against Bournemouth and leaders Old Redcliffians has seen Ivybridge drop down to fourth in the table.
However, they are only three points off second-placed Camborne, who play Old Redcliffians at the weekend.
Ivybridge know if they have any hope of finishing second and securing a play-off place then they need a win this weekend.
But they are expecting a tough test against a Bracknell side who have won their last five games to move up to sixth in the table, just seven points behind Ivybridge.
“Fair play to them,” said Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson. “They have had a few good wins.
“We beat them at their place, so they are going to come down and want to turn us over at our place.”
He added: “We have been a bit inconsistent recently and we just need to step up even more.
“A lot of lads have been putting in a lot of effort and we just have to say to them to keep doing that and keep working as it will pay off.
“We’ve had an up and down couple of months, but we are getting to the part of the season that really suit us and, hopefully, if the weather stays true on Saturday we can turn it around.
“We just want to try and keep ourselves in the mix at the top.”
Ivybridge are without full-back Charlie Briant, who is out with a bad cut near his eye, but they are able to welcome back Paterson, who missed the trip to Bournemouth as it clashed with his wedding day.
Matt Grieveson is set to return to the team at fly-half, while young forward Max Coles could make his league debut after being named among the replacements. Fellow youngster Ben Collins is also set to be on the bench to offer front-row cover.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services coach Mike Lewis insists his team still have it all to play for as they enter the closing stages of the Western Counties West season.
Services sit in third spot in the table, four points behind second-placed Cullompton, with just six games to go.
The city side lost ground in race for promotion in their last outing two weeks ago by slipping to a 28-23 home defeat to Sidmouth.
But Lewis is hoping his team can bounce back from that loss this Saturday when they travel to mid-table St Austell.
“St Austell is one of those places that is always tough to go to,” said Lewis. “They do seem to perform better at home.
“We will be the first to admit we did not play the best we could against Sidmouth. We should have done a lot better.
“We’ve had a two break now. Sometimes a break is nice, but on this occasion, we just wanted to crack on again, but unfortunately, we couldn’t.
“We have worked out what issues we had in that last game and what we needed to work on. We’ve looked at that this week and, hopefully, we can rectify what we didn’t quite get right in that game.”
On his side’s promotion hopes, Lewis said: “Cullompton are buoyant and doing well. They are consistent at the minute, but if they slip up with have to try and jump on it. Yet, first and foremost, we need to concentrate on what we need to do. But it is still all to play for.”
Services will without full-back Joe Wyatt, who broke his leg against Sidmouth. Fellow back Ben McGowan is struggling with a hamstring injury, while Devonport will be without props Tony Sibley and Matt Geldard, as well as back-row forward Max Vangorkum.
“We have got a few missing, but we still have depth coming through,” said Lewis.
SALTASH will attempt to become only the second team to beat Falmouth in the Cornwall/Devon League this season on Saturday when they host the leaders at Keyham (2.30pm).
The Ashes are currently Falmouth’s nearest rivals in the league, sitting in second spot 14 points behind their visitors this week.
So far the only team to beat Falmouth are Plymstock Albion Oaks, who surprised them at Horsham Fields back in October.
Saltash do go into this weekend’s big match on a high after winning the South West Counties Senior Vase final last Saturday. They beat Somerset side Winscombe 32-20 at Keyham.
Afterwards Ashes coach Richard Thompson said: “We have Falmouth in the league next and there’s no better way to go into that fixture.”
When the teams met at the Recreation Ground in November, Falmouth triumphed 27-15 in a hard-fought encounter.
With third-placed Paignton playing fourth-placed Withycombe, it could be a crucial weekend in the race for second spot.
There is a derby match on Saturday at Ernesettle where bottom side Tamar Saracens host eighth-placed Tavistock.
Tavistock will be hoping to claim their first win of 2017. They have produced encouraging displays in their last two games against Saltash and Plymstock Albion Oaks but have not been able to pick up any points, despite dominating for large spells.
The Sandy Park side did beat Tamar Saracens 29-5 at home earlier in the season, but Sarries have proved tougher opponents on their own pitch, albeit without winning since the opening day of the campaign.
Plymouth Argaum will be looking for a fourth win in five games when they travel to relegation-threatened Topsham.
Topsham may be second-from-bottom, but they beat the Pirates Amateurs in their last match.
“We are under no illusions, it is going to be a tough game,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “They are trying their hardest to stay up.
“But we really want to get some positives results to take into next season.”
Argaum enjoyed a 38-12 away win at Bodmin in their last match, thanks to a storming start that saw them score four tries in the opening quarter-of-an-hour.
“It was the best 15 minutes we’ve produced for a long time,” said Quarterman. “That first 15 minutes was awesome.”
Argaum are hoping they can hit Topsham hard early on as well on Saturday.
However, the Plymouth side will be missing a number of players, including Tom Holliday and Mason Edwards. Veteran prop Nick Hancock, though, is fit again after six weeks out with a knee problem.
Elsewhere in the Cornwall/Devon League, sixth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks entertain 11th-placed Bodmin at Horsham Fields.
Oaks are keen to bounce back from their big defeat at leaders Falmouth in their last match two weeks ago.
Plymstock’s home form has been good this season. Their only defeat at Horsham Field has been by Saltash.
When the teams met earlier in the season in Cornwall, Oaks narrowly won 23-19.
South West rugby fixtures can be viewed HERE.