IVYBRIDGE are preparing for the first of two games within the space of seven days against Devon rivals Brixham that could decide their season.
The Bridgers travel to Astley Park on Saturday hoping to keep alive their National Three South West promotion hopes.
They will then return to the same ground the following week for the semi-final of the Devon Senior Cup.
“These are two massive weeks,” said Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson.
“One game is for a place in the Devon Cup final and the other could determine our league position.”
Ivybridge dropped down to fifth in the National Three South West table last weekend by losing 20-6 at home to in-form Bracknell.
That was their third successive defeat. However, they are only four points behind second-placed Camborne, who travel to fourth-placed Bournemouth this weekend.
“Last week was frustrating as we were poor,” admitted Paterson. “It was just a very flat performance against a Bracknell side on a good run of form.
“There were not many defensive errors or stuff like that, but we just lacked that enthusiasm in certain areas. We kind of coasted through the game and got punished for it, but we have addressed that.
“We’ve got these two big games coming up. We are just trying to emphasise to the boys not to settle as they have done so well to get where they are.
“Thankfully, other results have gone our way and we are still up there, but we are going to have to work really hard to turn it around against a strong Brixham side, who have made some good signings.”
Brixham, who have former Plymouth Albion boss Graham Dawe as a coaching consultant, have won three of their last four league games and also enjoyed a big win over Newton Abbot in the cup.
They are seventh in the table, but are only five points behind Ivybridge.
“Brixham are on a good run of form and they always seem to attract players,” said Paterson. “They have got some ex-Albion players.
“We put a good performance in at home against them and I’m sure they will be looking to do the same. No other Devon team likes losing to Ivybridge. They seem to think that it is wrong and they shouldn’t.
“We are above them in the table, but we have to start turning it on a bit. We can’t have any excuses among ourselves.”
Ivybridge, who beat Brixham at Cross-in-Hand earlier in the season, are able to welcome back influential full-back Charlie Briant, who missed last weekend’s game with Bracknell.
Teenage fly-half Mitch Pinkus is also set to return to the team, while Justin Rogers and Marcus Prout are also back in contention.
Brixham have recently added former Plymouth Albion back Marc Koteczky and University of Plymouth lock Shek Sheriff to their squad.
Koteczky recently returned from a long holiday in Australia and was looking for a club to gain some match fitness following injury. It looked like he might re-sign for Albion in February but it didn’t happen and instead agreed to join Brixham until the end of the season.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services coach Mike Lewis has told his team to just go out and enjoy their last five league games of the season.
Services sit third in the Western Counties West table – eight points off second spot.
The Plymouth Combination side were in pole position for promotion a few weeks ago, but three defeats in four games means they are now outsiders to go up.
“We have lost our way the last four or five weeks,” admitted Lewis. “It’s been a bit all work and no play. We have just been focussed on trying to get results instead of just playing our style of rugby.
“We need to take a step back and have a bit of fun.
“I don’t think anyone expected us to do anything this year. I think most people maybe thought top half of the table.”
Services, who surprisingly lost 24-12 at St Austell last weekend, will be able to enjoy home comforts this Saturday as they welcome 10th-placed Tiverton to the Rectory.
“It seems like an age since we’ve played at home,” said Lewis. “I know we alternate between home and away, but because we’ve had weekends off it seems like for ever since our last home game.”
He added: “Tiverton are hot and cold at the minute and we don’t know what team they are going to put out. It could be pot-luck what type of game it is going to be, especially with the conditions. “
Lewis admitted his team did not play to their full potential last week at St Austell.
“It was an uncharacteristic performance really,” he said.
“We were a little bit disgruntled by some refereeing decisions and the guys let that get into their heads too much instead of focusing on what they needed to do.
“St Austell are not going to play like the All Blacks, but they did the simple things very well. They just kept at it for the full 80 minutes, whereas we didn’t do it for longer than 40 minutes, to be honest.
“Now we’re just going to go into each week and look to have a bit of fun.”
Services are hampered by injuries and unavailabilities this weekend.
They are without props – Terry Sibley, Jack Martin and Matt Geldard – and two of their back five forwards – Matt Gregory and Alex Matthews.
Services are better off in the backs but are still missing Ben McGowan and Joe Wyatt.
“We have quite a few missing, especially in the forwards,” said Lewis. “It is one of those weekends, but sometimes that brings people closer together.”
Services do hope to have Max Vangorkum available. He has been away but is set to jump off a plane on Saturday and drive straight to the ground.
Devonport’s second team are also in action at Keyham and the club are holding their sponsors day. They will be also be showing the England v Scotland game and having a band in the evening to make a full day of entertainment.
ALL the Plymouth Combination teams are away in the Cornwall/Devon League this weekend.
Saltash will be hoping they can keep their promotion hopes on track when they travel to struggling Bodmin.
Bodmin enjoyed a relatively encouraging start to the season but they have been in free-fall since November, losing 10 games in a row, including two 56-0 defeats and a 117-0 reverse at Paignton.
They now find themselves just five points above the relegation zone, with Honiton and Topsham closing fast on them.
Saltash will be hoping to take advantage of their lack of form on Saturday to not only help their chances of going up but to also give themselves a boost ahead of next weekend’s RFU Senior Vase quarter-final against Swindon College Old Boys.
The Ashes currently sit in second spot, but third-placed Paignton are just four points behind with a game in hand.
Fourth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks face a trip to relegation-threatened Topsham on Saturday.
It will be a trip into the unknown for their coach Tim Mathias, who has yet to visit the east Devon club.
“It is going to be difficult,” said Mathias. “We have not been up there yet.
“They have got Chris Whitehead, the old Exeter Chiefs hooker, involved up there so they will be fairly well-drilled.
“You never know what you are going to get, especially when teams are down there fighting to stay up.”
Topsham are battling for survival, whereas Oaks do not really have anything other than pride to play for, but Mathias has challenged his team to finish as high as they can.
“We are not going to get relegated or promoted, but fourth is better than sixth,” he said. “Hopefully, the players will continue to put the effort in and we can go there and get the five points.”
Plymouth Argaum also find themselves up against a team fighting hard to stay in the league when they visit Honiton.
Honiton sit third-from-bottom, five points behind Bodmin, but they have been in good form recently, wining two of their last four games and pushing Pirates Amateurs and Paignton hard away in their other two matches.
“Honiton are one of the form sides,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “They have been picking up points and wins and they are used to being in this position.”
Argaum were frustrated last weekend when their away match at Topsham was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
That game is now pencilled in for next Saturday, when Argaum had been planning a Six Nations social at their Bickleigh Down home.
“It was gutting last week,” said Quarterman. “We very much wanted to play. Hopefully, we will not have too many away next weekend.”
Argaum are missing a few players this Saturday, including John Ireland, Mason Edwards, Nick Carter and Tom Holiday.
However, they do have back-rower Jamie Burton returning and Cheyenne Edwards, while colts full-back Alex Cameron is in line for his first team debut.
Despite their injuries and absentees, Argaum will still field a second team on Saturday. They will host Kingsbridge seconds at Bickleigh Down.
Already-relegated Tamar Saracens are planning to make a day of their trip to league leaders Falmouth.
The teams only met two weeks ago in a re-arranged league match at the Parkway, which Falmouth won 61-12.
“It was a bit of a scrappy game,” said Tamar Saracens spokesman Marc Cioffi. “But they were really friendly and said to come down to their place and have a few drinks afterwards.”
Saracens are planning on travelling down by train and are hoping they can do themselves justice as they start building for next season in Devon One.
Falmouth will be odds-on favourites, having won all their home matches this term.
Eighth-placed Tavistock also have a tough trip this weekend. They visit fifth-placed Withycombe, who have a good home record.
Tavvy, though, go into the match boosted by last weekend’s 29-5 away win at Tamar Saracens, which was their first victory since Christmas.
The Sandy Park club did enjoy a 12-7 home victory over Withycombe in November.
OLD TECHS are hoping they can become the first team this season to beat Dartmouth in Devon Two.
Both clubs are guaranteed to be promoted to Devon One – Dartmouth as champions and Techs as runners-up.
However, Techs, unbeaten since mid-November, have no intention of taking their foot of the gas.
They want to win Saturday’s final league match and then target success in the Lockie Cup and Devon Junior Cup.
“We’re looking forward to this week,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “You end up where you deserve and Dartmouth have been the best side this year. They deserve to be champions.
“But we want to go Dartmouth and try and get a result.
“It’s one against two, but I don’t think it will be a jolly day out. We don’t want to lose as we have the Lockie Cup and stuff coming up.”
Old Techs narrowly missed out on promotion last season. Bedford-Smith believes they learned from last year’s disappointment and they had more depth this term.
“It’s been pleasing the numbers at training,” he said. “Against Buckfastleigh (last week) we were probably missing five players who have been consistent first team players. That does show our strength in depth. We have two centres and a winger who are big players for us but they have not been around for the last five or six weeks yet we’ve still been getting results.
“I do think we have the players here now that can do it in Devon One.”
OPMs have to try and put their disappointment of missing out on promotion behind them when they travel to city rivals DHSOB in their final Devon Two match (2pm).
However, that match – and DHSOB seconds’ Ellis Trophy match with Saltash IIIs – is currently in doubt as Plymouth City Council have put all their sports pitches out of bounds this weekend, which also includes OPMs’ King George V Playing Fields.
DHSOB are still hopeful the council might make an exception for the rugby, especially with it being the last league game.
Elsewhere, in Devon Two, Plympton Victoria will end their league season away at fifth-placed Salcombe, while St Columba & Torpoint are scheduled to travel to fourth-placed Buckfastleigh.
Plym Vic have had an encouraging end to the campaign with a 21-0 win over St Columba and a narrow 17-7 defeat last week to in-form DHSOB.
Struggling St Columba, though, have had a tough end to the season and have been forced to pull out of three of their last four fixtures. It remains to be seen if they are able to send a team to Buckfastleigh.