IVYBRIDGE will be hoping to put their Devon Cup frustration behind them on Saturday as they turn their attentions back to trying to secure a promotion play-off place in National Three South West.
The Bridgers entertain relegation-threatened Lydney at Cross-in-Hand in a match that is important for both clubs for differing reasons.
A win would boost Ivybridge’s hopes of securing second spot, while 11th-placed Lydney need a victory to keep ahead of Launceston and Salisbury.
Ivybridge, who are looking to bounce back from last week’s 38-25 Devon Cup semi-final loss at Brixham, currently sit fourth in the table, three points behind Dings Crusaders in second, with four games to go.
“It is a very important game for both clubs for different reasons,” said Ivybridge player-coach Jamie Tripcony.
“We feel there’s been enough opportunities there for us this season, but we haven’t taken them and so it is down to the wire now.”
Ivybridge may be seven places higher than Lydney but they will not be taking their Forest of Dean visitors lightly. The Gloucestershire side won 29-25 when the sides met at Regentsholme in November.
“We went away to Lydney and got well beat,” said Tripcony. “We just managed to get a losing bonus point.
“Hopefully, though, now we know what they are all about.
“We think we know what Lydney are going to bring to the game so we have been training a certain way that, hopefully, can help us unpick them, but we know by no means is it going to be easy.
“When you play any side from the Forest of Dean you know what you are going to be in for. You can never underestimate them.
“But we absolutely need to bounce back from last weekend.”
Ivybridge will be without the experienced Lewis Paterson, Nathan Reeves and Matt Finn this weekend.
“We have got a few key players missing, but luckily we have got strength in depth,” said Tripcony.
Youngster Marcus Prout is set to get another chance to impress.
“He’s played a few games for us now and he is a good, young prospect, who’s also got a bit of grit, which is nice,” said Tripcony.
Seb Slade is also set to return to the squad, as is Stuart Kirkwood.
Meanwhile, Ivybridge will face Brentwood at home on April 2 in the National Colts’ Plate semi-final.
The Bridgers, last year’s winners, progressed to the last four by beating Trojans 20-12 away last Sunday.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services coach Mike Lewis has told his team to go out and enjoy their final four games of the season and just see what it brings.
Services go into the final month of the season sitting in third place in Western Counties West, nine points behind second-placed Cullompton.
This weekend, the city side make the long trip to 11th-placed Burnham-on-Sea, while second-placed Cullompton travel to fourth-placed Truro.
“We have got four games left and we are just hoping we enjoy them as much as we did the games at the start of the season,” said Lewis. “It would be good to finish with a bang.”
He added: “Our target at the start of the year was to try and finish in the top four. That was a realistic target, but we knew there were some good teams in the league and we knew it would be tough to get much higher than that.
“However, by performing really well we managed to sneak our way up to the top of the league without realising it almost. We were just going about our way quietly and found our way up there, which was nice.
“But since we played Exeter University at home (at the end of January) and lost 43-15 we sort of lost our edge after that. It was a tough game and the boys put everything into it – they left everything on the field that day. I think that was mentally draining.
“It was only until we played Tiverton in our last game that we looked like the team we were before that Exeter game.
“Our defensive structures were a lot more energetic and there was a lot more passion in our performance.
“I just think it took a long time to get over that defeat by Exeter Uni and it affected our performances a bit.
“But it seems the boys are raring to go again.”
Burnham-on-Sea are fighting to stay up. They are just one point above the relegation zone, but they have won their last two home games.
“They seem to play quite well at home,” said Lewis. “They are much stronger there, but maybe that’s because they’ve got to travel so far for away games.”
Services are able to welcome back prop Jack Martin, but fellow front-rower Ty Colwill is unavailable.
Centre Ben McGowan should be back in contention following a hamstring injury, while forward Jack Norris is pushing for a first team recall after breaking his leg earlier in the season.
The crucial games will be at Moorlands Lane and Bickleigh Down, where Saltash and Plymouth Argaum will be looking for home wins for differing reasons.
Saltash, who last weekend secured a place in the RFU Senior Vase semi-final by beating Swindon College Old Boys, turn their attentions back to important league matters on Saturday with a match against struggling Topsham.
The Ashes currently sit third in the table, six points behind second-placed Paignton, but the clubs will meet on the final day of the season.
Saltash will at least want to go into that match still with a chance of securing runners-up spot behind already-promoted Falmouth.
The Moorlands Lane club will be expected to secure a win this weekend over second-from-bottom Topsham, who last weekend lost at home to Plymouth Argaum.
When the teams met earlier in the season the Ashes ran out 65-13 winners.
Meanwhile, 10th-placed Plymouth Argaum are looking for a home win for other reasons. They know if they could beat the in-form Cornish side then it would probably all-but guarantee them safety.
Their win over Topsham last Saturday moved them eight points clear of Honiton and Bodmin below them.
“Every point we pick up now is a bonus,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“It’s all still very tight in the league and a lot could still happen.”
Lanner have been the form team in the second half of the season in the league.
After a slow start to life in the higher division, the Cornish side are now up to eighth in the table and have comfortably beaten Pirates Amateurs and Penryn in their last two outings.
Lanner kick-started their season in November when they beat Argaum 31-6 at their place.
“We don’t really know what to expect this weekend,” admitted Quarterman.
“We went down to their place with a very under-strength side and they beat us convincingly. We wouldn’t have learnt a lot from that day.
“We just have to play our own game.”
Argaum have been boosted by the performance of a number of their colts, who have stepped up to the first team in recent weeks.
Last weekend against Topsham, 18-year-old full-back Alex Cameron was their man of the match.
Argaum have also been boosted by the return to fitness of Mason Edwards, but Jamie Burton and Nick Carter are unavailable for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, Dan James, who has missed nearly all the campaign due to an ACL injury, has now undergone surgery and it is hoped he might be back playing before Christmas.
Argaum will be hoping fifth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks can do them a favour this weekend and beat Honiton at Horsham Fields.
Oaks’ home form has been outstanding this season. Only Saltash have managed to win up at Staddiscombe this campaign.
Tavistock are not still mathematically safe. They are 10 points above the relegation zone with four games to go, but they know that after this weekend’s home match against runaway leaders Falmouth their final three games will be against Bodmin, Topsham and Honiton.
They will be underdogs this weekend at Sandy Park against a Falmouth side who have only lost once in the league this term.
Tavistock, though, will be keep to prove a point after losing 82-0 down in Cornwall at the end of November.
“There’s nothing to lose for us,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill. “We’re just hoping for an improvement from the drubbing they gave us away.”
Kerswill missed that away trip in November but he is looking forward to coming up against his former university team-mate Tommy Job this weekend.
Tavistock do have a number of injury problems and players unavailable for farming commitments.
Aidan Mason is definitely out after breaking his collarbone in Tavistock’s last match at Withycombe.
Meanwhile, already-relegated Tamar Saracens could help Argaum and Tavistock out by beating Bodmin at Ernesettle on Saturday.
Bodmin have been in shocking form and have not won since beating Saracens in November.
Tamar Saracens are just playing for pride now but they will hope they can win at least one of their remaining four fixtures which are against Bodmin, Topsham, Honiton and Lanner.
DEVON JUNIOR CUP
Old Techs will host Devon One side Totnes, who they beat in the David Butt Trophy semi-finals, while DHSOB entertain their Devon Two rivals Salcombe at Stonehouse Creek.
OPMs have a bye to the quarter-finals after Plympton Victoria opted to follow St Columba & Torpoint in not taking part in the competition.
Devon Two runners-up Techs will have their Devon One credentials tested in the cup.
After facing Totnes this weekend, they will then play either Devon One champions Wessex or runners-up Torrington in their following match.
This week’s winners will progress to the cup quarter-final, while the losers go into the plate last eight.
“We are looking forward to playing these teams from the higher league,” said Old Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“Whatever happens this weekend we know we then have to go away to either Wessex or Torrington.
“But we are just looking at Totnes this weekend first.
“I’ve had a look at their results and they’ve had some good ones lately. Maybe they suffered with injuries or unavailabilities early on, but they took Wessex to within two points and have beaten Torrington, North Tawton, Exeter Saracens recently.
“The matches they have lost as well have been close so it is going to be a really tough game for us this weekend.
“They are a pretty established Devon One side and it will give us a bit of a marker for next season.
“I know we played them at the start of the season in the David Butt Trophy, but that won’t count for anything this weekend. That game ended in a draw but we got two late tries in extra-time.”
Techs have not played since beating champions Dartmouth two weeks ago.
“We have got three players missing who started against Dartmouth,” said Bedford-Smith. “But we’ve got four back who missed that game. We’ve just got to shuffle the team around.
“I think the big difference between Devon One and Devon Two is turning possession into points. You have to take your opportunities at the higher level. You can get away with it a bit more in Devon Two, but that is something we definitely need to improve on.”
Techs are holding their sponsors and old boys’ day on Saturday and invite any former players down to the club at 1pm for drinks and a buffet.
DHSOB, meanwhile, are hoping it will be third time lucky for them this season against Salcombe.
They narrowly lost 13-12 away at the south Devon side in January and were beaten 14-12 at home in November.
“They were two very close games,” said DHSOB’s director of rugby Mike Freeman. “And we could not have come closer, but they just scraped the wins in both league games.”
DHSOB have been in quite good form of late and have reached both the Lockie Cup and Ellis Trophy finals.
“We have actually won 11 games this season, which is an improvement,” said Freeman.
They have got quite a good draw in the Devon Junior Cup. If they could beat Salcombe they would be at home again in the next round to city rivals OPMs, while if they lose this weekend, they would have a bye through to the semi-finals of the plate.
DHSOB are currently exploring after-match facilities following the sudden closer of Stonehouse Creek Centre. They have asked Plymouth Cricket Club if they could use their facilities at Mount Wise this Saturday.
South West rugby fixtures are available to view HERE.