WEEKENDS do not come much bigger than this one for Ivybridge Rugby Football Club.
On Saturday their first team will continue their push for a promotion play-off spot in National Three South West when they travel to Cleve.
Ivybridge currently sit fourth in the table with three games to go, but they are only three points behind second-placed Dings Crusaders, who they still have to play, and one behind third-placed Camborne, who travel to Brixham this weekend.
Then on Sunday, Ivybridge will have 10 players travelling away with the Devon Under-20 squad for their County Shield quarter-final against Eastern Counties, while on the same day their colts’ team will host Brentwood at Cross-in-Hand in the semi-finals of the National Plate competition.
“It is a very exciting weekend for the club,” said first team player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“The club is in a really good place at the moment.”
The South Hams side could be in an incredibly good place in National Three South West at 5pm on Saturday, if they were to win at Cleve.
“I think it (the battle for second place) will go down to the wire,” said Paterson.
“I think it will come down to which team wants it the most.
“The good thing is we still have to play Dings so if we get a result this weekend and others go our way then it could be in our own hands.
“But whatever happens it has been a fantastic season for the club. It is only our second season in National Three. Three years ago we were in Western Counties West.
“But at the moment we just have to focus on Cleve this weekend.
“When they came to us they didn’t have their own playing kit and so had to play in our shirts and we thumped them, so they will be looking to prove a point.
“They have only lost twice at home this year so they are going to be absolutely gunning for us to prove that they aren’t the Cleve side we played earlier in the season.
“They are a good side and I’m sure they will throw it at us. These sides with not much to play for are very unpredictable.”
Ivybridge showed their strength in depth last weekend by claiming a five-point win over Lydney, despite missing a host of key players, including Paterson, captain Jordan Anderton, forwards Matt Finn, Nathan Reeves and Mike Cox.
“It was brilliant to see the boys got such a fantastic result, considering Jordan (Anderton) had to pull out in the morning because he was poorly and Mike Cox pulled out injured the night before,” said Paterson.
“We had to shuffle around the squad, but the boys did really, really well. It was a fantastic win.”
Young forward Marcus Prout keeps his place after impressing against Lydney, with Finn starting on the bench against Cleve.
But Ivybridge will revert to their normal backs line-up with Paterson and Anderton coming back into the centre and Charlie Briant returning to his normal full-back position and Tom Scoles going back to the wing.
The Bridgers, though, are set to hand a start to Devon Under-20 lock Jack Sturton due to injuries to James Sloan and Cox and with George Wilson and Dom Loomes still absent.
“Hopefully, he’ll come in and do well,” said Paterson, who along with Mitch Pinkus and Damon Akerman will meet the Devon Under-20 team straight after Saturday’s game at Cleve to head to Shelford for Sunday’s County Shield quarter-final. Paterson is part of Devon coaching team.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services’ players have been told they must play for a full 80 minutes this Saturday when they entertain Truro at the Rectory in Western Counties West.
This weekend’s match in Plymouth is likely to decide who finishes third in the table.
Services currently sit in that position with three games to go, but Truro are just four points behind them with a game in hand.
“There is a lot riding on this game,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “They have a game in hand over us, but if we win this weekend then that will basically nullify their game in hand.
“We know how big this game is. We had a discussion on Tuesday about what it means and how we don’t need another half of rugby where we don’t turn up like in our last match against Burnham-on-Sea.
“We need to make sure we are there for 80 minutes this weekend.”
Services lost 24-17 at Burnham last weekend. Had they won that they could have had an eight-point advantage over Truro.
“First half it took us a while to get going,” said Lewis, about last week’s loss. “We made uncharacteristic mistakes, especially in defence. We missed a few tackles, which gave them a 15-point head start.
“It took us 10 minutes into the second half to find our feet. When we did, we were fantastic. We played the best rugby of the game. We were almost unstoppable and scored three great team tries.
“But we only did it for 30 minutes of the game, which made it a tough day at the office.”
Lewis is desperate for his team to finish on a high.
“You don’t want people saying they had a great start but a poor finish and if only…etc,” he said.
“We have already had a bit of that, but we know we have played well and done well this year. We know we are a good team but not quite the best in the league this season, yet it is something we can work on for next.
“I think this year has made the boys realise how much time and effort and how much extra stuff they have to do just to be that two or three per cent better to make sure we win some of these games we are just losing.
“It’s been an eye-opener for the guys. We have got three games left. That’s 15 points up for grabs. There are five on the table this Saturday and, hopefully, we can take them all.”
Services are boosted by the return of Matt Anstis and Matt Gregory, who both missed last week’s trip to Burnham-on-Sea. Prop Ty Colwill is also available for selection again.
“They are a few big additions to the squad, which can only strengthen us,” said Lewis.
Apart from Plymstock Albion Oaks’ trip to Lanner, all the rest of the games have something resting on them.
Promotion-chasing Saltash visit relegation-threatened Honiton.
The east Devon club currently sit 11th in the standings, level on points with 12th-placed Bodmin.
Honiton, who narrowly lost 23-20 away at Oaks last Saturday, need the win to keep alive their hopes of staying up, but Saltash need it to have any hope of finishing in the top two.
The Ashes are currently third, six points behind Paignton, with three games to go – one of which is against the south Devon side.
Plymouth Argaum will be Paignton’s opponents on Saturday at Queen’s Park.
Argaum could not only do Saltash a favour but could also guarantee themselves safety if they could cause an upset.
The Bickleigh Down club are eight points clear of the relegation zone with three games to go.
However, they have been hit by unavailabilities for this weekend’s game.
“Selection is not as straight forward as the last couple of weeks,” admitted Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“But we have got to be positive and just go there and do a job and try and get some points.”
Argaum are set to turn to youth given unavailabilities of more senior players. Seven of their squad this weekend will be under 19.
Tavvy sit ninth in the table, nine points clear of Bodmin and Honiton.
Bodmin have been in shocking form since November, which was when their last win came.
Now the Cornish club are fighting for their lives, especially after losing to Tamar Saracens last weekend.
Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill said: “The season seems to be fizzling out a little bit for us, but the message has gone out that we are by no means safe yet.
“One win out of our last three should do it but those games are against three sides fighting to stay up, so it’s going to be tough.
“That being said, we have set ourselves the target of finishing the season on a high.
“We want three wins to cap off an improved season. If we can do that, it will be a good omen for a further rebuild next year.”
Already-relegated Tamar Saracens are hoping they can make it two wins in a row when they travel to second-from-bottom Topsham on Saturday.
Saracens claimed their first victory since the opening day of the season last weekend by beating Bodmin.
That success has given them confidence ahead of their trip to Bonifire Field.
“We’ll go into the Topsham game in a very positive frame of mind,” said player and spokesman Marc Cioffi.
“The last time we played them away was last season and we beat them up there.
“Hopefully, we can finish this season on a high ready for Devon One next year.”
There will be nothing but pride at stake for Plymstock Albion Oaks’ visit to in-form Cornish side Lanner.
Oaks sit fifth in the table and Lanner eighth, with nine points separating them.
When the sides meet earlier in the season they drew 10-10
Plymstock may have only lost one game at home but they have struggled on their travels. They have only won four matches away from home and three of them were against Plymouth Combination sides.
They will be hoping they can improve that record this weekend and keep ahead of sixth-placed Penryn, who they play in their last match.
DEVON JUNIOR CUP & PLATE
The teams only met two weeks ago in the final Devon Two fixture, with OPMs winning 22-10.
OPMs also triumphed 59-7 at their place on the opening day of the league season.
DHSOB, though, are hoping they can make it third time lucky this weekend.
“It should be a good game,” said DHSOB director of rugby Mike Freeman.
“The last league game was quite tight, even though OPMs won 22-10. There was not much in it. We conceded in the first minute and last minute of the first half but we won the second half.
“A lot will depend on who we have available, but we are on a bit of a high at the moment. We have played some really good rugby since the end of January after we had a good talk.
“We’ve had 12 wins in all competitions and have reached the Lockie Cup final.”
They could yet meet OPMs in the Lockie Cup final. OPMs will play Old Techs in the semi-final on Easter Saturday.
Old Techs face a long trip to Devon One runners-up Torrington this weekend in the Devon Junior Plate.
Techs, who finished as runners-up in Devon Two, suffered their first defeat since November last weekend when they narrowly lost 17-10 in the cup to Devon One outfit Totnes, who they had beaten in the David Butt Trophy semi-finals.
They are struggling this weekend with injuries and unavailabilities.
“It is going to be a tough test, especially with our unavailabilities this weekend,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “At the last count we had 15 unavailable.
“Hopefully, we will be okay and can get a side to go up. I am waiting on a couple of players to come back to me. We have got 15 players the moment.
“It is going to be a hard game, even if we were going up there at full-strength it would be hard.
“But it will be a good experience for some younger and less experienced players. It will help them for next season and show them what they have to do if they want to be regulars. There are also places up for grabs for the Lockie Cup semi-final.”
Bedford-Smith admitted his team were frustrated last weekend to lose at home to Totnes.
“I was more disappointed with the way we played really,” he said.
“The game two weeks before against Dartmouth we were outstanding. That was one of the best games I have seen us play in a couple of years.
“But against Totnes at home we just did not turn up and perform, yet we still only lost 17-10.
“We had a strong team out, but too many people had a bad day at the office, whereas the week before everyone had a good day.
“But last week, for whatever reason, it just did not click. The preparation had not changed or anything, it was just one of those days where nothing went right.
“I’m not taking anything away from Totnes. They had some good players out in the backs who caused us a few problems. But they scored from a knock-on from us and their second try came from a dubious decision. Their player ran down the wing, the touch-judge put his flag up but then put it down and they went on and scored. People stopped, which you shouldn’t do as you’ve got to play to the whistle.
“There was only seven points in it, but all the lads came off the pitch saying they were disappointed because they knew they didn’t turn up.
“We had a bad day and didn’t perform but the score was still only 17-10 and we were playing a mid-table Devon One side, who have been on a good run of form.
“We know we can play better, but we are not far off.”
Bedford-Smith admitted that Techs’ main focus now is the Lockie Cup, although, they would still like to make the Devon Junior Plate or Vase final to cap a memorable season.
Elsewhere in the Devon Junior Plate, Plympton Victoria are due to visit their old friends Salcombe.
South West rugby fixtures can be viewed HERE