THE chance to finish as Devon’s top club in National Three South West is what Ivybridge will be playing for when they travel to Hornets on Saturday for their final match of the season.
The Bridgers currently sit fourth in the division, but could finish as low as eighth if they don’t win in Weston-super-Mare this weekend.
A five-point victory would guarantee they stay where they are, ahead of county rivals Newton Abbot and Brixham, who sit fifth and sixth.
But anything less than that could see Ivybridge over taken by one or both of their close neighbours, who meet in a Devon derby at Astley Park on Saturday.
However, Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson is refusing to get carried away by the mini county battle going on in the league.
“I have not focussed too much on that,” insisted Paterson. “I know that if we lose and other teams around us win then we could drop out of a high position.
“Yet if we do win we will still finish around the top.
“But the players, particularly with the injuries we have got, just want to enjoy our last game of the season.
“Hopefully, we can get a result, but we have got to enjoy where we are and how successful we have been over the season.
“We were a bit unfortunate not to stay in the running for a play-off spot, but we can’t do much about that now.
“We just want to make sure we enjoy this weekend and try and go out with a bit of a bang.”
Hornets now play on an artificial pitch and Paterson hopes that will suit his young side.
“It will hopefully benefit us and we’d love to go out with a win,” he said.
Ivybridge’s preparations, though, have not been helped by the loss of forwards Jamie Tripcony, Alex Hall, James Sloan, Marcus Prout and Justin Rogers for Saturday’s game.
That means Paterson will start at number eight – just like he did in the final game of last season – with Billy Pinkus coming in to take his spot at outside centre.
Stuart Grannum is handed a chance in the second-row while Stuart Kirkwood and Luke Martell will be added to the squad.
Ivybridge are unable to call on their colts as they are in action at Sandy Park on Sunday in the Devon Cup.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services are determined to try and end their season on a high when they host Bude at the Rectory on Saturday (3pm).
Services will finish either third or fourth in Western Counties West, which is a big improvement on their ninth-placed finish last term.
In 2015/16, Services only managed 10 wins and scored 55 points, this time around they could end with 17 wins and more than 80 points.
It was so nearly a promotion-winning campaign, but the Devonport club just fell away in the final few months, having topped the table in January.
Services, whose second team won the RNEC Cup on Wednesday night, do want to celebrate a good year in style against Bude.
They do have a big day planned on Saturday. Their thirds/veterans side are playing Devonport High School for Boys at 1pm on Stonehouse Creek, their seconds are in action at Keyham against Cullompton seconds, while they are hoping their under-15s will play a match on the main pitch before the first team.
“We are just trying to make a big day of it,” said joint coach Mike Lewis.
“And the team just want a good performance on Saturday. We just want to play a bit of rugby and have a bit of fun.
“We have played some good rugby recently but not in long enough spells and we have not been disciplined enough to keep sides out.
“But, hopefully, we can keep our discipline in defence and enjoy going forward this week.”
Services agonisingly lost 22-19 to Bude away on the opening day of the season after the north Cornwall side kicked a last-gasp penalty.
“That was a bitter pill to swallow,” said Lewis. “And we have lived with that defeat for the whole season, so we can’t wait to have a go at them again on a wider pitch.”
A number of Services’ young players impressed in Wednesday night’s 55-16 RNEC Cup win over Saltash IIs.
“Those midweek second team fixtures are good as we (the first team coaches) can get down to watch them,” said Lewis.
“We hear these good reports and we do see the players in training on a Tuesday and a Thursday, but it is totally different actually seeing them in a game, especially in a pressure cup final in front of a good crowd.
“It was good to see the character of the players after a tight first half – they did not go away from what we were trying to do.”
Services are without forward Aaron Webb, who picked up a serious shoulder injury at last weekend’s Salcombe Sevens tournament.
Centre Ben McGowan is also unavailable due to work commitments.
SALTASH will be hoping they can put their RFU Senior Vase disappointment behind them and end their league season with an away victory over second-placed Paignton on Saturday.
It has been a season of near misses for the Ashes. They are set to finish third in the Cornwall/Devon League, their second team lost in the RNEC Cup final on Wednesday night and, probably most disappointing of all, is they agonisingly missed out on a Twickenham cup final.
The Ashes were just 80 minutes away from reaching Twickenham for the first time in the RFU Senior Vase, but they lost 32-21 at Farnham last Saturday in the semi-finals.
“We have to try and pick the boys up from last week,” said coach Richard Thompson. “It was a big disappointment.
“The boys played very well and we did ourselves proud, but it was not quite good enough.
“We just want to try and finish the season on a positive. We don’t really want to finish it with two defeats.”
He added: “Obviously we are going to be deflated, so it will be interesting to see the reaction.
“The boys were able to get themselves up for the challenge last week, but this will be a real true test of character.
“We have got a few boys carrying a few bumps and bruises, but with a bit of luck they will come through and be able to start on Saturday.
“This weekend is third against second.
“It’s going to be their (Paignton’s) party – it’s their last home game and they’ve got promotion so they will want to finish off in style.
“But we’ve got to go there and try and be the party-poopers.
“We’ll just go up there and try and prove a point. We’ll try and play our usual open style of rugby and see how we go.”
Saltash narrowly lost 3-0 to Paignton in horrible weather on the opening day of the season.
Had that match gone the other way then Saturday’s match would have been a promotion decider.
Like Saltash, all the rest of the Plymouth Combination sides are away on the final day of the Cornwall/Devon League season.
Tamar Saracens will play their last game in the Cornwall/Devon League at Lanner.
Sarries beat Lanner 3-0 on the opening day of the season at Brickfields, but the two clubs went on to have contrasting fortunes in their first season at level eight.
Saracens have only managed one more win since and are going straight back down to Devon One, while Lanner, after a slow start, have gone on to claim 11 victories and a draw and are currently in eighth spot.
Tamar Saracens would love to go out on a high and claim their first away win of the season.
Plymouth Argaum and Plymstock Albion Oaks also face tough trips to Cornwall on the last day.
Argaum head to the Pirates Amateurs, while Oaks travel to Penryn.
Argaum are now safe – providing they fulfil Saturday’s fixture.
And the Bickleigh Down-based club are determined to do that, even though they have got availability issues this week.
Oaks could finish fifth if they were able to beat Penryn, who currently sit three points ahead of them in the table.
Plymstock will be keen to make up for their disappointing showing against Paignton in their last outing two week ago.
The Horsham Field-based club are another side who will be represented in the Devon colts’ finals at Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park on Sunday. They will play Brixham in the plate final at 11am.
Meanwhile, Tavistock will end their season at Honiton, who still need a point to secure their safety.
Tavvy are guaranteed to finish eighth or ninth in the table, but if they did win on Saturday they would double the amount of victories they achieved last season.
Their target set last month was to win their final three matches. They have won their last two and do not want to lose their last game.
“We had good numbers training last night and had an enjoyable relaxed session,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill. “But we reiterated that we wanted to finish with three wins. We are two-thirds of the way there and personally it would be a shame to finish an improved season with a loss.
“We notoriously don’t travel well to Honiton, so we are braced for a tough battle.”
Tavistock are able to field two strong sides this Saturday after a few weeks of injuries and unavailabilities.
Colts George Hillson and Jack Easton retain their first team spots after impressing against Topsham last time out.
Mark Friend is recalled to the team. He will start in his preferred back-row position, having played quite a bit of rugby at fly-half this season. Joining him in the back-row will be Kyle Maslen.
DEVON JUNIOR VASE
OLD Techs face the first of two cup finals within the space of five days on Saturday when they take on Devon One side Exeter Saracens at North Tawton in the Devon Junior Vase (12.45pm).
They will then follow that up with the Lockie Cup final on Wednesday at the Rectory against DHSOB.
It has been a highly-successful season for Old Techs. They have won promotion to Devon One and reached three finals – their first was the David Butt Trophy final in October.
They narrowly lost that final at Barnstaple to higher league New Cross and don’t want the same to happen in the Junior Vase and Lockie Cup finals.
“We don’t want to be in three cup finals and be runners-up in three,” said coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“Once you get to a final you want to win.
“However, the problem we have is having a final on Saturday and then another on the Wednesday. That’s not ideal.
“I think we will probably prioritise the Lockie. We are the holders of that and want to try and defend it, but obviously we want to win the other one as well.
“Hopefully, we can get all the squad playing in at least one final.”
Saturday’s Devon Junior Vase final does give Old Techs the chance to test themselves against another team who will be one of their rivals in Devon One next season.
“We know nothing about them,” said Bedford-Smith. “I don’t think we have played them for about 15 or 20 years.
“They went up the leagues to Western Counties but have since come down the leagues.”
This year Devon RFU are playing all their junior cups at the same venue on the same day. Techs’ game with Exeter Saracens will be first up at 12.45pm and that will be followed at 3pm by North Tawton v Torrington in the Devon Junior Shield and at 5.15pm by Dartmouth v Totnes in the Devon Junior Cup.
South West rugby fixtures can be found HERE.