Rugby

Ambitious Devonport Services hope to go one step further than last term

DEVONPORT Services coach Mike Lewis says everyone at the Rectory is excited ahead of the start of the new season.

Services kick-off their Western Counties West campaign with a home match against Tiverton (3pm).

Having finished third in 2016/17 behind Exeter University and Cullompton the goal this term is to try and go one step further and finish in the top two.

“We are just really excited to get going this weekend,” said Lewis. “Hopefully, that excitement does not turn into nervousness or anxiety. We just have to try and stay focussed and try and perform as well as we do in training.”

He added: “It is really good to have a home match to start with.

“You want that at this time of year when it is nice weather as you will hopefully get a few people watching to help with the atmosphere and make it more of a spectacle.

“We had a decent crowd last Friday for the Saltash game and it was good for the players. It adds that little bit extra.”

On the club’s goals this season, Lewis added: “Our ambition is the top two. We will openly say that.

“We have said it to the players, the board have said it and the coaches have said it, but we can only do it by focusing on one game at a time.

“We also have to be performance based and not results based. As soon as you start focusing on results you take your mind off performing.”

Services made a good start to last season, winning five of their opening six games. They only actually lost twice before January.

“We started off well last year and it would be fantastic to have another great start to the season,” said Lewis. “And, hopefully, we have got the depth this year to continue it all the way through the season.

“But I’m going to be a stereotypical coach and say we are just taking one game at a time.

“We just have to focus on each week and ourselves.”

Services had two close league games with Tiverton last season. They won 7-6 away and 20-18 at home.

Lewis, though, is not sure what to expect for their east Devon rivals this weekend.

“I know Wayne Sprangle is away on holiday and he’s a fantastic player for them,” said Lewis.

“But anything can happen at this time of the season. You can’t really read too much into the league until about 10 games in.”

Services expect the likes of Kingsbridge, Wadebridge, Truro and St Ives to be among their big rivals.

Kingsbridge were unlucky to be relegated from South West One and are keen for an immediate return. Falmouth could also be pushing after winning promotion from the Cornwall/Devon League.

There have been a few changes at the Rectory over the summer.

Bryan Crichton stepped down from his coaching role, with Matty Anstis and Richard West joining Lewis in a new-look backroom team.

West could be set to make his league debut for the club on Saturday after recovering from a calf injury.

Services have lost back-row forward Tyler Busfield and winger Luke Stannard to higher league Newton Abbot, while Alex Matthews and Alex Lambert have also left, while Jack Norris is set to move away.

But Devonport have re-signed Royal Navy back Rhys Williams from Brixham and added a number of Fijians to their ranks, including front-rower Mika Waqa from neighbours DHSOB.

“He’s a handy player to have around,” said Lewis. “He can scrimmage, run and tackle. He’s quite a good addition as you always need front-rows. You can never have enough.”

Matt Gregory has been appointed Services’ captain for the 2017/18 season, with Sam Bennett as vice-captain.

Hooker Bennett, though, is set to miss Saturday’s game against Tiverton due to an ankle injury he picked up against Saltash.

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