DEVON One and Two teams kick-off their seasons this weekend with the David Butt Memorial Trophy.
Old Techs and OPMs find themselves in Pool C alongside Dartmouth and Salcombe, while Tamar Saracens, DHSOB, Plympton Victoria and St Columba & Torpoint are in Pool C.
The teams play each other home and away with the top of each pool after six games progressing to the semi-finals.
The big match on Saturday is at Weston Mill where Old Techs entertain OPMs, who they edged out for promotion to Devon One last season.
It all went wrong for OPMs in the final few weeks of last season, missing out on a top two finish to Techs and then losing to them in the Lockie Cup semi-finals.
However, they insist revenge will not be their main focus on Saturday. Instead their goal is to use the David Butt Trophy to make sure they are ready for the Devon Two season that starts in November.
“We have Old Techs (in our pool) – a bit of old Plymouth rivalry – which will be fun,” said OPMs coach Howard Turner.
“It would be great to have a cup run, but our job is to get ready for the league season and try and finish near the top of the table.”
On what happened last season, Turner added: “It was disappointing, especially as it was a bonus point from a walkover win that really did it in the end.
“But we really shot ourselves in the foot when we went away (to Buckfastleigh) and produce the worst game we have played and lost. That was the crux of it.
“We have looked long and hard at ourselves and we know that every game we have to perform.
“We know North Tawton have come down and they will expect to go back up.
“We also know there are also three or four good teams from last year that ran us close. Salcombe have got a load of new players. Buckfastleigh were a really good young team last year and they will be even better. It is case of taking every game as it comes and trying to win.
“We would love to be promoted but we are a junior club and we include everyone. Everyone gets to play rugby and we go and socialise together afterwards.”
Turner has been pleased with how pre-season has gone.
“We have been training since the end of July and we have had a big group of players turning up every week,” he said. “We have been having 24-25 people each week, so we are hoping to have two strong teams out this year.
“We will take the first game as it comes. We will use the cup matches to get ready for the league season. Hopefully, we will be all guns blazing for the start of the league.”
As well as Old Techs, OPMs will also play last season’s Devon Two champions Dartmouth and Salcombe in a tough David Butt Trophy pool.
“It is almost the same as last year,” said Turner. “We played Dartmouth and Salcombe last year in the competition, so we know exactly what to expect.
“We know that Salcombe have got quite a few players who have come down from Kingsbridge, so they will be a different kettle of fish this year.
“We know Dartmouth are strong because they got promoted last season, but we also know that we can beat both team.”
They reached the final last season, narrowly losing to New Cross, but made a slow start to the league.
They hope that being in a tougher cup group this year will make them more ready for the league campaign.
“Last year in the David Butt Memorial Trophy we were in a group with St Columba, Plym Vic and High School Old Boys. This season we have Salcombe, Dartmouth and OPMs, which is a better test for us,” said Techs chairman David Evans.
“We are looking forward to the start of the new season and testing ourselves against OPMs.
“They finished third (in Devon Two) last season, so it will be a good gage for where we are.
“We got better as the season went on last year. We had that good Lockie Cup semi-final and beat Dartmouth away.
“We are just hoping to start the league better than we did last year and having a harder start in the David Butt is something we really want.”
Techs enjoyed a first victory in the Paul Lethbridge Memorial Match last weekend, but they did pick up a couple of injuries.
But Evans said: “I think we have most of our squad available this weekend.
“We have got Aaron Anderson-Smith who is a new signing for us. He’s a decent addition as he’s a good player.”
On what their hopes are after returning to Devon One, Evans added: “We’ll just take it game by game and see where it takes us. We know Devon One is a tight league.
“If you look at the league last year all the teams were beating each other.
“We just have to make sure we are on our game each week.
“We want to win our home games and make sure we are challenging sides away as well.
“On our day we know we can beat anyone but every other team in the league will think the same.
“Each week we just want to be going out with a strong squad, not a scratch one, and play some good rugby. I do think we are a club on the up.”
DAVID BUTT POOL D
Tamar Saracens will have the favourites tag in Pool D of the David Butt Memorial Trophy.
They are the only Devon One team in the group and their rivals DHSOB, Plym Vic and St Columba all finished in the bottom three of Devon Two.
Like Old Techs and OPMs, Tamar Saracens want to use the cup as a springboard for the league.
“Hopefully, we do get a couple of good games before the actual league season starts,” said Tamar Saracens coach Chey Bryce.
“Our aim is to try and go out and win this David Butt Trophy. That is a building block for the season.
“All our boys are raring to go. They are all committed to the game on Saturday. Hopefully, we will have the strongest team we can put out and we can put on a good performance, which is the aim.
“We tested ourselves against Saltash in pre-season. That tested our defence because Saltash are a very good side, but against Plymstock Albion Oaks we managed to have a good run-out with our attack.”
Tamar Saracens are rebuilding after a tough season in the Cornwall/Devon League.
When asked what their aims are for the campaign, Bryce said: “Speaking to the chairman and vice-chairman this season is about stabilising.
“If we are in with a shout at the end of the year, then we will try and push on, but if not we’ll obviously rebuild for another season in Devon One.
“Ideally, I would like promotion as I think we have the players and a squad to be able to do it.
“As a club we are working hard on and off the field.”
The big worry for Saracens is whether they will have a game to play on Saturday.
Like this time last year, the Old Boys have players away and have also lost a few to other clubs.
But director of rugby Mike Freeman remains optimistic and hopes the club can build on progress made last term.
“I would like to say we are looking to build on our successful Lockie Cup run last year,” said Freeman.
“We had to play three tough teams to get to that final.
“We actually had our most successful season for a while last year. In total (league and cup games) we won 12 and lost 12 games.
“We are hoping our relationships with the Fijians, which we’ve had for two years, will continue.
“We also have a colts’ team for a second season, which is another positive. It is a shame a few have gone to Services, but we are still hoping with the colts and other players we will have a second team.
“We are also hoping to build a good, positive relationship with Plymouth Albion, who are taking over the Stonehouse Creek lease.”
The other match in Pool D of the David Butt Trophy sees Plympton Victoria host St Columba & Torpoint.
The two clubs struggled last season, but Plym Vic did win two out of the three competitive meetings with St Columba.
Over the years wins have been hard to come by for Plym Vic, but the players at the club never lose heart and keep turning up.
Long-serving front-rower Kris Kinvig admits there is a great spirit at the club.
“I have played for the club for 10 years,” he said. “And it is a good family unit and we really play for each other.
“Sometimes it is hard to get players in the right position because of family commitments and we have a lot of servicemen as well, but we are a good, tight unit and we love to keep striving and trying to make ground each and every season.
“We are always striving to keep getting better and we keep plugging away despite the odds.
“It is always a challenge, but I think everyone in this club wants that challenge. When it does come off (getting a win) it makes it extra special.”
“To go from not being in a cup final for many, many years to having two in the space of 18 months was an achievement,” he said. “That is something we want to strive to again.”
Plym Vic have not had the best of pre-season and have had a few injuries, but there is still ambition at Marsh Mills.
“We have got a good mentality to keep striving forward,” said Kinvig.
“Hopefully, we can make another cup final and do better in the league than the previous year.
“We are aiming for hopefully five victories. It would be nice to at least be in mid-table, but all we can do is keep plugging away and keep trying to get better and better.”