AFTER back-to-back away wins Ivybridge will be hoping to get off the mark at home on Saturday when they host Hornets at Cross-in-Hand in the South West Premier League (2.30pm).
The Bridgers have got their season on track again by beating Lydney and Newbury on their travels in the last two weeks after defeats to high-flying Dings Crusaders and Exmouth in their opening couple of matches.
Saturday will be only their second home game of the season and comes against a side who only got their first win of the campaign last weekend.
“We don’t underestimate them because they are a good side,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson. “It is still early days to try and find out who is really where (in the table).
“They are going to come out firing and we have to be on our game.
“We need to apply our current away form at home.”
He added: “We are improving week by week. We know this is a funny old league, but we are making steps in the right direction to again become that dangerous Ivybridge side that was feared.
“We are looking to try and push on a little bit more this Saturday and aim for that five-point win and put a result out there so people will understand that the first two weeks were hiccups.
“Hopefully, we can keep our momentum going.”
Ivybridge will hand Dom Loomes his first start for 12 months. The second-row suffered a serious hamstring and hip tendon injury in the second game of last season.
“It is nice to see him back,” said Paterson. “He has had a couple of games in the second team to get his match fitness up.”
He added: “We have made some changes again. Me and (fellow coach Jamie) Tripcony are sticking to our guns in terms of rotation.
“We want to give players opportunities and also make sure we give a get balance between our development side and our first team.”
Ivybridge particularly like to switch their bench players around so that players do get game-time.
Paterson says it is sometimes better for players to get a full game in their development side rather than sit on the bench for the first team.
Teenager Wes Vermigle and Hayden Coles are players that fall into that category this week.
“It’s unfortunate for Wes Vermigle and Hayden Coles,” said Paterson.
“Jordan Anderton is back this week and with Dom Loomes starting, Pete Abrahams drops to six with Marcus Prout going to be the bench so unfortunately Wes and Hayden miss out, even though they have done really well. They have played out of their skin.
“But the best thing for someone like Wes is to get experience, so if he’s not starting then it’s better he starts for the development side so he gets more game-time experience.”
Paterson says it is also tough that Damon Akerman and Matt Grieveson miss out this week, but felt they had to reward Billy and Mitch Pinkus after impressive displays last week at Newbury.
Billy Pinkus was a late call for last week’s match after Tom Scoles picked up an injury.
“Billy was a late call but had a great game,” said Paterson. “He’s also been training really well and had a stand-out game for the second team, so Billy has really earned his spot.”
Both Pinkus brothers have responded after getting dropped for the game against Lydney and Ivybridge hope other players will do the same.
Their second team will be at Tiverton on Saturday. The Vandals, as Ivybridge’s development side are known, have won their opening two games in the Devon Merit Table against Barnstaple IIs and Devonport Services IIs, scoring 123 points in the process.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services coach Mike Lewis is expecting a ‘cracking game’ on Saturday as his team host unbeaten Chard at the Rectory (3pm).
Both clubs have similar records this season. Services have won three and narrowly lost 36-34 to Torquay, while Chard, relegated form South West One, have three wins and a draw with leaders Kingsbridge to their name.
The teams have both played and beaten Burnham-on-Sea and Truro and are separated in the table by just one point, with Services second and Chard fourth.
“Home games are always nice,” said Lewis. “And it should be a cracking game on Saturday.
“We are doing well and they are doing well.”
He added: “We know they are a good side. We have done our research on them.
“We have spoken to a few people who have played them already and we know what their strengths are and hopefully we can nullify those, but equally we can’t go too far away from our own game-plan.”
Services won 35-10 at Burnham-on-Sea last weekend, but Lewis felt his team should have scored more points.
Although disappointed his team took their foot of the gas after taking an early 12-0 lead he was pleased that they were able to up their game again in the second period.
“We could have scored more points if our heads had been on from minute one to minute 80,” said Lewis.
“We got 12 points up and then let them back in the game. We did the same last year, but then let them get in front. This year, though, we re-set at half-time and went again.”
Services are boosted by the availability of Joe Daley, Rhys Williams, Ben McGowan, Mika Waqa, Aaron Webb, Manoa Tikoisunva, Charles Horn and Jason Money.
“We have got six or seven back in the fold this week. So we have a few selection headaches,” added Lewis.
TAVISTOCK insist they are up for the challenge of playing promotion-hopefuls Saltash at Moorlands Lane on Saturday (3pm).
Tavvy know the Ashes will be desperate to bounce back after suffering their first defeat of the season at Withycombe last weekend.
The Ashes, who sit third in the table, have not lost two league games on the trot for more than 12 months.
But Tavistock will head across the Tamar in confident mood after convincingly beating Plymstock Albion Oaks 29-0.
“The general vibe is high,” said Tavvy coach Hammy Kerswill. “And the consensus amongst the players is that if we continue concentrating on ourselves everyone in this league is beatable.
“Saltash are looking like the front-runners but we are up for the challenge.
“We have potentially the two toughest away trips in consecutive weeks (Saltash followed by Withycombe).
“But if we look as each and every opposition as 15 blokes in front of us I’m sure we will provide a few ‘shock’ results this season, hopefully, starting this Saturday.
“Our set-piece is our key at the moment. We had a blip against Argaum but other than that have lost only one scrum or line-out.”
Tavistock, though, do have to make a few key changes to their team.
Vice-captain Martin Budden is away, as is Joe Hair, while Dan Oner has a minor injury.
Youngster Ethan Lamerton, who scored two tries last weekend, moves from the wing to the centre, while Hallam Bourton will start in the back-row and Carl Parsons starts at prop.
Kerswill, who will be on the bench on Saturday, admits competitive is tough at the moment for front-row spots. Tavistock have 15 front-row forwards all battling for places in the first team.
PLYMOUTH Argaum are expecting a tough test against promotion-chasing Wellington on Saturday at Bickleigh Down (3pm).
Argaum have claimed back-to-back victories against Tavistock and Torrington, but know their Somerset visitors will probably offer a sterner challenge.
Wellington, who have former Plymouth Albion boss Graham Dawe overseeing their coaching, last week put 97 points on struggling Pirates Amateurs.
They currently sit fifth in table with two wins and two defeats to their name. Their losses were a controversial 16-15 reverse at leaders Honiton after having a player sent-off within the opening 30 minutes and a narrow 19-14 defeat at Penryn.
They were in Western Counties West last season and will be making their first league visit to Bickleigh Down – that is providing Argaum’s water supply is fixed in time. If for any reason it isn’t then the game will be switched to Plymouth Marjon University.
“I don’t think we have played them before,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“We are expecting a tough game. They are a club we don’t know anything about, so we are just concentrating on how we want to do thing.”
After successive victories confidence has grown at Argaum, but they know they need to be more clinical.
“We might have won the last two games but we have left a lot of points on the pitch,” said Quarterman.
But Argaum’s secretary says there is a really good feeling at the club again after a tough 18 months.
“The feeling at the club is something I have not seen for a long time,” said Quarterman.
“Everyone is buying into what (coach) Mark Sullivan is doing.”
Whereas Argaum have won their last two matches, Plymstock Albion Oaks are looking to bounce back after back-to-back defeats.
Oaks lost 29-0 to Tavistock last weekend and 35-10 to Saltash the previous week.
But they will be optimistic of returning to winning ways against 12th-placed Torrington in what will be only their second home match of the campaign.
“It is chance to bounce back, but I thought Tavistock was a chance,” said coach Callum Cload.
“We have to view every game as being tough. We thought last week was one for us to say how well we can bounce back after being knocked (against Saltash), but now it is double importance against Torrington.
“Hopefully, there will be something to cheer about in the clubhouse.”
Newly-promoted Torrington have one win to their name – a 29-8 victory at Pirates Amateurs.
They have lost to Argaum, Penryn and Lanner. Oaks have one win and draw so far. They beat Argaum on the opening day and drew at Withycombe before their defeats against local rivals Saltash and Tavistock.
DAVID BUTT TROPHY
OPMs must beat Dartmouth away on Saturday if they or Old Techs are to have any chance of reaching the David Butt Trophy semi-finals.
Dartmouth are currently eight points clear of Techs in Pool C, with OPMs a further point behind, with two games to go.
OPMs kept alive their faint hopes of progressing and put a massive dent in Techs’ chances by beating their city rivals 20-15 at King George V Playing Fields.
Although Dartmouth are in pole position they are not likely to be complacent on Saturday as OPMs nearly beat them in Plymouth three weeks ago.
OPMs were leading 15-14 with just a few minutes to go but Dartmouth dug deep to claim a 22-15 victory.
OPMs, though, do need to find a replacement for experienced goalkicker Gavin Rea, who has moved back to Gordon League RFC in Gloucestershire.
Old Techs, meanwhile, will be hoping to return to winning way after back-to-back defeats when they host Salcombe at Weston Mill.
Salcombe have pulled out of two fixtures in the competition but they have assured Techs they will be travelling to Plymouth.
“They have said they are coming down which is good as it is our sponsors and old boys’ reunion day,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“It will be a case of going out there and trying to get a win and try and get some momentum going again.”
Techs have used the David Butt Trophy to have a look at different players. Last week they handed debuts to scrum-half John Young and prop Josh Martin and gave only a second appearance to winger Jack Williams.
“We are trying to give everyone a chance leading up to the start of the league season,” said Bedford-Smith.
“But we know we need to turn our game up a bit and tighten up.
“Last week was a game of two halves. We went 17-0 down, but we did show team spirit to come back and we did out-score them three tries to two.
“Last week was disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world, although we do know we only have a very slim chance now of progressing.
“But we are just looking forward to this week. We don’t know what Salcombe are going to come down with but we just have to have the right attitude.”
Techs do have 13 players unavailable but are still able to select from 29 and will continue their policy of having a look at players before the Devon One season starts on October 28.
Old Techs are keen for any former players to attend their sponsors and old boys’ day on Saturday. They are asked to meet at 1.15pm in the club where there will be a buffet.
Techs’ Devon One rivals Tamar Saracens are again without a game after Plympton Victoria pulled out of playing them on Saturday.
It is the third week running they have had a walkover after scoring more than 100 points in their opening two group games.
Sarries, though, did play the Royal Navy’s Western Region on Wednesday night at the Rectory, losing a thriller 36-33.
“It was a very, very good game,” said Saracens coach Chey Bryce. “They have a few boys who had played in the Army-Navy game, including Rhys Williams. It was a good test for our boys – a very good test.
“I think if the game had gone on for another five minutes we would have won.”
Mike Cox, Tom Hicklin and James MacFarlane were among their try scorers, with the referee awarding them two penalty tries at scrums. Lewis Swatton kicked the rest of their points.
It was the second time during September Saracens had played the navy side but they are set to play them again to get more match practice ahead of the David Butt Trophy semi-final, which they have now qualified for, and the Devon One season.
“I think we are going to play them again in two weeks’ time,” said Bryce. “As it’s the Western Region they have a massive pool of players to select from. They used Wednesday as a trial game. The team we played this week was totally different from the one to faced two weeks earlier.”
Meanwhile, DHSOB are optimistic of getting enough players to entertain St Columba & Torpoint at Stonehouse Creek on Saturday.
The Old Boys have yet to be able to get a full 15 players out this season but have told Saints to travel over the Tamar, even if it ends up a mix-and-match fixture.
DHSOB’s colts side will also be in action at the Creek against Exeter Saracens.
“We are trying to go for it this week and next and regroup,” said director of rugby Mike Freeman.
“The target is to try and get a league team by October 28.”
DHSOB have visited Plymouth Marjon University and the University of Plymouth hoping to boost their squad and have also persuaded some former players to come out of retirement to try and keep the team going until they can find reinforcements.