Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Much-changed Ivybridge head into the unknown at Maidenhead

IVYBRIDGE will head into the unknown on Saturday when they travel to South West Premier new boys Maidenhead.

The Berkshire club were promoted back into level five after a five-year absence as champions of South West One East.

They currently sit eighth in the table with two home wins to their name – against Exmouth and Cleve. Their defeats have come away at Camborne, Dings and Lydney.

Most of Ivybridge’s team have never visited Braywick Park, but they do travel there on the back three successive victories, which has moved them up from bottom of the table after two tough opening games to seventh.

“We are not sure what to expect,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson. “We know they are a good side and a club on the rise. They have a 4G pitch and I know Will Greenwood has been helping them.”

Ivybridge’s strength in depth will be tested this week.

Already without the likes of Alex Hall, James Sloan, George Wilson and Seb Slade, the Bridgers will be without Jamie Tripcony, Dom Loomes, Jordan Anderton and Sam Kingscott this weekend.

Tripcony suffered a nasty head injury in Ivybridge’s 28-3 win over Hornets last Saturday, Loomes and Kingscott are unavailable, while Anderton’s wife is due to give birth and so he is unable to travel.

“It’s exciting times for Jordan and we don’t want to put any pressure on him or his wife in terms of rugby – we want to be supportive,” said Paterson. “We are all behind Jordan and his wife and they have all the best wishes of the club.”

With Tripcony and Loomes out of the second-row, Pete Abrahams and Robin Luscombe will move up from the back-row.

Ivybridge will field an entirely new back-row in the form of Aiden Taylor, Marcus Prout and Luke Richardson, who has returned to Ivybridge after living in Bournemouth.

They are all better known as front-row players, but the club are confident they can do a job at the back of the scrum.

“Luke Richardson, Aiden Taylor and Marcus Prout have been outstanding in training and it is quite nice to be able to give them some game-time,” said Paterson. “They might be out of position but these young lads have shown how versatile they are and it also shows the faith we have in them.”

Ivybridge also hand a start to Sean Disney at scrum-half and bring back Damon Akerman (pictured top) on the wing, with Billy Pinkus moving to centre.

Wes Vermigle and Hayden Coles return to the first team squad and will start on the bench.

“There are players there that we want to see in a first team shirt and this weekend gives us a massive opportunity,” added Paterson.

Paterson was happy with how Ivybridge finished September and is hoping they can continue that form in October.

“Our defence has improved and we are chipping away at wins after a bit of a ropey start,” he said.

“We were 2-0 down in terms of wins but we finished the month 3-2 up. We have come out of September on a positive – our wins have out-weighed our losses.

“We are just going to keep setting goals for each month.”

WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

Devonport Services in action against Crediton last season (picture by Mark Andrews)

MIKE LEWIS has warned his Devonport Services team not to underestimate Crediton this weekend.

Services visit Exhibition Road looking for another win to stay top of Western Counties West.

Devonport have won four of their opening five league games, with their only defeat a narrow 36-34 reverse at Torquay Athletic.

Crediton, meanwhile, have only won once – a 16-0 home victory over Burnham-on-Sea.

However, the mid-Devon side have only lost by one score to the much-fancied Kingsbridge, Truro and Chard and did beat Services in the Devon Senior Cup last season.

“I think they are a good side,” said Lewis. “I thought they deserved to do a lot better than they did last year. I think they were a lot better team than their league position.”

He added: “We have looked at their results and I think it is really important that we all recognise their ability.

“They are a good side. We played them twice away last season – once in the league and once in the cup, where they beat us.

“We know they had a good pack with direct forwards and with people like Mark Lee and Jason Luff in the backs you know they can always have something in their locker.

“They are never going to be a roll-over-and-die team.”

Lewis feels it is still too early to use the table to measure a team’s ability as some clubs may have only had two home games and played tougher opponents.

“You do have to wait until about 10 games to get any real idea of where the table lies,” said Lewis.

Services’ seconds will also be playing at Crediton on Saturday.

However, once again the club are having to make changes to their team following last week’s impressive 27-5 win over Chard.

Joe Wyatt broke his hand in that match and will have an operation on Friday, while Ben McGowan, Ty Colwill, Aaron Webb and Mika Waqa are unavailable this week.

Services are still waiting to see if Jack Evans and Jason Stead are able to make the trip, but they do welcome back winger Matt Morrison after a spell in Bristol and could hand a debut to Devon Under-20 forward Tom Arnold.

“There are five players from last week unavailable,” said Lewis. “Every week there’s been five or six changes.”

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PLYMOUTH Argaum are hoping they can return to winning ways and pick up four crucial away points at struggling Wessex on Saturday in the Cornwall/Devon League.

Argaum’s two-match winning run was brought to an end last weekend when they were beaten 50-0 by promotion-hopefuls Wellington at Bickleigh Down.

“We had a large number of unavailabilities and injuries and had to make one last minute change on the day, which messed up our ability to strike from our backs and also set up in the forwards,” said Argaum coach Mark Sullivan.

“We held them in the line-out and scrums and we were competing and actually troubled them on many occasions. If you looked at possession and stats we were relatively even, but where they beat us was in their depth and strength of running and breaking through the line. Eventually after two or three phases we were found with gaps.

“We gave away two or three soft tries at the wrong times, including one right at the end of the first half.

“They (Wellington) clearly train as a team all the time. They were better drilled in the backs, had more penetration, which is what I have been working on with our team this week.”

Sullivan added:  “Although it is a stark result, I would not say it was a true reflection of how the game went at all, but was a reflection of how they finished off their phases.

“It was disappointing, but I was so impressed with the way the pack stood up.

“And the performance of those who came up from the Wanderers at short notice was immense.

“We just need a bit more go-forward from everyone and more belief and confidence

“And now they have started to understand the game-plan I am going to start finessing that – adding a bit depth and finesse of running in the backs.”

Newly-promoted Wessex have yet to win this season but they did earn a draw with Penryn.

“It is a really competitive league,” said Sullivan. “But we do seem to travel better than we play at home.”

Another team hoping to travel well are Plymstock Albion Oaks, who visit fourth-placed Wellington on Saturday.

Oaks were boosted by beating Torrington 57-11 at home last week which ended a two-game losing run.

However, they know they will face a difficult challenge at Wellington, who are coached during the week by former Plymouth Albion boss Graham Dawe. The Somerset side are unbeaten at home and have scored 144 points in their last two games.

“Wellington away is a big test,” said Oaks coach Callum Cload, who returns to the team after injury.

“Hopefully, we can continue last week’s good form but we know it is going to be more of a test.

“It is quite a way to travel and them being so far away is going to make their ground a bit of a fortress for them.”

Oaks, though, will be travelling up on a bus and they hope that can help them claim their third win over the season.

Third-placed Saltash will be expected to claim win number five of the season when they travel to struggling Torrington.

The Ashes have only lost once this campaign – at Withycombe – while Torrington have only gained one victory since their promotion – against fellow strugglers the Pirates Amateurs.

Also on the road this weekend are Tavistock, who visit sixth-placed Withycombe.

Withycombe lost for the first time last weekend when they narrowly went down 23-22 to early leaders Honiton.

The Exmouth-based club, though, have had two draws – against Oaks and Hayle. Their two wins have come against Saltash and Bude.

Tavistock are looking to bounce back from last Saturday’s 37-10 defeat against the Ashes.

However, they have suffered a blow this week with news that captain Andrew Schuttkacker has broken his foot and will be out for a while.

Martin Budden will come in at number eight and also take over the captain’s duties.

Elsewhere, Joe Hair returns at prop and Jamie Turpin and Mark Webber come back into the backline.

Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill said: “Like last week we will start as underdogs but we have to believe we can win.

“Every game in this league is winnable if we believe. We beat them at home last year but they are a great side in their own backyard.

“We have started games with more enthusiasm this year, we just have to keep working on maintaining work-rate for structure for 80 minutes.”

DAVID BUTT MEMORIAL TROPHY

OLD Techs and OPMs will only have pride to play for this weekend in Pool C of the David Butt Memorial Trophy.

Dartmouth have already topped the group so Old Techs and OPMs will have to make do with fighting for second and third.

Second-placed Techs travel to Dartmouth, while OPMs, who are five points behind their city rivals, entertain winless Salcombe at King George V Playing Fields.

Old Techs were the last team to beat Dartmouth, when they triumphed 15-7 there on March 11. That is Dartmouth’s only defeat in 12 months.

“They are a good side and have been on a good run, so it will be another tough game,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.

“They are not going to want to lose. I think it is a while since they did. They won the Devon Junior Cup.

“They will want to keep their winning run going ahead of playing Tamar Saracens in the semi-final.”

Techs, runners-up to Dartmouth in Devon Two last season, have struggled to find their form so far in the David Butt Trophy.

“If I am perfectly honest, the only game I have been happy with the way we have played was the first game against OPMs – mainly the second half,” said Bedford-Smith.

“We know we have a lot to work on. We know we have not yet hit the heights of last season.

“We have been in a tougher group this year and I am hoping that is going to benefit us when we start the league.”

He added: “It will be nice to get the league starts. The David Butt Trophy is okay and it does give you some more fixtures but it’s not quite the same.”

Techs have experimented a bit with players in different positions. They have also been missing players due to injuries and unavailabilities.

They are hoping they will have a few of their injured players back in time for the league season starting on October 28.

OPMs will be favourites to beat Salcombe at King George V Playing Fields. They did beat their South Hams opponents 17-0 away.

OPMs’ second team will also be in action at home on Saturday. They will play a combined Saltash/Old Techs side.

Tamar Saracens have already topped Pool D of the David Butt Trophy.

They have again been given a walkover against St Columba & Torpoint on Saturday. However, they will play a University of Plymouth team in a club match at Staddiscombe.

Also in that Pool, Plympton Victoria are due to host DHSOB at Marsh Mills.

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