IVYBRIDGE are boosted by the return of a host of players for their big Devon derby home match against Brixham on Saturday (2.30pm).
Jamie Tripcony, James Sloan, Dom Loomes, Pete Abraham, Robin Luscombe and Sam Kingsscott are all back in the side after missing their last match against Maidenhead.
Ivybridge narrowly lost that game 26-20 two weeks ago having led 20-7 at half-time.
That defeat dropped them down to 10th in a tight league, two places above Brixham.
“There is just literally four points between us and fourth place and we’re 10th,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson. “This league is just so tight. We just need to keep chipping away at wins and bonus points.
“We just want to crawl our way back up that league and then start putting pressure on the teams at the top.”
He added: “It is good to see some boys returning this week, like James Sloan, Dom Loomes, Pete Abraham and Robin Luscombe.
“They are huge players to have within a squad and so to be able to bring them back in is a massive boost for the team.
“We did let the game slip at Maidenhead, but it was just through technical errors.
“Ability, work-rate and play was second to none from the boys that played, many playing out of position.
“But you do miss your Dom Loomes, James Sloan, Pete Abraham, Robin etc – they just give you so much more structure and technical ability around the park, not just in attack but defensively. So it is good to have them back for such a big game against Brixham.”
Recent meetings between Ivybridge and Brixham have been tight and Paterson is not expecting anything different on Saturday.
Although Devon Cup holders Brixham have only got one win to their name so far this season, they have drawn a game, lost by one single point to Exmouth and Camborne and finished within a score of leaders Dings Crusaders. Their defensive record is the third best in the league.
“It is going to be massive game and it will be probably be a close one again with one or two scores in it, but hopefully it falls our side,” said Paterson.
“We just have to keep our discipline.
“They (Brixham) are going to be hungry. They haven’t had the greatest starts to the season.
“We have trained well and put a lot of hard work in over the last two weeks. After a weekend off the boys are itching to play.
“We are looking forward to having that home advantage.
“Brixham always bring good support and we are hoping for a good crowd.”
Ivybridge are still missing Jordan Anderton and Alex Hall, but they do name Luke Martell on the bench.
“Luke Martell has trained so well and played phenomenally well the last few weeks for the development side and you have to reward not only his attitude but the standard he has been training and playing,” said Paterson. “He has really warranted a first team place.”
Brixham had been missing front-row forwards Russell Morris and Koree Britton earlier in the season, but both are now fit and will start against Ivybridge.
However, the Fisherman have lost influential lock Malcolm Onsando, who has returned to Kenya since their last game.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
MAX VENABLES is set to make his Devonport Services debut in their big home match against Kinsbridge at the Rectory on Saturday (3pm).
The former Saltash utility back (pictured) has joined Western Counties West leaders Services following a short spell at Plymouth Albion.
Venables’ addition is a welcome boost to Devonport, who again have availability problems.
“We are missing quite a few,” admitted Services coach Mike Lewis. “Lots of people have work commitments. It is just a sign of the times, other coaches are saying the same thing.
“But it is great that we have so many players at the club. We have players that can come in who are just as good and can do a job, but you just want to try and get that consistency, rather than having to start again with a different team every week.
“Our forwards are near enough unchanged this week – maybe one or two – but there are going to be quite a few changes in the backs.”
Among those unavailable are Jack Evans, Brandon Andrews and Toby Knowles, while Rhys Williams is doubtful with a back injury.
Services are the early leaders of Western Counties West, but Kingsbridge are just four points behind them in fourth.
Both teams have only lost once this season, with Services going down 36-34 away at Torquay and Kingsbridge narrowly losing 14-11 in their last outing at home to St Ives.
Services are unbeaten at home, while Kingsbridge, relegated after a season in South West One, have not lost away.
“I think they (Kingsbridge) are going to be one of the top four in the league and I think we are as well,” said Lewis.
“Even though it is early in the season results like this do matter. If you can stop them getting five points and take five for yourself, it can put a bit of distance between you.
“But we can’t really think too much about the result and league position, we just have to think about how we perform.”
He added: “Kingsbridge are always tough opponents. I think they had about 10 seasons near the top of Western Counties, so it was great for them to finally get promoted. I thought they would have sustained themselves in that league quite comfortably, but unfortunately they came back down.
“But we are definitely keen to make that home advantage tell. We just have to believe in ourselves and be confident in what we can do.
“We might not be the best team out there, but I think we are one of the most cohesive for sure.”
AS well as Ivybridge and Devonport Services, all the region’s Cornwall/Devon League sides are also at home on Saturday.
The big game in the division is at Moorlands Lane where leaders Saltash take on third-placed Wellington.
It might only be the seventh match of the campaign, but this game could be crucial come the end of the season.
Wellington, relegated from Western Counties West last term, have won their last three matches, scoring 183 points in the process. They are the league’s top scorers and have the best defensive record.
However, Saltash have three more points than them in the league and one more try-scoring bonus point.
It promises to be a fascinating battle on Saturday.
Four of Saltash’s players – Ryan Rayner, Lewis Wells, Will Morton and Kieran Downs – trained with Cornwall’s development team this week.
And Cornwall coach Graham Dawe is likely to be an interested observer at Moorlands Lane on Saturday. As well as coaching the Duchy, Dawe is also involved with Wellington this season.
Meanwhile, Plymstock Albion Oaks are hoping they can build on their Devon Intermediate Shield victory last weekend when they host bottom side Wessex at Horsham Field.
Oaks bounced back from a 39-19 defeat at Wellington by beating city rivals Argaum 29-14 in the cup last Saturday.
Plymstock are now keen to try and put a string of results together after a mixed start their campaign.
“We have got Wessex at home and, hopefully, we can take the momentum from last week and get a big five points,” said Oaks coach Callum Cload.
“Hopefully, this game can kick-start some momentum. Our season has been a bit staggered by going away to some high level clubs.
“No game in this league is nice or easy, but we have a bit of a nicer run coming up in the next few games and we’d like to keep building our performances up and string a few together.”
He added: “Last week, we just said let’s just go out and play some rugby. Hopefully, that has given us some belief back.”
Argaum, who sit in eighth spot – one point and one place above Oaks, are expecting a tough test against Bude at Bickleigh Down.
Although Bude, who were in Western Counties West last season, are only one position ahead of them in the table and have the same number of wins and defeats, the north Cornwall side have not lost to anyone outside the top six.
Bude’s defeats have come away at Withycombe, Honiton and Penryn.
Argaum, though, are hoping the fact that Bude have not yet won on their travels could play on their mind in a game that is likely to be played in tough conditions at Bickleigh Down.
“We are expecting them to be a good side,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“When we played Bude two years ago what we found was they were incredibly well organised. They executed their game-plan very well.
“In this league the main difference between teams is just execution in the backs. The weather this weekend might be a leveller and I am confident we can take on anyone on our day.”
Argaum are hoping they can use their pitch and conditions to their favour.
Like most clubs, they have availability issues this weekend. Among those would are likely to be missing are Richard Luscombe and Calum Mills.
Mike Milan-Rodriguez could be handed another start after impressing at hooker in the last couple of weeks, while teenagers Jack Franklin, Jake Stanton and Ethan Howe are pushing hard for regular first team spots, as is new centre Brian Williams.
Tavistock will be looking to continue their impressive home form when they host third-from-bottom Torrington at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Tavistock so far have a 100 per cent record on their own soil and have not even conceded a single point at home.
They are currently 10th in the table, but could move up as high as seventh if they were to win on Saturday against a Torrington team, whose only victory so far since winning promotion was against fellow strugglers Pirates Amateurs.
Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill said: “I played Torrington a few times when I was at North Tawton and they are always a physical side.
“Conditions will be tough so we have concentrated on looking after the ball and playing patient rugby.
“We have yet to concede at home and hence have a 100 per cent record and the boys are determined to maintain that.”
Tavistock did lose 48-10 at Withycombe in their last outing two weeks ago.
“Although a tough ask for any team, we have looked at our defence and worked hard over the last few weeks to iron out the creases.”
He added: “It has been a positive week. We had a decent scrummaging session with guest coach Darren Chapple on Tuesday and a well attended session on Thursday.”
Tavistock are missing scrum-half Jack Glover. In his absence they are set to give colt Jack Easton a chance to step up.
Ben Milligan should return on the wing, while Tavvy are set to welcome back Josh Langton at flanker.
Captain Andrew Schuttkacker is still out with a broken foot, so Martin Budden will again skipper the side from number eight.