IVYBRIDGE are keen to try and prove a point when they play their second Devon derby game within the space of seven days on Saturday.
After their disappointing 24-7 home defeat to Brixham last week, Ivybridge face a trip to Rackerhayes to take on high-flying Newton Abbot.
Ivybridge have a good record against the Devon All Whites, but their county rivals, led by former Exeter player Matt Jess, have been in good form so far this season, winning all but one of their South West Premier matches to sit second in the table.
The only team to beat Newton Abbot this season are leaders Dings, but Ivybridge would love to change that statistic on Saturday.
“We are on the back of a loss in a Devon derby and we rarely lose them, so the team are hurting,” said player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“There’s a lot of boys who want to prove a point, not to just to the league and themselves but to Jamie (Tripcony) and I.”
He added: “We need to go out on Saturday and focus on ourselves and play some rugby.
“We need to get back to playing our own style. We tried to mirror Brixham last week. We did put a game-plan in place but didn’t stick to it.
“We have prepared for this week by focusing on ourselves and making sure we just play our dangerous style of rugby, regardless of what they are doing.
“They have not beaten us in this league and that is something that might loom over their heads and put doubts there.
“We have got nothing to lose. Everyone is writing us off and saying Newton Abbot should win, but you should never underestimate an Ivybridge side.”
Ivybridge do make a few changes with Marcus Prout and Billy Pinkus (pictured top scoring against Newton Abbot last season) returning to the team.
“We have prepared differently for this game,” said Paterson.
“This Saturday I think there’s going to be a lot of good energy. We just have to go out and have some fun. We want to get a win but do it with a smile on our faces.”
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
Services are back at home again after beating promotion rivals Kingsbridge at the Rectory last week.
Lewis wants his side to have exactly the same attitude as they had last Saturday against a Falmouth side who have beaten Truro, Torquay and Burnham-on-Sea since on their return to Western Counties West.
“Falmouth are not to be taken lightly at all,” said Lewis. “I think they play quite similar to Kingsbridge.
“It is really important the team do not underestimate them. Hopefully, they will have the same attitude as they had against Kingsbridge.
“These are the games that can win leagues. It is okay winning the big games, but you have to win the other 20-odd as well.”
He added: “We have to focus on ourselves this week.
“Last Saturday the wind forced us to play a bit more rugby than we are used to, but we realised we can score from pretty much anywhere on the field. The first two tries in the second half came from our own 22 following two minutes and about 15 or 16 phases of rugby.
“This week we need to have that confidence to play a bit of rugby. Hopefully, the guys buy into that and work just as hard as they did last week.
“There is a lot of pressure on us this year to perform. Hopefully, they will turn up with the right attitude,” added Lewis, who said they have reminded the players about this year’s slip up at Torquay and last year’s costly defeat at struggling Burnham.
Services are without the likes of Jason Stead, Rhys Williams, Jack Evans and Rob Ede.
Tavistock possibly have the toughest trip on Saturday when they visit in-form Wellington.
Second-placed Wellington have seen off fellow Plymouth Combination sides Saltash, Plymstock Albion Oaks and Plymouth Argaum in their last three league matches.
The Somerset side, who were in Western Counties West last term, are averaging nearly 40 points a game and are unbeaten at home.
Tavistock also have a 100 per cent home record, but they have yet to claim a win on their travels this season. However, their away games have included Withycombe, Saltash and Penryn, as well as a derby game with Argaum.
The Sandy Park club know it is going to be tough challenge in Somerset but hope they can cause a surprise.
“We are expecting a very physical game,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill. “But as I’ve mentioned before, every game in this league is winnable.
“Our defence will be key; if we can remain structured I have no doubts that we have the fire power in attack to put points on the board.”
Tavistock will be without forward Joe Hair, but they are able to welcome back fit-again Darren Guppy to replace him.
Guppy will be making his first league appearance of the season after recovering from a bicep injury.
Tavistock also have Ash Miller and Phil Wilson returning to their pack and Jack Glover available at scrum-half.
They have boosted their squad ahead of Saturday’s game with the re-signing of Dylan Penberthy, who returns to the club from Tiverton.
With Penberthy available, Danny Oner will start on the wing. Tavistock are still without influential captain Andrew Schuttacker, but he is close to returning after a fracture in his foot.
Plymouth Albion Oaks are also expecting a tough away test on Saturday when they head to Bude.
Plymstock, though, have won their last two league and cup games and feel they are making progress after plenty of changes in the summer.
“We have won two on the bounce and we are starting to build a bit of momentum,” said coach Callum Cload. “We are playing the brand of rugby the players want.
“I wouldn’t say we are the finished article yet, but the players are happier.”
On Saturday’s trip to north Cornwall, Cload said: “Last week we played the bottom of the league (Wessex) and it was a really tough game, so no game in this league is easy, especially Bude away.”
Bude impressed in the scrum last Saturday as they beat Plymouth Argaum at Bickleigh Down and Oaks have been trying to work on that area this week.
“Our backs have been outstanding and our forwards have been brilliant in the loose, but we have struggled a bit with our set piece,” admitted Cload. “That’s something we need to work on a bit more.”
After their 19-6 loss to Bude last weekend, Plymouth Argaum, who are in 10th spot, visit 12th-placed Hayle.
Hayle’s only win so far this season was against Wessex but they did earn a home draw with Withycombe.
Argaum do not have a particularly good record in Cornwall so certainly will not be expecting an easy afternoon.
“It is a game we would be targeting to come away with some points,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “But going down to Cornwall is always very difficult.”
Argaum again have some availability problems, with Mason Edwards and Ryan Chivers among their missing.
Recent student signing Brian Williams could be handed his first start for the club, while Argaum could again turn to their teenage stars who impressed last week.
Argaum have used seven teenagers this season – Ben Baggott, Jack Stanton, Jack Franklin, Ethan Howe, Tom Bradshaw, Jamie Fellows and Mike Milan-Rodriguez. Another Jack Flanagan would have probably featured had it not been for injuries.
Meanwhile, Saltash will be expected to bounce back from their home defeat by Wellington last week when they travel to bottom club Wessex on Saturday.
Wessex have found life tough in the Cornwall/Devon League after their promotion from Devon One. They are still looking for their first win but did earn a home draw with leaders Penryn.
Saltash’s coaching team will be hoping their players are aware of what happened to their title-rivals at Flowerpot Field and do not underestimate the Exeter club.
With leaders Penryn facing a tough game at fifth-placed Lanner, Saltash will be looking for a valuable five away points.
The Ashes are currently third, level on points with second-placed Wellington and three behind Penryn.
Last season’s Devon Two runners-up will begin life back at level nine with a tricky away trip to Exeter Saracens.
Saracens had an unhappy David Butt Trophy group, finishing bottom of Pool B, but Techs know that does not necessarily mean anything.
“It is really hard to gauge teams from that (the David Butt Trophy),” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “You don’t know how strong teams are.”
However, Techs do have a bit of an idea about Exeter Saracens as they played them at the end of last season in the final of the Devon Junior Vase.
Techs narrowly lost that match at North Tawton 12-10 after seeing one kick bounce off the bar and one at the very end just miss.
“Not so long ago Exeter Saracens were in Western Counties,” said Bedford-Smith. “They were there for a while so they are obviously a team who are going to have players who have played at a higher standard.
“We played them in the final and that was close.
“It would be nice to get off with a win, but it will be tough away from home.”
On what their target is in Devon One this season, Bedford-Smith said: “I would say any target after you have just got promoted is to stay in the league and not go straight back down.
“We want to consolidate in this league.
“We managed to stay up the last time we went up but came back down the following year.
“The first target is always not to get relegated and then build from there. If the season goes well, the season goes well.
“It looks like a very strong league. I think every team in it could beat each other on their day.
“There are no easy games so it is just about picking up points, especially away from home, whether that be bonus points of wins.”
Techs have been hit with a number of injuries this season.
Jon Young is unlikely to be back until the New Year after fracturing his skull in the David Butt Trophy game against Dartmouth. Fellow summer arrival Aaron Anderson-Smith is still out with a broken hand, while James Douglas has just not recovered from a hairline fracture of his hip.
Paul Ansell, who broke his arm in April’s Devon Junior Vase final against Exeter Saracens, is also no closer to returning.
“Paul is still having problems with his arm and is going to see a specialist again,” said Bedford-Smith. “I don’t think we will see him to next year, if we do.”
However, Techs are hoping that full-back Dan Bartlett, who has been out with broken ribs, and Jack Courtney, who needed stitches in a head wound, will be available for selection for this weekend’s league opener.
Techs did use the David Butt Trophy to have a look at different players to try and build for the league season.
“Everyone has been given a chance,” said Bedford-Smith. “No-one can complain that they have not been given a chance to stake a claim for a first team spot.
“We tried to give everyone a good opportunity in the cup to show us what they could do.”
Tamar Saracens are also back in Devon One after an unhappy season in the Cornwall/Devon League.
They are looking forward to finally getting going after a frustrating David Butt Trophy campaign where they only played three games – two of which they won by more than 100 points.
“We didn’t really get much out of the David Butt and it didn’t really help us,” said Saracens coach Chey Bryce.
“But we were lucky we got some competitive fixtures elsewhere
“The league starts now and hopefully we’ll have competitive games until the end of the season.
“We had a good meeting this week, where we set ourselves some team goals up until Christmas and set some individual targets.
“The boys have got things to work on individually and we have a team goal of where we want to be by Christmas time.
“We basically have seven games from now until Christmas – three at home, four away. We will then review it and then push on after Christmas.”
Saracens are boosted by the signing of prop Reece Adams from Ivybridge.
“Hopefully, he will add a little bit of experience to our front-row, having played National League rugby,” said Bryce.
Saracens do not have any injuries, but they have got a number of players unavailable this weekend, including experienced centre Steve Hodge, who has been named in the England Deaf squad for their Test series against New Zealand.
Youngster Scott Cooper is in the Devon under-18 squad to face Cornwall on Sunday but could still play some part for Saracens on Saturday.
There were concerns that the Old Boys might have to pull out of the league after failing to get a full team out for any of their six David Butt Trophy pool games.
However, the Stonehouse-based club have been busy trying to find new players, particularly students and servicemen.
This weekend they are able to boost their squad with some of their colts for their opening home game against Plympton Victoria
“We are going to go for it,” said chairman of rugby Mike Freeman. “This week some of our older colts will be available as they haven’t got a game. We’ll also have our usual suspects and hopefully maybe two or three Fijians.
“We are canvassing all potential resources to try and honour the tradition of the club. We did have three new players come to training on Monday.
“I am hoping if we get through a couple of games and get a bit of help then things will snowball.
“We have been targeting freshers at the universities as if they come along and enjoy it you are likely to have them for the rest of their time in Plymouth.”
Freeman admits a home match against Plympton Victoria is not the worst fixture the hastily-put-together Old Boys could have had.
However, the disappointment for them is that the Stonehouse Creek Community Centre is still not in operation.
The Old Boys had hoped to bring some of their promising juniors from last season through, but many joined other clubs in the summer.
Four of their colts from last season – Scott Cooper, Tommy Pullinger, Reece Bartlett and Jacob Gould – are in the Devon Under-18 squad for their match against Cornwall on Sunday at Keyham.
Cooper and Lewis Swatton opted to move to Tamar Saracens in the summer, where they have family ties, while Pullinger, Bartlett and Gould switched to Devonport Services, who re-established a colts team this season.
“I am overjoyed to see some of these players we have helped produce are playing for Devon,” Freeman. “They are all really nice lads.
“I felt we could have got promoted with all them. That was our vision – to try and bring them through and do something like Plymouth Argaum and Plymstock Albion Oaks.
“But I knew it might be difficult to keep some of them at DHS because of their quality.”
Whereas DHSOB and Plym Vic remain in Plymouth for the opening day of the league season, OPMs have their seconds longest trip of the campaign – an away game at North Tawton.
North Tawton were relegated from Devon One last season and OPMs are expecting a tough test.
The Old Boys are keen to get promoted this year after narrowly missing out last term.
OPMs finished third behind Dartmouth and Old Techs in a three-horse race for promotion in 2016/17.
“Just as last season we want to try and get promotion but we just have to take each game as it comes,” said OPMs captain Henry Matthews.
“It is a tough one to start, but we’re just going up to North Tawton and try and play our best.”
He added: “When we were in Devon One before we got promoted to the Cornwall/Devon League we played them (North Tawton) quite a lot and they were always a good outfit with some strong boys in their pack.”
OPMs are set to be without speedy winger Martin Skelley, who is again struggling with an hamstring injury. However, Harry Kandampully should be back and Andy Sincock and Andy Thompson have been impressing as a new-look centre partnership.
OPMs’ other big rivals could be Buckfastleigh, who finished fourth last term.
St Columba & Torpoint have to play Buckfastleigh away in their opening match.