Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge look for crucial home win, while Services aim to stay on top

IVYBRIDGE will be hoping to move up the South West Premier League table this weekend when they host Weston-super-Mare at Cross-in-Hand (2.30pm).

The Bridgers got their season back on track two weeks ago when they beat Bracknell 25-16 away to end a four-game losing run.

They stayed third-from-bottom after that victory in Berkshire but they could move up to as high as seventh in they were to claim a bonus point win this weekend.

Weston-super-Mare currently occupy seventh spot after four wins and two draws from their 10 matches so far since winning promotion into the league as unbeaten South West One champions.

The Somerset club, who have former Bristol players Darren Crompton and Jack Gadd on their coaching staff, have never visited Cross-in-Hand for a league game.

Weston have already played Devon’s other three South West Premier sides. They beat Exmouth in their last away match, were well beaten by Newton Abbot and drew with Brixham.

They have only lost to the top four teams, so Ivybridge, who have only won once at home this season, will now they will need to be on top form to win.

The Bridgers are able to welcome back captain Matt Finn (pictured top), Jordan Anderton, Luke Martell and Justin Rogers to their matchday squad.

WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services coach Mike Lewis has warned his team about complacency ahead of this Saturday’s trip to struggling Sidmouth.

Services sit top of Western Counties West and are unbeaten since September 9.

Last week they also booked their place in the Devon Intermediate Cup semi-finals with an impressive 67-13 win over league rivals Paignton at the Rectory.

Their opponents this weekend, Sidmouth, might sit second from bottom in the Western Counties West table but they have won their last three league and cup games.

Services coach Lewis knows his team cannot take Sidmouth lightly. Last year the east Devon side beat Devonport 28-23 at the Rectory to all-but end Services’ promotion hopes. The game earlier in the season at Blackmore Field was narrowly won 29-26 by Services.

“It is important that we use the momentum of last week’s cup game to our advantage,” said Lewis.

“Even though the score suggests we were quite dominant, Paignton made us work hard for everything and I think we got a lot of confidence out of that game – not because of the scoreline, but because of the way we conducted ourselves.

“We played for the full 80 minutes for probably the first time since I have been at Services.”

But Lewis knows his team cannot be complacent:

“That’s huge,” he said. “Away to Sidmouth last year we went 20-odd points up at half-time, but we almost threw it away.

“They (Sidmouth) have lost some games you would not expect them to lose, but they beat Crediton last week, who have been playing quite well.”

He added: “We have been okay away. We’ve not been great, but we’ve been solid.

“However, we keep reminding the boys about (losing at) Torquay – that is our line in the sand. We don’t want that to happen again.

“The most important part is that we keep improving every week. That doesn’t mean scoring 60 points again, but it could be maintaining that character and discipline in an away performance.”

Services are likely to be missing some players this week.

“We will be making five or six changes again,” said Lewis. “We will go with a different team to last Friday, but I doubt it will be any less strong.”

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

SALTASH’S promotion credentials will be put to the test this weekend when they host Honiton at Moorlands Lane in the pick of the games in the Cornwall/Devon League.

The match pits two of the top four in the division against each other.

Saltash sit second in the standings with 42 points, with Honiton fourth on 39 points. Both clubs have only lost twice this season.

Honiton’s defeats have come by just one score against fellow Cornish sides Penryn and Lanner.

The Ashes will know their backs are a match for anyone in the league, but they will need to stop Honiton’s forwards from dominating. The east Devon side are one of the best line-out teams in the division.

The top four in the division, separated by just five points, have opened a bit of a gap between themselves and the rest of the teams in the standings.

Plymouth Argaum admit they have nothing to lose this weekend when they host unbeaten league leaders Penryn at Bickleigh Down.

Argaum have lost their last four league matches and are just one point above the relegation zone.

Penryn, with nine wins and a draw from their 10 games, will be odds-on favourites on Saturday, but Argaum are hoping they could cause a surprise.

“I think the team have benefitted from having a week off,” said secretary Stuart Quarterman. “People who have been carrying injuries have had a rest.

“The lads are positive. There’s still a really good feeling in the camp and we’ve had some quality training.

“This weekend is going to be a big challenge, but we have got nothing to lose.”

John Fulton is nearing full fitness again for Argaum after missing the last few weeks with a knee injury.

Ninth-placed Tavistock will be hoping they can continue their 100 per cent home record in the league when they host 11th-placed Hayle at Sandy Park.

Tavvy did lose last week to Honiton in the Devon Intermediate Cup but they were missing a host of players.

They will again be without a few players this weekend, including Mark Friend, Andrew Craddock, Phil Wilson, Jamie Turpin, Jack Glover, Ash Miller and player-coach Hammy Kerswill, but they are able to welcome back Joe Hair, Charlie Charlton and Hallam Bourton.

Ethan Lamerton will move to fly-half, with captain Andrew Schuttkacker continuing at centre for a second week running. Colt Jack Easton gets another chance in the first team on the wing.

Tavistock coach Kerswill said: “Very little is known about Hayle but I’m confident the new personnel can get a result.

“We had a productive session on Thursday after a few below average sessions.”

Plymstock Albion Oaks are also at home on Saturday when they entertain fifth-placed Lanner at Horsham Fields.

Oaks’ only defeat at home this season came against Saltash in their opening match on their own soil.

Lanner did play last week, losing 41-24 at home to Withycombe, while eighth-placed Plymstock had a weekend off to recover from their 30-5 defeat at Honiton in their last outing.

DEVON ONE

OLD Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith is hoping his team can surprise unbeaten league leaders Topsham on Saturday at Weston Mill.

Techs are still looking for their first win since their promotion to Devon One and will face their toughest test yet this weekend.

Topsham narrowly beat South Molton in their opening game before scoring 79 points against an injury-hit Dartmouth and 45 points against Totnes.

“They are all tough games,” said Bedford-Smith. “But anyone looking at this fixture is going to be thinking Topsham are going to turn us over, so in a way that takes the pressure of us, as people are not expecting us to win.

“We have not played them for three seasons or so, but they are normally a running side who like to spread it wide.

“They are going well. There’s no pressure on us as no-one expects us to win, but we have to put pressure on ourselves.

“I see it as a challenge. They are coming down to us and there is no reason why we can’t get a result. On our day we are a match for anyone.

“I am looking forward to it. We just have to go out play our own game, stick to the game-plan, go through our phases and see what comes.

“In a minute I think we are going to click. Every game we could have won. We just need to tighten up on a few things.”

Techs expect to be stronger than they were in their last game against New Cross. They are still missing the experienced Phil Ingleson, while Dan Bond is also out, as is Ben Lynch, but they do hope to have Paul Ansell back.

City rivals Tamar Saracens are also at home and looking for their first Devon One win of the season. They entertain third-placed Totnes at Parkway.

Coach Chey Bryce is frustrated by the number of players who are unavailable this weekend for a game that they really need to win to get them off minus four points.

Steve Hodge is suspended after picking up a red card last weekend against New Cross, while James McFarlane, Alex Israel, Sam Gough, Blake Smith, Tom Rigby, Brendon Bevan, Lee Dolphin and Dan Best are all unavailable.

“It’s not great,” said Bryce.  “James McFarlane started last week, as did Sam Gough, Alex Israel and Lee Dolphin, while Brendan Bevon was on the bench – and that’s just out of pack.

“But the positive thing is we have a lot of second team players who have been coming to training. This is their chance and if they take it, then those other boys will have to fight for their shirts when they come back.”

He added: “Totnes will be a well-drilled side. Hopefully, we can keep our discipline, play hard rugby and see if we can grind out a result.”

Totnes have managed to grind out wins against newly-promoted Dartmouth and Old Techs .

“That’s what we are struggling with,” said Bryce. “We have not been able to put together a narrow win.

“As I have said before, when you are losing, it is hard to get out of losing. It becomes a habit, like winning does.

“We are in that rut where we are losing close games that we should be winning. When you are 17-3 up at half-time like last weekend (against New Cross) you’d like to think you could close out of the game, but that confidence is not there. That’s what we are struggling with.”

Bryce hopes that if his team can get that first league win then that confidence will come.

The former Brixham hooker, meanwhile, has insisted he will stay at Saracens for the rest of the season, despite closing in on a playing return from an ACL injury.

“I will stay this season,” he said. “I have committed to this season and, hopefully, I will get a couple of games in the next few weeks.”

DEVON TWO

OPMs are preparing for a run of games that could prove crucial to their promotion hopes.

This weekend they travel to Salcombe, before they host Buckfastleigh the following week and then travel to Ilfracombe.

“We pride ourselves on just looking at the next game, but we are getting into the meat of the season,” said captain Henry Matthew.

“Salcombe have been a bit up and down, but playing them is never an easy game.

“It’s always a nice trip up there as well, but we are expecting a tough game.”

OPMs have already visited Twomeads this season. They played Salcombe in the David Butt Trophy and won 17-0.

“It was a really, really tight game,” said Matthews. “We went one try up in the first half and it was not until the last couple of minutes we got those last two tries. They had really good pack that day.”

OPMs expected to have a pretty much full strength squad to select from. Their only major long-term injury is to Chris Harmer, who damaged his ACL against Old Techs in the David Butt Trophy campaign.

Plympton Victoria will be hoping to bounce back from their heavy defeat to OPMs in their last match when they travel across the Tamar to take on St Columba & Torpoint.

The two clubs played out two entertaining games in the David Butt Trophy.

Plym Vic won 33-31 at Marsh Mills, with Saints triumphing 43-24 at Defiance Field.

Saints have had a tough start to their Devon One campaign with heavy defeats to Buckfastleigh and OPMs, while not travelling to Ilfracombe for their last match. They are already on minus 10 points but will be hoping to pick up some points in their next couple of matches against Combination rivals Plym Vic and DHSOB.

Plym Vic, meanwhile, have six points from their opening three games against DHSOB, North Tawton and OPMs and could move into the top four in they were to win this weekend.

Meanwhile, DHSOB are intending to travel to Ilfracombe this weekend.

The Old Boys have been struggling for players all this season, but with their colts not in action this weekend they should be able to get a full side out.

“We are going to travel,” said director of rugby Mike Freeman. “We have got a bus booked and, hopefully, we will be going with a full complement of players.”

Meanwhile, DHSOB are appealing their five point deduction for not playing Buckfastleigh last weekend.

The Old Boys say they had 12 players and were prepared to play a ‘game of some description’, but Buckfastleigh were not interested in either lending them any players or playing anything other than a 15-a-side match.

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