IVYBRIDGE will be looking to move out of the bottom three of the South West Premier League on Saturday when they make the trip to Cornwall to take on Camborne.
The Bridgers have had a frustrating start to the season, winning just four of their 11 games so far.
But three of those four victories have come on their travels and a bonus point win in Cornwall could move them up to ninth in the table, above Camborne, who will start Saturday’s game four points ahead of the South Hams side.
Both clubs are not where they hoped to be at this point of the season and this weekend’s game at the Recreation Ground could be crucial.
“It will be a big test for us – a massive one,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“Going to Camborne for any side looking for a result is a tough.
“They’ve lost people like Sam Matavesi and a couple of other key players, but it is still a huge challenge for us. Yet we are looking forward to it. We have to go down there looking to get a result.”
He added: “The league is a bit funny down the bottom half of the table. We are only a couple of wins away from climbing into the top half.
“These games are important as you don’t want that gap getting any bigger.
“It is important we go down there with the mind-set to at least come away with something.
“We need to start getting some league points.
“We were unfortunate last week against Weston. It was a game that just slipped out of our hands really. We pretty much gifted Weston 19 points.”
Paterson does admit his team have enjoyed playing away this season.
“We are having inconsistency with the team,” said Paterson. “Some players have been available to play at home and some away, but maybe we have put too much pressure on ourselves at home.
“Going away from home there is that bit less pressure and when we relax and enjoy ourselves we are very, very dangerous.”
Ivybridge are set to hand a first start to flanker Ben King, while Adam Willows could also start at full-back after impressing in their last away match at Bracknell.
Charlie Briant is expected to move into the centre, with Luke Martell likely to be handed the fly-half duties.
The Bridgers are also able to welcome back young forward Wes Vermigle following suspension. He picked up a ban after being sent off in a second team game.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
PROMOTION-chasing Devonport Services face another test of their character on Saturday when they host Paignton at the Rectory in Western Counties West.
The clubs only met two weeks ago at the same venue in the Devon Intermediate Cup, with Services triumphing 67-13.
But coach Mike Lewis wants his team to forget about that game and concentrate on bouncing back from last weekend’s surprise 26-24 defeat at Sidmouth, which saw them lose top spot in the table.
“I don’t think the game will be the same as before,” said Lewis. “I can guarantee the score will be completely different.
“It is a big test of character this weekend.
“We beat them comfortably last time, but it is about trying to avoid that complacency and having the right character and attitude. That’s the biggest ask.
“Last week we did not quite have that, so we need a big push this week.”
He added: “Last Saturday we did not play as well as we should have against a lower team and we are going to have the same scenario this weekend.
“It has happened a couple of times now at Sidmouth and Torquay – two winnable games we have lost by two points. We deserved to lose both games, but a change of mind-set would have got us a win in both.
“It is about trying to be consistent. It is a long, old season and you have to be careful of pushing too hard, but we need to be sure we are getting it right week-in, week-out.”
Services, who are still unbeaten at home, will be without Matt Gregory, who picked up a knock last week, and Ben McGowan, who scored two tries at Sidmouth.
They are still waiting to see if Richard West is going to be available for selection after injury.
Argaum dropped into the bottom three last weekend when they were beaten by leaders Penryn and Pirates Amateurs surprisingly overcame Withycombe.
After a shocking start the Pirates have picked up some form in the last few weeks, but Argaum did go down to Penzance and beat them towards the end of last season.
“This has always been a game we have been looking to target,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“The Pirates, though, have picked up form in the last few weeks, so we are expecting a tough game. Any match in down in west Cornwall is tough, but we’re looking forward to it. We’re going to go down on the train.
“We will go down there confident. We had a fantastic, morale-boosting win down there last year. That was a bit of an upset and they (the Pirates) will probably be wanting to make up for that.”
Although Argaum have lost their last five games, they have felt there have been lots of positives in their performances.
“A win is close,” said Quarterman. “We are happy with the way we are playing. We just need that little bit of X-factor.”
Argaum should have captain John Ireland back this week. John Fulton is also on the verge of returning.
Title-chasing Saltash will also be expecting a tough test in Cornwall when they make the trip to fifth-placed Lanner.
The Ashes are second in the table, two points behind leaders Penryn and one in front of third-placed Wellington.
Lanner made a great start to the season, but they have lost two of their last four matches, but they did beat Plymstock Albion Oaks at Horsham Fields.
Saltash have only lost twice this season and travel to Lanner in confident mood after an impressive win over fourth-placed Honiton last weekend.
Plymstock Albion Oaks are also in Cornwall on Saturday. They take on leaders Penryn at the Memorial Ground.
Eighth-placed Oaks have lost three of their last four games and have not won outside Plymouth yet this season. Their only league win on their travels came on the opening day of the campaign at Argaum.
They could do with a win as they are now nine points behind seven-placed Withycombe and teams at the bottom are closing up.
The teams only met two weeks ago in the Devon Intermediate Shield, with Honiton winning 29-14.
“I didn’t play in the cup game but it sounds like the difference was our ability to finish and a lack of physicality,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill.
“I have optimism about Saturday as we had a good session on Thursday and the boys want to bounce back. But we know it’s a hard place to win and we must be a confident side and have somewhat of an arrogance about us if we are to pull off a shock.”
Tavistock, who lost to Hayle last weekend, are able to welcome back the likes of Kerswill, Ash Mill, Mark Webber, Ben Hadfield and Jack Jones.
Andrew Craddock is set to play at 10, with the versatile Mark Friend starting in the centre. Captain Andrew Schuttkacker returns to the back-row after playing at centre for the past two weeks.
Kerswill said: “We have Shooie (Andrew Schuttkacker) back at number eight which will help to match their back-row alongside Rich Cann and Martin Budden.
“Andrew Craddock is keen and looking sharp to be a playmaker at 10, freeing up Ethan and Friendly to run in space in midfield.”
DEVON ONE AND TWO
Bottom club Saracens head to unbeaten leaders Topsham, while second-from-bottom Techs visit second-placed South Molton.
But after this weekend’s difficult away trips both clubs have their eyes on two decisive matches before Christmas.
The two Plymouth teams will meet next weekend at Weston Mill before Techs then play Dartmouth and Saracens host Exeter Saracens.
Both clubs just feel they need that one win to get them going after four defeats.
“We are not a bad side,” said Tamar Saracens coach Chey Bryce, who has now registered as a player and should be available next week. “But it is the same every week. We are putting teams under pressure but just can’t execute, but as soon as they put us under pressure they score and our heads drop.”
He added: “We are expecting a tough challenge at Topsham with where they are in the league. From what I gather they have got in a lot of new players.
“We are stronger up front this week with players coming back, but in the backs we are struggling a little bit with a few out injured and a few people unavailable.”
Two of the backs unavailable are Frazer Tatchell and Adam Corbett, who suffered a sickening clash of heads last weekend towards the end of their match with Totnes.
The collision led to the game ending early and both players going to hospital.
“Both went in to make a tackle on a player but their heads went either side and they smacked each other’s head,” said Bryce. “Adam’s was the worst. He had to have three layers of stitching and they had to get the plastic surgeon. They both could be out for quite a while.”
“It is another tough one,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “It’s a long old trip up there and we are carrying a couple of injuries and have a few unavailable.
“But there were plenty of positives last week. I think the scoreline flattered Topsham. There was only three points in the game with about 15 minutes to go.
“In the first half they got two chances and took them both; we had two but did not execute. That’s the difference in this league – if teams get a sniff they will take it, but we seem to need five or six chances to get a try.
“But we have not been out-classed yet. We just have to be more clinical and take our chances. Last week was really positive and encouraging with the way we played. There’s just a few little areas we need to tighten up and maybe we just need that rub of the green to get that win.”
Techs will be without the likes of Dan Bartlett, Dan Bond, Jack Courtney and Joe Bailey this weekend.
OPMs have a massive match in Devon Two when they host unbeaten Buckfastleigh at King George V Playing Fields.
The Old Boys moved to the top of the table last weekend after beating Salcombe away, but Buckfastleigh are just a point behind them in the table with a game in hand.
The Ramblers match against fellow high-flyers North Tawton had to be abandoned last weekend when they were winning due to a serious injury.
If OPMs could get a victory, it would put them in a great position going into the new year.
The Old Boys are the top scores in the league and are averaging more than 43 points a game. Martin Skelly has impressively scored 50 points in three matches with 10 tries.
Plympton Victoria are the second top scorers in the league so far with 122 points. That is more than they have scored in any of their last six seasons and they have only played four games so far this term.
They will be hoping to continue their encouraging start to the season this weekend when they host Salcombe at Marsh Mills.
Salcombe’s only win this season came against DHSOB but they have been competitive against OPMs, North Tawton and Ilfracombe so Plym Vic, whose two wins this season have come on their travels, will be expecting a tricky game.
There will be an interesting fixture at Stonehouse Creek where DHSOB entertain fellow strugglers St Columba & Torpoint.
Both clubs are still looking for their first league win of the season. Saints are actually still looking for their first league points of the campaign, while DHSOB have only scored three.