IVYBRIDGE are hoping they can claim their first Devon derby win of the season on Saturday when they travel to Exmouth in their final match of 2017.
In previous seasons, the Bridgers have enjoyed their meetings with their local rivals, but this term they have come not been able to get the better of any of their county rivals. They lost at home to Exmouth and Brixham and away to Newton Abbot.
The loss against Exmouth at Cross-in-Hand in the second match of this season particularly hurt Ivybridge as they were 26-9 up at half-time. However, the match totally turned around at the break and Exmouth ended up winning 40-29.
“We were four tries up in that game,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“The thing is we have not won a Devon derby this season and that hurts. It is not just disappointing, it really hurts.
“We definitely want to prove a point.
“We are on the back of two good wins against Camborne at their place and fourth-placed Cleve, who have beaten Dings.
“But we have to try not to put the pressure on. We just have to make sure we go up there and try to continue the momentum – make sure we continue what we have been doing well, regardless of who we are playing.”
After this weekend, Ivybridge will not play again until January 6.
“We have got a long break off, which the boys thoroughly deserve, but it makes the wait for rugby a lot longer,” said Paterson.
“But if we can finish on the back of a win we can go into the new year and the second half of the season with a whole new found confidence.
“We just want a good result and try and get something from the game.”
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services are another team who will be on a revenge mission against county rivals this weekend.
They host Torquay Athletic at the Rectory on Saturday in their last match of the year.
Torquay are one of just three teams to have beaten Services this season when they triumphed 36-34 at the Recreation Group in early September.
Services had been 17-0 up after just 11 minutes but then let Torquay back in the game and the hosts scored a last-minute converted try to win.
“They (Torquay) will see it as a well-won game, but we see it as a game we let slip,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “We need to make sure we are doing the right things at the right times this weekend.
“We were really good in attack against them. I think we scored six tries there, but conceded just as many. That was out of character, so we need to make sure we put it right.”
Services also want to bounce back from last week’s 34-19 defeat at title-rivals St Ives. That was the first time this season Devonport had not picked up any points in a game and it resulted in them dropping down to third in the table.
“Last week we just didn’t have great preparation going into the game,” said Lewis. “We had loads of boys off through work, illness and stuff like that. Preparation wise it was one of the worst weeks we have had and it did show in our performance.
“Everyone worked hard and left anything on the field, but our organisation was less than desired and St Ives took full advantage of that.
“In attack we just didn’t quite manage to break them down enough and in defence we didn’t link or communicate as well as we should have been and like we do usually.
“We went something like 15-0 down after the first 15 minutes and then it is tough to bounce back from that. But we have to try and put that right as well.
“The Torquay and Sidmouth defeats were down to our mental approach, but this one was just lack of preparation in the week.
“Hopefully, we can make sure we are the most organised and prepared that we can be going into this weekend.”
Services should be boosted by the return of a number of players, including captain Matt Gregory, Jason Stead and Matty Anstis.
PLYMOUTH Argaum are expecting a tough test when they host leaders Saltash at Bickleigh Down.
Argaum got back to winning ways last Saturday when they narrowly overcame Withycombe at home.
That ended a run of six straight defeats for the Roborough-based club and has boosted them ahead of the Ashes’ visit.
However, they know they will face a massive challenge against a Saltash side who are on a six-match winning run and who beat fellow title-rivals Penryn last weekend.
“I think Saltash are a club with a good ethos and not the type to turn up thinking they can take us lightly,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
Argaum’s biggest problem has been team consistency. They keep having to change their team due to injuries and unavailabilities.
Mason Edwards who played last week is set to be missing this week, as is Jake Tuffrey, who unfortunately ruptured his bicep on his return to the first team last Saturday.
Scrum-half Euan Collins has a neck injury, but Argaum hope that former National League number nine Chris Perkins will be available. Due to work commitments, the Royal Marine’s only previous game for the club was against Saltash away in September – a match the Ashes won 40-17.
Ryan Chivers is also on the verge of returning for Argaum, while Spanish forward Santiago Perez Blasco is also back from injury. Dan James should be available for the club in January after 18 months out with an ACL injury.
Saltash know a win this weekend will mean they will start 2018 at the top of the table.
Plymstock Albion Oaks, like Argaum, are also at home for the second time in seven days. They will host the inconsistent Withycombe at Horsham Fields.
Oaks got their season back on track last Saturday with a 27-15 victory over the Pirates Amateurs.
That ended a three-match losing run, which is now what Withycombe are on after surprise defeats to Argaum, Wessex and Pirates Amateurs.
“I think they have lost three or four in a row so they are going to be gunning for a big performance,” said Oaks coach Callum Cload. “But hopefully we have got some momentum now and it’s also at our place.”
Last week Oaks made a great start against Pirates and that won them the game and they will no doubt be hoping for the same on Saturday.
“It is always important to get that good start against travelling teams,” said Cload. “We know ourselves we are terrible for the first 20 minutes when we travel.”
Cload has been working with Withycombe player-coach Glenn Channing this season with the Devon Under-18 squad. The county side are also in action on Saturday at Hornets RFC against Oxfordshire.
Tavistock are the only one of the four Plymouth Combination sides who have to make a long journey this weekend. They travel down to Penzance to take on the Pirates Amateurs at Mennaye Field.
The biggest concern might be the pitch, with the Cornish Pirates due to play Scarlets A on Sunday in the B&I Cup.
However, Tavistock are expecting the game to go ahead as planned and they will go into it on a high after their impressive 36-0 win over Lanner last week.
They are hoping they can finally end their long wait for an away victory this season.
They are set to have a similar squad to last Saturday. Ethan Lamerton and Mark Webber are absentees in the backs, but Tavvy are able to welcome back George Hillson from Hartpury College and Aidan Mason, who has re-signed for the club from Crediton. Hillson is set to start at full-back, with Mason on the wing.
The pack basically stays the same with just Darren Guppy coming in for Ash Miller as a front-five rotation.
Tavistock did beat the Pirates 38-0 at home in the second match of the season.
Coach Hammy Kerswill said: “Pirates are good at home and have picked up from when we played them early season.
“That being said, I think we are in a good place at the moment. Attitude to training has been good and last week was an all-round performance.
“The weather looks like it will be okay so hopefully we can play some good interlinking rugby.
“We need this win away from home,” he added. “Last year we threw it away in the second half against Pirates and the boys want a result.
“We have pretty much a full squad going down on the coach so they are eager to make the most of it with a win.”
DEVON ONE & TWO
TAMAR Saracens’ hopes of building on their win over Old Techs last week could be wrecked by the bad weather.
Sarries are battling hard to try and get their game on against third-from-bottom Exeter Saracens.
Their Parkway pitch is in a poor state, but Tamar Saracens are doing all they can to try and get it ready to host Exeter in a game that could have a major say on whether they can stay up.
The Ernesettle-based club remain bottom of the table, despite their first win of the season last week. They currently sit 11 points behind Exeter Saracens with eight games to go, so really need to win this weekend.
Their city rivals Old Techs, who travel to Dartmouth on Saturday, would also probably like them to win as well.
“With the recent wet weather our pitch has taken a bit of a battering,” said coach Chey Bryce. “We have not been able to train this week, but we have been folking the pitch to try and save the game.
“Hopefully, we can get it on and get another win.”
He added: “It was nice to get the win last week and we want to keep that momentum going.
“I don’t really know too much about them (Exeter Saracens) but I know they are pretty much in the same situation as us.
“We have got a few backs unavailable this week but the forwards are looking good.
“We do need to win this one, especially at home, but we still also have to play Dartmouth and Old Techs at home and also still have Exeter Saracens to play away as well as at home this week.”
Old Techs are hoping they can bounce back from last week’s disappointment of narrowly losing to Tamar Saracens and claim their first league win of the season at Dartmouth.
Techs will make the journey to the South Hams knowing they have won on their last two trips to Wessex Way.
They beat Dartmouth 11-8 away in the David Butt Trophy this season and also won there in their final league match of last season.
Techs certainly need a win after so many near misses in their opening six Devon One matches.
Coach Shaun Bedford-Smith, though, has been impressed by his players’ spirit this season, despite results not going their way.
“I am not knocking our players for their commitment this season,” he said. “It is when things are not going great that you realise who the real team players are.
“When you are winning stuff, like we have done for the last couple of years, it is easy. When you are losing you find the true commitment of the players and I cannot knock them. They have given it 100 per cent so far.”
Dartmouth have been extremely up and down this season. Last week they lost 63-5 at title-chasing South Molton but the week before put 50 on New Cross.
Their home form has been generally good and they have won three of their last four fixtures.
In Devon Two, OPMs will be expected to return to winning ways when they host struggling DHSOB at King George V Playing Field.
OPMs have lost their last two matches against Ilfracombe and Buckfastleigh and have struggled to score points in those games. However, they will be hoping to run in a few tries in their final match of 2017.
DHSOB are still looking for their first win of the season, but they are confident of having a full squad to make the short journey to Elburton. They are helped by having some of their older colts available.
OPMs insist their pitch is playable and are offering bacon rolls, coffee and beers before kick-off on Saturday. Their second team will also be in action at King George V Playing Fields. They are due to play Totnes seconds.
Plympton Victoria are also in action at home when they host third-placed Ilfracombe.
Plym Vic, who sit in fifth spot, will know Ilfracombe are not always as strong on their travels as they are at their own venue. Ilfracombe, though, will be boosted by beating OPMs last week. However, they do only have one more win than Plym Vic.
Meanwhile, St Columba & Torpoint are set to docked another five points after pulling out of their game at North Tawton due to player unavailabilities.