IVYBRIDGE could jump up into the top half of the South West Premier League table this weekend if they were to claim a home victory over Newbury Blues.
The Bridgers beat struggling Lydney 39-14 at Cross-in-Hand last Saturday to move up to ninth in the standings, just two points behind seventh-placed Brixham. That was the South Hams club’s third win in four matches.
And they are hoping they can make it four in five against a Newbury side who will arrive in 11th spot, five points behind them.
“Newbury are likely to be a different calibre of opposition to Lydney,” said Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson.
“Lydney were a team in poor form, but they were still a tough old side and we just have to take the positives from last week and transfer them.
“We took our opportunities well and scored some good tries, so we need to take confidence from that, but also try to perform even better.
“We always want to keep improving on our performances.
“Against Newbury we might need to be better in terms of our defence, as if they make line breaks they might punish us more than Lydney did.
“We just have to make sure we prepare well and keep building the points up. If we do that we will win games.”
Paterson and fellow player-coach Jamie Tripcony return to the starting line-up for Ivybridge this week.
With Paterson’s return, Charlie Briant, who has impressed at centre recently, reverts back to his regular full-back position, while Tripcony will line-up at number eight in Robin Luscombe’s continued absence.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
Services sit second in the table and are unbeaten at home this season. Burnham-on-Sea, meanwhile, sit bottom and are without a win on their travels.
Burnham, though, have won two of their last four games and did beat Crediton 19-10 at home last Saturday.
Devonport coach Mike Lewis knows his team will have to be mentally focussed this weekend, especially with the match getting moved from their regular Rectory home to Keyham due to a waterlogged pitch.
“Burnham are bottom of the league, but I spoke to Jason Luff from Crediton this week and he said he does not know how they are bottom,” said Lewis.
“They (Burnham) have a big strong pack and play a bit of rugby, but have just struggled to win games.”
On the switch of venues, Lewis said: “The Rectory is a bit of a quagmire at the moment.
“But we are looking forward to playing every game at the minute wherever it is. Everyone is buzzing to just play.”
Services started 2018 in stunning fashion with a 47-17 away victory at Truro last Saturday.
“I don’t think I have ever done that against Truro even as a kid for Services,” said Lewis.
“We also had three colts in the team last week, which was really nice. Harry Groves and Tommy Pullinger started and did really well and Liam Jarvis came off the bench and did well. They really took their chance.
“The colts have a game at South Molton this weekend, so they will go with them, which changes the team a little bit again.
“It is a shame there is a colts game this week as they would have been in again. They are definitely good enough – and it’s not just them. There’s probably four or five that are good enough, but the colts team has to come first.
“I think the colts team is probably the most success we have had this season.
“At the start of the season we only had 12 colts, but this weekend we have 23 travelling away. I think that a testament to what Doc (Lambert) and Pagey (Joe Page) have done.”
Withycombe are one of just two teams to have beaten the Ashes this season when they triumphed 22-10 at Raleigh Park in September. The only other side Saltash have lost to is title rivals Wellington.
Since losing to Wellington in October, Saltash have gone on an eight-game winning run to sit three points clear at the top of the table.
But they will be wary of their old rivals Withycombe, who they will also face again next month in the RFU Senior Vase.
Sixth-placed Withycombe were terribly out of form before Christmas, losing six out of seven games, but they returned to winning ways last weekend with victory over Hayle and they have proved over the years that they can pull out big performances.
There’s an important derby match at Horsham Fields on Saturday where Plymstock Albion Oaks entertain Tavistock.
Just three points separate the sides in the table, with Tavistock in eighth spot and Oaks 10th. Plymstock were ahead of Tavistock before Christmas but had five points deducted for playing one of their colts in their defeat at Lanner when he was not registered for the senior side.
Oaks are not only looking to leapfrog above Tavistock again, but also gain revenge for a 29-0 defeat at Sandy Park in September.
“They (Tavistock) are going to be up for it, but it is at our place,” said Oaks coach Callum Cload.
“We got badly out-performed by them at their place, so we have something to prove. It should be a cracking game.”
Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill said: “Oaks will be a lot stronger than when we played them at home earlier in the season.
“Ironically, I think this week the wet weather may favour us rather than hinder us like it did against Argaum, but it is by no means greatly advantageous.
“We were cohesive between forwards and backs before Christmas but against Argaum we had a case of panic when we went behind and we lost shape – hardly moving the ball at all.
“We didn’t achieve our targets last week so have to focus on one clear objective around the breakdown against Oaks.
“We do need to front up a bit more as a XV and maintain a high intensity regardless of the run of play.”
Kerswill could miss the match with a neck problem. Fellow front-row forward Charlie Charlton is also injured so Ash Martin is in line to make his first appearance of the season after impressing in training.
Tavistock do have Ash Miller back in the second-row, which will allow captain Andrew Schuttkacker to revert back to his favourite number eight position. George Hillson is missing in the backs as he has returned to university but Tavistock are hoping to have Mark Webber available.
Ryan Bragg, James Perkins and Tom Friend are set to return to the squad as part of a dynamic bench.
Argaum’s win at Sandy Park has moved them seven points clear of the drop zone but they know they need to keep picking up as many points as they can.
After grabbing four last weekend, they have a great chance of securing some more with home games against the bottom two to come in the next three weeks.
“We have Torrington this week and Wessex, which is another winnable game, in our next home match,” said Argaum director of rugby Mark Sullivan.
“If we could start the year with a few wins that would one move us into a safe area and hopefully it could continue for the rest of the season.”
Argaum are set to keep virtually the same side that beat Tavistock last Saturday for Torrington’s visit.
“We are looking forward to the Torrington game,” added secretary Stuart Quarterman. “It is a match we have to target to win if we want to stay up.
“But it is a potential banana skin, especially after their good result last week.”
Torrington claimed only their second win of the season last Saturday when they beat Pirates Amateurs.
Argaum did beat Torrington 33-22 away in September, but the north Devon side appear to have picked up a bit in the last couple of months.
DEVON ONE AND TWO
Bottom club Techs really need to beat fifth-placed New Cross to boost their chances of staying in the division.
If they could win they could move to within four points of safety.
When the teams met earlier in the season, New Cross won 22-13 with two breakaway tries.
“This is one game we really need to win,” said Bedford-Smith. “We know how important it is.
“As I said last week, we just need to start getting wins. It does not matter how they come.
“If we could just get that win it would make everyone feel better and give us confidence and belief.
“It is a really important game this weekend as it is at home.”
He added: “When we played them away it was a close game. It could have gone either way in the second half. Even though, to be fair, we did not play that well we still could have won.”
Techs were left without a match last weekend after their fixture at Totnes was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
“The good thing is that New Cross also didn’t play, so we are both in the same boat,” added Bedford-Smith.
The teams met at the same venue in the semi-finals of the David Butt Trophy. Dartmouth narrowly won that game 17-14 and also triumphed 12-6 away in the league.
Dartmouth did cause a bit of a surprise last weekend by overcoming previously unbeaten leaders Topsham.
“By all accounts they (Dartmouth) had a few players back from injury last week,” said Sarries coach Chey Bryce.
“But we’re looking forward to the game. It should be interesting.
“We have a few players who were available last week who aren’t this, but we do have Marc Cioffi returning and Frazer Tatchell.
“We will have to wait and see what Dartmouth bring and whether we can match them.”
In Devon Two, Plympton Victoria will have a point to prove when they host OPMs at Marsh Mills on Saturday.
OPMs wingers Martin Skelly and Shaun Gundy were in inspirational form that day, scoring eight tries between them. All of OPMs scores came in either the opening 35 minutes of the final 18 minutes.
“We certainly want to go out and do a bit better than we did previously against them,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “We made them look better than they were that day.
“We would like to play them with a half decent team out.
“We are looking forward to it. It should be a good test and a chance to see how we have grown as a club.”
Struggling DHSOB are due to travel to title-chasing Buckfastleigh on Saturday.
The Stonehouse Creek-based club were upset that Buckfastleigh refused to play a game of any description when they visited Plymouth in November.
DHSOB did not have a full 15, but still wanted to play a game, but they said Buckfastleigh were not interested and the Old Boys were later deducted five points, which angered them.
DHSOB did not play last week due to the weather but before Christmas they did have a strong side out against OPMs.
“We had three or four colts and three or four Fijians that day,” said director of rugby Mike Freeman.
“This weekend the colts have a league game, but we are hoping to get a side out.”
Freeman admits this season is just about surviving, with the hope of maybe a cup run. There is also no sign of their home base, Stonehouse Creek Community Centre, re-opening any time soon.
Another team struggling for survival are St Columba & Torpoint. They are due to travel to Ilfracombe on Saturday.
The match should have been at Defiance Field but as Saints pulled out of travelling to Ilfracombe in November the fixture has been switched.