Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Services look to keep runs going in Somerset

IVYBRIDGE will be hoping to continue their good form away at bottom side Hornets on Saturday in the South West Premier League.

The Bridgers have won four of their last five games to move up to seventh in the standings.

However, they are expecting a tough test in Somerset against a Hornets side who are used to playing on their 3G pitch.

All Hornets’ win this season have come at home, including beating Exmouth in their last game at Hutton Moor.

“We have some massive momentum from the previous two games, but Hornets are very good at home,” said Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson.

“Looking at their results they have only been beaten by a few of the top teams at home and Maidenhead, who also have an all-weather pitch.

“Hornets maybe bottom of the league but they are very, very difficult to beat at home, so we need to be massively switched on and be well-prepared for a change of surface.”

He added: “We have to be confident after the last two weeks and it is also a joy knowing the game is not going to be off, but it is difficult when you have adapted to the wet to suddenly go on to a running surface. But we want to try and keep playing the systems that we have been doing regardless of what pitch we are on.”

Ivybridge are unbeaten since the new year, claiming wins over Newbury and Lydney.

Paterson said: “We wanted to start the year well. We had a meeting before the second half of the season and we said we’d change little things about how we approach games and said they could produce big outcomes – and they have.

“Yeah, Lydney and Newbury are both around the bottom of the table, but Lydney got a massive win last weekend.

“We just have to make sure we don’t take Hornets lightly. We have to prepare massively well.”

Ivybridge are forced to make changes to their side.

Full-back Charlie Briant is unavailable, while winger Damon Akerman could be facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after damaging his knee against Newbury last weekend.

It is feared the 20-year-old has suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

“It is such a shame because he has been in good form,” said Paterson.

Adam Willows is set to start in the backs on Saturday. Jamie Tripcony is also missing for Ivybridge this weekend, but Robin Luscombe should be back and Marcus Prout is also set to start in the back-row.

WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

SECOND-placed Devonport Services will be looking to continue their fine form when they travel to sixth-placed Chard on Saturday in Western Counties West.

Services have scored 45 points or more in their last two matches against Burnham-on-Sea and Truro.

But they know they will need to be in top form again against a Chard side that have only lost once on their own pitch since their relegation from South West One last season. Their one and only defeat at Essex Close came in October when third-placed St Austell beat them.

“We didn’t know much about them before this season,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “We played them at home early in the season and I think we won four tries to one. We did really well against them, but it was so early in the season that both teams were a bit rusty.

“We are expecting a bit more from them this time, especially on their pitch.

“Everyone keeps telling me their pitch is really small, so we have been trying to train for that this week.

“They are renowned for having a big pack and pushing people around so we have to try and do the same to them.”

He added: “We have got quite a few unavailabilities this week. It is just one of those weekends.

“We still have a decent team going up, but it just means reshuffling again when we really wanted to try and keep some consistency after the last two games.”

Among those missing will be Matt Gregory, Ty Colwill, Tommy Pullinger and Matty Anstis, while Services are still waiting to see if Ben Wadham and Rhys Williams are available.

Gregory damaged his knee in the opening minutes of last weekend’s match against Burnham.

“He is probably going to be out for a month,” said Lewis.

Young back Pullinger, meanwhile, is unavailable has he has South West under-18 trials on Sunday.

Services’ colts had been due to travel to South Molton but the game has been postponed for a second week running and the north Devon club were unwilling to play in Plymouth so Devonport have been handed the win.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

TAVISTOCK and Plymouth Argaum will be the latest teams to try and have a say on the promotion race in the Cornwall/Devon League.

Ninth-placed Tavistock will host leaders Saltash at Moorlands Lane this weekend, while 10th-placed Argaum will travel to second-placed Wellington.

Saltash, with eight wins in a row to their name, sit three points clear at the top of the table and will be favourites against a Tavistock side who have lost their last three matches.

However, Tavistock have a decent home record and Saltash did find it tough at Moorlands Lane last season.

The game will be subject to a pitch inspection, with Sandy Park having taken a bit of a battering with the recent wet weather.

“Our first and second team pitches are out so we are hoping the colts pitch hasn’t take too much damage,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill.

Saltash will be hoping it is on after their home game with Withycombe was postponed last week.

Tavistock also want it on. They will be able to welcome back Jack Jones and Charlie Charlton from injury, but will be without Joe Hair and Richard Cann.

“It is always tough to regain a winning momentum against the top of the table, but we have nothing to lose,” said Kerswill.

“Pressure will be key; we can’t let Saltash build phases or have space as they have an excellent ability to score fries from nowhere.”

Meanwhile, Plymouth Argaum will head to Wellington in positive mood after winning both their opening matches of 2018.

Wellington, though, will be a totally different proposition to their last two opponents, Torrington and Tavistock.

The Somerset side are unbeaten at home this season and currently have the longest unbeaten run in the league.

Argaum lost 50-0 to them at Bickleigh Down, but feel they are stronger and in better form now.

“It will be a tough game up there,” said Argaum’s director of rugby Mark Sullivan. “But if we continue to play the way we are playing hopefully we can give them a good challenge.”

Argaum know, unlike the last two weeks, there will be no pressure on them on Saturday with everyone expecting Wellington to win.

Elsewhere, Plymstock Albion Oaks will be looking to build on their win over Tavistock last weekend when they travel to bottom side Torrington.

The north Devon club may be at the foot of the table but they have made everyone apart from Saltash work hard for points at their place.

“They have been blown away a couple of times, but have also given some teams a real run for their money,” said Oaks coach Callum Cload.

“It will be a boggy pitch up there and we are not a boggy pitch team.

“But it is just about getting a good start, which is what we seem to struggle to do at the moment, and then trying to maintain the game-plan.”

DEVON ONE

STRUGGLING Tamar Saracens have boosted their squad ahead of their trip to Totnes by signing former Redruth back-row forward Josh Heath from Truro.

Heath has been playing in Western Counties West for Truro, but has moved to Plymouth and was looking for a club.

He trained with both Devonport Services and Saracens before opting to join Chey Bryce’s team until the end of the season.

“Darren Jacques, the Cornwall prop from a few years ago, is head coach down at Truro and he contacted me saying that he had a seven who was very good at Western Counties level who had just moved to Plymouth and looking to play a bit of rugby,” said Bryce.

“He came down to train with us on Tuesday and fitted in really well with the boys and has signed on the dotted line.

“He is going to be a good addition for the remaining games. Having seen him on Tuesday he looks pretty mobile and good with the ball in hand.”

Sarries were left without a game last weekend after their match with Dartmouth was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

They will be anxiously waiting to hear from Totnes about whether their pitch is playable. The south Devon side had their last home match postponed after their pitch was put out of the play.

If it is on, relegation-threatened Sarries will be hoping they can get a third win of the season which could put them within touching distance of third-from-bottom Exeter Saracens.

“Totnes away is a bit of tricky one,” said Bryce. “But we have everyone available that we need so we will go into the game with high hopes.

“We just have to keep plugging away at it. Hopefully, the wins will come and we can get ourselves out of this situation.

“We have looked at all the games remaining after playing South Molton and they are all winnable really.”

Sarries are currently second-from-bottom two points ahead of city rivals Old Techs, who are at the foot of the table.

Old Techs are still looking for their first win of the season. They are hoping they could cause a major surprise on Saturday when they travel to league leaders Topsham.

“Topsham are top of the league and everyone will be expecting them to beat us,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.

“But I will be expecting us to go up there and give them a good game.

“We are not scared of anyone in this league.  We had a good game against them down at our place and we just have to go up there and give it a go.”

Bedford-Smith was frustrated his team again failed to take their chances in their home match against New Cross. They lost 8-5 despite dominating territory and possession.

“It was frustrating to say the least,” said Bedford-Smith. “Once again we dominated possession but we are not taking our chances and getting over that try line.

“New Cross defended really well, but I don’t think we helped ourselves. We took a few wrong options and with it being wet and slippery that last pass was either not good or fell out of someone’s hands. It was definitely another game we should have won.

“As we said to the players afterwards if the league table was done on effort and possession we would be near the top of the table. The problem we have is scoring points.

“The pleasing thing is that although we are bottom the effort is always there. The team are not giving up.”

DEVON TWO

OPMs have been forced to move their home match against Salcombe to the top pitch at Brickfields with their King George V Playing Fields ground out of bounds.

All Plymouth City Council pitches are out of action this weekend, leaving OPMs and DHSOB looking for new venues.

OPMs have managed to secure Plymouth Albion’s training pitch for the weekend, meaning they avoid having to postpone a second home match running.

The Old Boys have already played Salcombe twice away this season. They overcame them 36-3 in the league in November and 17-0 in the David Butt Trophy at the start of the season, but they were made to work hard for those wins.

“Salcombe always tend to play quite well against us,” said OPMs captain Henry Matthews. “Up there in the cup was a really tight game. I think even when we went up there again we scored five unanswered tries but it was not as simple as that – we had to work hard for them.”

DHSOB were due to host Ilfracombe but unless the Old Boys can find a new venue at short notice then that is likely to be postponed with Stonehouse Creek out of bounds.

The Old Boys, who have picked up in recent weeks with a number of players returning to the club, are frustrated by the state of their pitches and with the lack of facilities with the Stonehouse Creek Community Centre still no nearer to opening again.

Meanwhile, Plympton Victoria will be hoping their Marsh Mill pitch is fit enough to host bottom side St Columba & Torpoint on Saturday.

After years of always been the underdogs, Plym Vic for once will go into the match as favourites, having beaten the Saints 43-0 away in their last meeting.

“I am loathed to use the word favourites,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “But it is certainly a game we are going to be focusing on. They’re in the same end of the table as we are and we just have to give ourselves the best opportunity to try and win it.”

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