Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge look to bounce back at home against Maidenhead

IVYBRIDGE will be looking to return to winning ways on Saturday when they host fourth-placed Maidenhead at Cross-in-Hand (2.30pm).

The Bridgers suffered their first defeat of 2018 last weekend when they were narrowly beaten away at struggling Hornets on the Somerset club’s artificial surface at Hutton Moor.

Maidenhead are another team who are used to playing on an artificial surface and so Ivybridge are hoping to take advantage on their own pitch, where they are unbeaten since November.

“We were close to them when we played them at their place – I think as close as anyone else,” said Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson.

“They are coming down to us. They are used to an artificial pitch and we have had huge dominance at home this year, especially with the set-piece, so we have to try and make that count.

“Last week we did come away with a point, but we are eager to get another victory and put some more points on the league table.”

Ivybridge are able to welcome back Charlie Briant and Jamie Tripcony after they missed last week’s defeat at Hornets. Matt Grieveson is set to get a chance in his favourite number 10 shirt, with Paterson moving to 12 to allow Briant to start at 13. Tripcony is likely to line-up in the second-row as George Wilson is unavailable, with Marcus Prout, Ben King and Robin Luscombe in the back-row.

“We have changed our squad around a little bit,” said Paterson.  “It’s more of a tactical shuffle. A lot of the lads did well against Hornets, but we just did not capitalise on certain plays.”

WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

PROMOTION-chasing Devonport Services will be looking to continue their 100 per cent home record this season when they host struggling Crediton on Saturday.

The match has been moved from the Rectory to the artificial surface at Keyham (2.15pm), but Services coach Mike Lewis is still hoping his team can pick up another five points to keep the pressure on leaders St Ives.

Services were left without a game last weekend when their fixture at Chard was postponed due to the bad weather. St Ives took advantage of Devonport’s inactivity to open up an 11 point gap at the top.

But Services coach Mike Lewis has told his team not to be concerned by that gap, which could soon disappear if they were to win their game in hand at Chard and also beat St Ives at the Rectory later in the season.

However, for now, Lewis just wants his team to focus on beating Crediton, who could include his Devon RFU coaching colleagues Wayne Reed and Jason Luff in their side.

“It will be good to come up against Reedy and Luffy,” said Lewis. “I think both have been playing in their first team recently.”

He added: “We played Crediton three times last season and have played them once this.

“I think they are a far better team than their league position suggests. However, they are always better at home. Going to their place is always tough, but them coming to us is a different kettle of fish.

“But they are still tough opponents. They have a good set of forwards and we just have to make sure we use our home advantage.”

Services will also host Crediton’s second team afterwards at Keyham (4pm), but the colts match between the two clubs has been postponed.

Lewis admitted last week’s postponement at Chard was frustrating, especially after the start they had made to 2018 with big wins over Truro and Burnham-on-Sea.

“They did not let us know until about 10am when we were nearly ready to leave,” said Lewis.

“Not playing has put us 11 points behind St Ives, but we still have a game in hand and them to play at home. Hopefully, the players don’t look at it as a tall order because it isn’t.

“We just have to keep picking up points.”

Services will be without the injured Matt Gregory, Max Venables and Toby Knowles, while hooker Sam Bennett is working.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

TITLE-chasing Saltash will be hoping to play for the first time in three weeks on Saturday.

The Cornwall/Devon League leaders have seen their last two fixtures postponed due to the bad weather, but they will be keeping their fingers crossed that their Moorlands Lane pitch is fit enough to host bottom side Torrington.

Despite not playing since January 6, the Ashes still remain three points clear as second-placed Wellington have also had their last two games postponed.

Saltash currently have 58 points more than Torrington in the table and when the sides met earlier this season the Ashes won 52-0.

Torrington lost 10-8 last week at home to Plymstock Albion Oaks and they have pushed a few teams hard, especially in heavy conditions.

Saltash will be hoping Oaks can do them a favour this weekend when they host Wellington at Horsham Fields.

Second-placed Wellington have the longest unbeaten run in the league, but Oaks did make them work hard for their win in Somerset at the start of October. Wellington did eventually triumph 39-19 but Oaks did take plenty of positives from that performance.

Plymstock know there is no pressure on them this week and just want to focus on their own performance.

“We did not get rolled over by them at their place,” said Oaks coach Callum Cload, who is hoping his team can take confidence from that.

Plymouth Argaum could go a long way to securing their Cornwall/Devon League status for another season if they were to beat second-from-bottom Wessex at Bickleigh Down on Saturday.

Argaum are 11 points clear of the drop zone after winning their last two matches.

A third straight victory would make it incredibly tough for the bottom three to overtaken them, even with Wessex having two games in hand.

“It is a big game,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “It is another we would like to win.

“But I would hate the club or the lads to think if we win this one we are okay. We want to stay honest all season.

“If we could make it three wins on a trot then it could be a big springboard, but if we don’t then we’ll have to have another look at ourselves.”

Tavistock will be doing all they can to try and make sure one of their pitches will be playable to host Withycombe at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Tavvy had to postpone last week’s match against Saltash as all the fields were waterlogged and it is touch-and-go for this weekend.

Withycombe will certainly want to play as they are really struggling with a backlog of league and cup matches. Tavistock also want to play to try and claim their first win of 2018 and make up for a poor performance away at Withycombe earlier in the season when they were beaten 48-10.

“They gave us a stuffing away,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill. “But we had a lot of absentees that day.

“As per most games this weekend, it will not be pretty but we hope to have greater possession than we have done in previous weeks and play with an increased creativity.”

Joe Hair, Richard Cann and Ethan Lamerton are missing for Tavistock this week. Darren Guppy is set to come in at prop, with Ash Miller and Jack Jones returning to the second-row for the first time in 2018. Martin Budden is set to move from flanker to the centre, while they could be a league debut for Chris Watts from the bench.

DEVON ONE AND TWO

TAMAR Saracens are desperately hoping their Parkway pitch is fit enough to host leaders Topsham in Devon One on Saturday.

Saracens’ last two matches have had to be postponed due to waterlogged pitches, so they are keen to play this week.

They also have a strong squad available, which they hope could upset Topsham.

Coach Chey Bryce is set to make his long-awaited return from an ACL injury, while another former National League player, Josh Heath, could make his debut.

Marc Cioffi is also fit again, while Tom Hicklin, Tom Rigby and Steve Hodge are also available.

“We really want to play,” said Bryce, whose team currently sit second-from-bottom.

“Friday is supposed to be dry and sunny and so we are having the pitch spiked. There is supposed to be some heavy rain on Saturday morning before dying off. Hopefully, the spiking will help that rain clear and we can play.

“We know Topsham’s backs are really, really good, but I don’t think their forwards are as great.

“We want to capitalise on a really, really strong pack we should have out. Hopefully, we can cause a bit of an upset this weekend.”

Bryce is looking forward to getting back into action.

“I have been training fully for the last two weeks,” he said. “It is just a case of getting out there now and seeing how it holds up.

“It is nine months since I had my operation. They say nine to 12 months, so I am the lower end of the scale, but we’ll have to see how it goes.”

New signing Heath, who has joined Sarries from Truro, is likely to start on the bench this week.

“He looked really good in training on Tuesday,” said Bryce. “His handling skills are really on point so we need to try and get him on the pitch as soon as possible. It is not fair to put him straight in, but he will be on the bench.”

Old Techs also face high-flying Devon One opponents on Saturday when they host South Molton at Weston Mill.

South Molton currently sit second in the table, five points behind Topsham, but they do have a game in hand and a far superior points difference.

It will be the second week running Techs have faced title-chasing opponents, having played Topsham away last week.

Techs may be bottom of the table but have acquitted themselves well against the higher placed teams in the league yet have still managed to gain a league win.

“We have done well against teams at the top but the difference is teams near us have got results against other sides when it matters,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.

“You do have to beat the teams around you if you want to stay up. We have been very competitive, but haven’t got the wins.”

South Molton will be on a massive high after crushing New Cross 86-0 last week.

“They will come down confident, but we are at home,” said Bedford-Smith.

“I don’t think anyone will be thinking we are going to upset the odds, but we are not playing badly, so who knows.

“As I have said before, I certainly can’t fault the effort everyone is putting in.”

Techs will be without the influential Billy Evans this week, as well as Jack Courtney and possibly Aaron Anderson-Smith.

Meanwhile, OPMs have a big match in Devon two this weekend. They travel to unbeaten league leaders Buckfastleigh Ramblers.

OPMs moved up to third last weekend with a 24-0 victory over Salcombe.

However, if they are to get themselves truly back in the race for promotion they will need to win on Saturday.

Buckfastleigh are currently 10 points ahead of them, while second-placed North Tawton are nine in front, but still have to visit King George V Playing Fields.

OPMs should have beaten Buckfastleigh at home at the start of the December. They lost 6-5 but had their chances to win, including a penalty kick with the last play of the game, which they missed.

Buckfastleigh’s key man is fly-half Harry Laity. He kicked all their points in their win over OPMs in December and also scored all their points last week as they beat North Tawton 13-12.

Elsewhere, in Devon Two, DHSOB are waiting to see if St Columba & Torpoint’s pitch is playable.

The Old Boys are hoping it is as they are targeting a first win of the season.

DHSOB did not play last week due to the weather, but they have picked up a bit of form recently following the return of a few players and believe they are far stronger than when they lost 19-10 to the Saints on December 2.

“We are hoping for a game,” said DHSOB’s Mike Freeman. “When we played them before they had a reasonable side out while we had what you would call a development side. We are hopeful that we could get a win. We then play Salcombe the following week.

“We are just looking to get the league out of the way and then concentrate on the cups.”

Plympton Victoria could go a long way to securing a top five finish if they could beat Salcombe away on Saturday.

Plym Vic are currently four points ahead of sixth-placed Salcombe in the standings, having beaten them 17-15 in a close match in early December.

The Marsh Mills club will be expecting another close encounter against a Salcombe side who have pushed some of the higher league teams hard in recent weeks.

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