IVYBRIDGE will be looking for a much-needed Devon derby win on Saturday when they entertain Newton Abbot at Cross-in-Hand in the South West Premier League.
The Bridgers find themselves in the bottom three of the division after having five points deducted for not following the correct protocol for postponing their home match with Maidenhead last month due to a waterlogged pitch.
They should have been in 10th spot, just five points off sixth-placed Exmouth.
They now have eight games left to get out of trouble, which player-coach Lewis Paterson is confident they will.
“There is no talk around training of relegation,” said Paterson. “There are loads of winnable games left and plenty of points to be picked up.
“Even though we had the five deducted we still get to play Maidenhead so there’s still chance to redeem that.
“And with all the players we have got coming back from injury we are going to be finishing the season with a very different side to when we played sides earlier and were maybe losing by five or so points. I think we are going to have a very strong finish to the season.”
Paterson is hoping that can start on Saturday when they host fourth-placed Newton Abbot, who are fighting for runners-up spot. The All Whites are only four points behind second-placed Bournemouth with a game in hand.
Ivybridge have not yet won a derby game this season, but they did earn a draw with Brixham in their last outing two weeks ago.
“This is our last Devon derby of the season,” said Paterson. “It is a big one and we’ve not won one all season, so we are eager to put that right.
“But most of all we just want to chip away at wins. We are not looking to be fancy or looking to set the world alight – we just want to win this game. That’s our first priority – to try and come away with a win.
“We just have to approach the game smartly and tactically sound and make sure we don’t switch off.”
Ivybridge are set to hand a start to Devon under-20 back Jay Toogood. Although his first choice position is scrum-half, he is set to start on the wing on Saturday.
“He’s going to give us a lot of attacking threat,” said Paterson. “He’s got great pace and been doing well for the (Devon) under-20s. We are looking forward to giving him more first team exposure. We are excited about bringing him in.”
Luke Martell will also return at fly-half, while forwards George Wilson, Justin Rogers and Alex Hall are back in the squad.
Influential flanker Hall (pictured top) has not played a league game this season after suffering an injury in pre-season but he is fit now and will start on the bench this weekend.
Jon Morgan is unavailable, so Marcus Prout will start at prop.
Ivybridge also received some good news on injured winger Damon Akerman. It was feared he had ruptured his ACL in January but it turned out to be MCL damage and he should be back for the start of next season.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
The match is the second of three successive away games for second-placed Devonport.
They were at Chard last weekend, where they won 17-10, and will visit Kingsbridge next Saturday.
It is a crucial time for Services as they look to keep the pressure on leaders St Ives and keep ahead of St Austell.
Their win in Somerset last weekend leaves Services eight points behind St Ives with a game in hand and the Cornish side still to play at the Rectory.
But Devonport know they cannot afford any slip-ups if they want to finish top of the table.
“Falmouth away is going to be a tough one,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “They have hit a bit of form recently and are always tough to beat at home, but, hopefully, we can travel there strong.”
He added: “At home we put four tries on them quite early on and that made the game a bit easier. Hopefully, we can get a good start again.
“We started really well last week against Chard but just didn’t quite get the points – we got penalties and territory – but then they got into it and started picking-and-going and they did that all day long.
“Last week we tried to force tries rather than kicking the points. We probably need to try and get the scoreboard ticking a lot earlier this weekend.”
Lewis admitted a few players did push their first-team claims in midweek when the club’s seconds overcame Tavistock 55-22 in the Lockie Cup.
“A few boys put their hands up, which is good,” said Lewis.
The game allowed Lewis to watch new hooker Harry Minchella play for the first time.
Minchella has moved to the area and asked to join Services. He had only been at the club a week-and-a-half when he played against Tavistock.
“He can throw, catch, pass and run and he shored up our line-out,” said Lewis.
The Cornwall/Devon League match was postponed in January due to a waterlogged pitch. It was then rescheduled for last weekend as a league and RFU Senior Vase double-header. However, once again the pitch was unplayable, although Withycombe had travelled down before the game was called off.
As it was also a national cup fixture it is rescheduled for this weekend, which means Saltash will have to play Wessex in the league at a later date.
With doubts still over the Moorlands Lane pitch, Saltash have opted to move the game to the artificial surface at Keyham, where they played a number of their national cup matches last year.
Sixth-placed Withycombe have not had the best of seasons but they did beat Saltash 22-10 at their place in September.
That defeat probably will still be fresh in the minds of title-chasing Saltash, who need the win to keep the pressure on Wellington and Penryn.
They would also like another cup run after reaching the national semi-finals last season.
It could be a big weekend at the bottom of the table in the Cornwall/Devon League.
Argaum are fourth-from-bottom, with Hayle sitting one place behind them and in the relegation zone. The Cornish side are seven points behind Argaum, but do have two games in hand.
“I don’t think you can play down this week’s game,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“It is a game we really could do with winning. If we could win it would make everything so much easier.
“For once we have got good availability and have got two games on (Argaum’s seconds will take on OPMs Jesters also at Bickleigh Down).”
Argaum are set to be without Mason Edwards and Jake Turfrey, but should be able to welcome back Al Murray and Richard Luscombe from injury, while recent arrivals Joe Walker, Mike Hunt and Jack Warner could also be available.
If Argaum were to win they could move above the Pirates Amateurs and Tavistock. Argaum are just one point behind the Pirates, who face Honiton this week, and three behind Tavistock, who entertain Wellington at Sandy Park.
“It would just be like us to go away and lose to Torrington and then, if maybe not win, push them (Wellington) close,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill. “We certainly have got nothing to lose.”
Kerswill admit his team prefer the dry weather, which has been in short supply recently.
Sandy Park has been hit by the bad weather as much as any ground in the area and it is likely Saturday’s match will have to be played on Tavistock’s second team pitch.
“It is going to be boggy, but that might not suit Wellington either. It is difficult to say,” said Kerswill. “But, like I said, we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Eighth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks are also at home on Saturday. They host fifth-placed Bude at Horsham Fields.
The teams played out a close game earlier in the season, with Bude just winning 21-17.
Bude, though, have picked up form since then and have pushed all the top teams close, picking up losing bonus points against Penryn, Honiton and Wellington.
The north Cornwall club have proved one of the best scrumming sides in the league, so Oaks will be hoping their set-piece game is on top form and they can get their speedy backs into play.
Oaks go into the match on the back of three consecutive wins – two in the league and one in the Lockie Cup.
Plymstock have also found out this week that if they can beat Withycombe in the semi-finals of the Devon Intermediate Shield then they would host the final, which would be against Honiton.
DEVON ONE AND TWO
Techs could be relegated if they were to lose at home to Dartmouth and Exeter Saracens were to beat Tamar Saracens.
However, Tamar Saracens also need to win for their survival hopes. They are currently eight points behind Exeter Saracens and nine behind New Cross but they do have two games in hand on them
“It is a big game this week,” said Tamar Saracens coach Chey Bryce. “We need to win this one. We then have New Cross the follow week. They are both winnable games and are really two must-win games. It is a massive two weeks for us as we also have DHSOB next Wednesday in the Lockie Cup at Keyham.”
He added: “We have a good side available this week and the boys have trained well.”
Saracens have Tom Hicklin, Mike and Chris Cox and Tom Rigby available. They had been due to miss last week’s game with Old Techs but the game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Saracens are also hopeful of having centre Steve Hodge available.
Techs, meanwhile, will go into their big game against Dartmouth at Weston Mill boosted by three new signings and the return of another player from long-term injury.
The city side have added serviceman flanker Sam Courtney, brother of current player Jack, to their squad after he found himself based in Devon from Hull. They have also brought in another flanker, Stuart Ansell, who used to play rugby in the Isle of Man for Douglas RUFC, and former DHSOB prop Mike Walkden.
Techs scrum-half Jon Young has also been given the all-clear to play against after fracturing his skull against Dartmouth in the David Butt Trophy at the start of the season.
Techs and Dartmouth know each other quite well. The sides were promoted last season from Devon Two, with both winning one game each against each other. They also both claimed a win each in the David Butt Trophy.
“We have had some really good games against them,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“Obviously, it is a big game, but we are just looking forward to playing again. It will be three weeks since we last played due to the weather.”
Meanwhile, in Devon Two, DHSOB are hoping they can host city rivals and promotion-chasing OPMs at Stonehouse Creek.
Plymouth City Council have put all pitches, apart from Brickfields, out of bounds this weekend, but DHSOB hope that another day of good weather might dry the fields out sufficiently for the council to change their mind on either Stonehouse Creek or King George V Playing Fields.
“If they don’t give grace to use the Creek then, hopefully, they will allow us to go to King George V,” said DHSOB’s Mike Freeman. “We certainly want to get the game played.
“We had a good game against them before and it would be good if we could get a good number of players out.”
OPMs need to pick up a full five points to give themselves a chance of winning promotion in their final match of the season against North Tawton.
North Tawton are currently leading the division but are only four points ahead of OPMs with two games to go. Buckfastleigh sit second two points behind North Tawton and two ahead of OPMs.
This weekend, North Tawton are due to host bottom club St Columba & Torpoint at home, while Buckfastleigh host Salcombe.
Buckfastleigh finish their season at St Columba while OPMs host North Tawton, it what could be a winner-takes-all match. However, first OPMs need to look at getting the bonus-point win over DHSOB on Saturday.
Elsewhere, Plympton Victoria are set to make the long trip to Ilfracombe, who have dropped into the bottom three after having 25 points deducted for fielding players registered with another club.