IVYBRIDGE will be bidding to move further clear of the relegation zone and upset play-off-chasing Bournemouth on Saturday when they travel to Dorset in the South West Premier League.
Bournemouth sit second in the division, with Newton Abbot just behind them in third. Ivybridge, meanwhile, lie 10th in the standings, but they would have been seventh had they not had five points deducted.
The Bridgers moved out of the relegation zone last week when they beat top-four side Maidenhead 49-26 at Cross-in-Hand.
They also pushed third-placed Newton Abbot all the way the previous week before narrowly losing 17-10.
Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson feels their displays in the last fortnight have shown they are a match for the top sides in the league and he hopes they can show that again on Saturday at Bournemouth.
“We have been consistent the last few weeks,” said Paterson.
“We got a hell of a win last week. I think we could have played anyone on the day and won. We were hugely up for it and played really, really well. We were just really glad to get the win.
“It has given us loads of confidence to go into this week.”
When Ivybridge played Bournemouth at Cross-in-Hand earlier this season the teams played out an incredibly high scoring game which the Dorset side won 51-39.
“Our defence now is winning us games and points,” said Paterson. “The last time we played Bournemouth we still scored lots of points, but we just have to make sure our defence is better than that day. And we have had that the last few weeks.
“We are going up confident and with a good squad.
“We want to try and climb up that table. We just need to claw away at those wins.”
Ivybridge do have to make a few changes from last week’s starting line-up.
Captain Matt Finn (pictured top) is set to miss the rest of the season after breaking his jaw.
“Matt Finn is set to be out for six months with a broken jaw,” said Paterson. “It is unfortunate that he is going to be out, but he is going to help on the sidelines with me and Trips (Jamie Tripcony), who is also recovering from an operation.”
Justin Rogers and Jordan Anderson are also missing this week, but Ivybridge can welcome back fit-again Alex Hall, who will make his first start of the season in the back-row, and centre Charlie Briant.
Jon Morgan and James Sloan also return to the squad. They will be on the bench, along with Jay Toogood, who swaps places with Harrison Legg, who is handed his chance in the starting line-up on the wing.
Meanwhile, Ivybridge’s under-14 side, who are coached by first team hooker Jay Geraty, along with Dave Lawson and Neil Thomson, have reached the Devon plate final after overcoming Bideford 10-7 in the semi-finals. They will now play Brixham in the final at Topsham on April 22.
WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
Services have narrowly lost their last two matches – away at Kingbridge and away at Falmouth – to drop down to third in the standings.
They now cannot really afford anymore slip ups if they are going to secure a top two spot.
After three consecutive away trips, Services are looking forward to some home comforts. They are unbeaten in Plymouth, but have had to play their last two home games on their artificial training pitch at Keyham.
That is an option for them again this weekend, but they really hope to be back at the Rectory.
“Our first team have not played at the Rectory since facing Torquay on the 17th of December,” said coach Mike Lewis.
“We can’t wait to get back there and would love to play there this week.
“We are hopeful the pitch will be playable. The temperature is due to pick up on Saturday.
“But we are just looking forward to being at home. We have had so many away games recently. We haven’t had a home game for six weeks and the boys are tired of going away.”
Wadebridge will offer another tough test to Services. They are fifth in the table and held Devonport to a 20-20 draw at their place in November.
“They are a similar type of team to Kingsbridge, who we played last weekend,” said Lewis. “They have some big forwards and they will be tough to breakdown.
“Away from home we haven’t quite always done it, but we have been different at home.
“We also have plenty of players available this weekend, so we do have lots of options.”
Among those who should be back in contention for Services are Rhys Williams, Sam Bennett, Richard West, Joe Semple and Richard Goffin, as well as colts like Liam Jarvis and Tommy Pullinger,.
Matt Gregory also successfully came through last week’s match following injury.
“We have got some real selection dilemmas this week,” admitted Lewis.
The match between Withycombe and second-placed Penryn has already fallen foul of the snow and freezing temperatures, which gives the Ashes the chance to leap-frog their Cornish rivals.
However, they will face a tough test at fifth-placed Bude, who have proved one of the best scrumming sides in the division.
The Ashes, though, will head to north Cornwall in confident mood after RFU Senior Vase wins over Withycombe and Bristol side Gordano.
Many of the Cornwall/Devon League games are in doubt due to the weather. Wessex have already warned Tavistock that their scheduled match at Flowerpots Field is in doubt.
Tavistock, though, are hoping that it does get played and that they can claim their first away win of the season and their first victory of 2018 against bottom side Wessex. Tavistock have not played for two weeks since losing at home to title-chasing Wellington.
“We are looking forward to playing after a confident performance against Wellington,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill.
However, they are set to welcome back Ash Miller and Jack Jones to the second-row, while Martin Budden is in line to return to his favourite number seven position.
Mark Webber should return at full-back, with Aidan Mason set to switch to centre.
Tavistock, meanwhile, are struggling to find an available date to play Saltash. The match has currently been pencilled in for the Easter weekend, but Tavistock also have a long-standing memorial match that weekend and so are hoping to play the game on Good Friday.
Plymstock Albion Oaks and Plymouth Argaum are also due to have away trips in the Cornwall/Devon League on Saturday.
Weather dependent, eighth-placed Oaks will visit 12-placed Hayle, while ninth-place Argaum, who are just two points behind Plymstock, are set to travel to fourth-placed Honiton.
Oaks did not play last weekend and lost to Bude before that, but they did win their three previous league and cup game and will be optimistic they can add another victory at a Hayle side who have only won five games this term.
When the sides met earlier in the season at Horsham Field, Oaks won 30-17, but Hayle have proved a lot tougher to beat at home.
Argaum, meanwhile, will be expecting a challenging test at fourth-placed Honiton, who are another team with a good home record.
Argaum, though, will hope to have many more of their first team back after a host missed last week’s trip to Wellington.
“We have got better availability than last week, but we still have a number of players out,” said club secretary Stuart Quarterman.
Among those Argaum hope to have back are Dan James and Mike Hunt. They also have three scrum-halves vying for the number nine shirt in Ben Glanfield, Chris Perkins and Withers.
DEVON ONE AND TWO
Techs have given themselves a lifeline in the last two weeks by beating Dartmouth and Exeter Saraccens.
With just two games left in the league and seven points off safety, Techs know they have to keep that form going now to try and pull off the great escape.
“We targeted the last four games and we have won the first two and I have said to the boys they are 50 per cent done and let’s see if we can win the other two,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“Hopefully, we can go to Totnes and get a result and go from there.
“We can’t do anymore than what we’re doing. The boys are enjoying it and playing well. It’s just nice to be winning again.”
Techs could still catch third-from-bottom Tamar Saracens, who they face in their final match.
Saracens know they need to beat Dartmouth at home to keep distance between themselves and their city rivals.
“I think Exeter Saracens are down now. I can’t see them beating South Molton,” said Sarries coach Chey Bryce.
“Old Techs are at Totnes and they are on a high. What we don’t want to do is take it down to the last game against Techs. But, to be honest, I can’t see that happening. I think we will win either this weekend or next week against Totnes.”
He added: “We are on a bit of a high at the moment. This league was totally new to myself and some of the players and we didn’t really know what to expect. In the first half of the season we probably were trying to play a game-plan that wasn’t effective and didn’t work to our strengths, but now we know what we are coming up against and we have planned each week to counteract their strengths and maximise ours.
“The second half of the season we have really come on leaps and bounds.”
Dartmouth have beaten Saracens twice this season – away in the league and at home in the semi-finals of the David Butt Trophy. However, the Ernsettle-based club ar hoping it will be third time lucky.
They should have pretty much a full strength squad to select from. The only main absentee is likely to be Ryan Deacon, who picked up an injury last weekend.
In Devon Two, Plympton Victoria are due to host bottom side St Columba & Torpoint.
Plym Vic, who last weekend beat DHSOB 106-0, are set for a top five finish in the table, which is a massive improvement in recent years.
DHSOB should have been playing Ilfracombe on Saturday but that game was postponed on Thursday when Plymouth City Council put Stonehouse Creek out of action for the weekend.