Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Saltash hope home advantage will be key as they bid to reach Twickenham

RFU SENIOR VASE

SALTASH will be hoping home advantage can help them to their first Twickenham cup final.

The Ashes will host London Three South West title-chasers Old Cranleighans at Moorlands Lane on Saturday in the semi-finals of the RFU Junior Vase (2pm).

The winners will play at English rugby’s HQ against the northern champions on May 6.

Saltash reached the semi-final same stage last season, but lost 32-21 away at Farnham, who were also in London Three South West at the time.

Farnham won the league title last season, with Old Cranleighans fourth.

This year Old Cranleighans, who have previously won the RFU Junior Vase, have been one of the pace-setters in their division. They are currently second, four points behind Old Emanuel, but do have a game in hand.  They have only lost twice this season, both away.

One of those defeats came last Saturday when they slipped up at third-placed Portsmouth.

Ironically, Saltash also lost last weekend, going down at Honiton in the Cornwall/Devon League. That was only their fourth loss of the season.

The Ashes’ home record is good, with only Wellington having won at Moorlands Lane this season, and they will be hoping to make that advantage tell.

The club are expecting a big crowd for the match as they bid to become the first Plymouth Combination club to reach Twickenham since Liskeard-Looe did it in 2009.

Weather-permitting, Saltash are planning a big day on Saturday. After the national cup game they will play French touring side ACS Buzancais at 4pm.

DEVON INTERMEDIATE CUP

Ben McGowan goes over for a Services try against Cullompton last season (picture by Mark Andrews)

DEVONPORT Services will be bidding to overcome higher league opposition and reach the Devon Intermediate Cup final.

They will host South West One side Cullompton at the Rectory on Friday night (7pm) for the chance to meet Sidmouth in the county final.

Services’ seconds have already reached the Lockie Cup final, their thirds are in the Ellis Trophy final and their colts side look like they will also be playing in a Devon final, so the first team are also hoping for a showpiece event.

“All these cup finals are fantastic for the club and shows we are going in the right direction,” said Lewis.  “It could be a very good April.”

Services also still hope to make the Western Counties West play-offs.

Last year Cullompton competed in that and earned promotion to South West One, where they have been impressing. They are currently fifth in the table.

“Every team that gets promoted seems to have a good first season,” said Lewis.

“They pipped us to the post last year for that play-off spot, so some of the boys are looking for a bit of revenge.”

Services are hoping to get a decent crowd for Friday’s evening’s match under the Rectory floodlights.

“Cullompton are bringing down a 55-seater bus just for supporters, so I think there will be a fair old crowd down there,” said Lewis.

Services will name a strong side for the game, having fielded quite a young second team on Wednesday night for their Lockie Cup semi-final with Tamar Saracens.

“We had the Lockie Cup semi on Wednesday and had 19 involved in that game,” said Lewis. “This game we can have seven on the bench, so we will have had over 40 players involved in these two games.

“Because it’s a cup semi-final under lights everybody is dead keen. We will have selected 41 players this week, but we had 55 available, which is better than normal and good for the club.

“On Wednesday we had four colts involved and they did brilliantly well. They bring that extra bit of energy and pace and they inspire the others.”

SOUTH WEST PREMIER

IVYBRIDGE will aim to boost their hopes of staying in the South West Premier League when they host Bracknell at home on Saturday (2.30pm).

The Bridgers moved out of the relegation zone last week by beating Weston-super-Mare 34-31 away.

They could move five points clear of the drop zone if they were to pick up a bonus point win over Bracknell. If they also could stop their opponents from picking up any points then they could leapfrog above them.

Tenth-placed Bracknell are currently one place and four points ahead of the Bridgers.

“It is another must-win game,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson.

“We are looking for another big weekend. We have to try and make this game count.

“I think we are putting the right pressure on the lads. We want five points, but our next goal is to try and stop Bracknell going away with any points. Last week we let Weston get two league points, which was a bit disappointing.”

He added: “We now have two consecutive home games, Bracknell and Camborne, which is massive for us.

“We have done well at home and it’s important we make it count.”

Ivybridge are set to keep the same squad that picked up five points at Weston-super-Mare. The only change to the starting line-up is likely to be at prop where Jon Morgan, who was on the bench last week, is set to swap with Wes Vermigle, who is in the Devon Under-20 squad for Sunday’s match against Essex.

James Sloan is likely to come on to the bench after missing last week’s trip to Somerset.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks are relishing the challenge of taking on fourth-placed Honiton at Horsham Fields on Saturday.

Honiton have only lost five times this season and last week upset Saltash’s title hopes with an 18-11 home win over the east Cornwall club.

Oaks, though, have picked up form since the start of December. They have only lost three times since December 9 – against high-flying Bude, Saltash and Wellington.

They pushed leaders Wellington really hard in their last home match and player-coach Callum Cload believes they have taken confidence from that.

“I think the boys feel quietly confident,” said Cload. “When we played them (Honiton) before for 60 minutes we stuck with them but in the last 20 they blew us away, but we have got a lot better since then.

“We are going to give it a go. I think we are going to give them a challenge, at least.

“We stuck with Wellington the whole game, but just a few inaccuracies let us down. We are looking forward to this game.”

The match could be a rehearsal for the Devon Intermediate Shield final. Honiton are already in the final, but are waiting to see if they will be playing away at either Plymstock or Withycombe.

That semi-final was postponed last week and has been rescheduled for Wednesday, April 18.

Also in the Cornwall/Devon League, 10th-placed Plymouth Argaum will host bottom side Wessex.

Wessex have been well beaten by title-chasing Wellington and Penryn in their last two matches but before that beat Pirates Amateurs 41-12.

Argaum know that Wessex will probably be targeting a win at Bickleigh Down but they are hoping they can get back to winning way after three consecutive defeats.

“I’m sure this is a game that they (Wessex) will be targeting,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.

“I would imagine they will have good availability this week.

“When we have played them before we have realised they are the type of team that can bring your game down to theirs – I don’t mean that in a patronising way, but rather they have some big forwards and you can get sucked into their game.

“Hopefully, our boys will have the right attitude.”

Argaum are likely to be missing Adam Fitzpatrick, Mason Edwards, Mike Hunt and John Fulton, but should have captain John Ireland, Chris Perkins, Jake Turfrey, Tom Holiday and Alex Cameron available for selection.

“We’ve certainly got better availability than last week,” said Quarterman.

Argaum’s second team will play an OPMs XV away.

Tavistock are without a match this weekend. They should have been playing Saltash. However, there will be a game at Sandy Park on Saturday when Tavvy welcome Launceston and Yorkshire side Roundhegians for the Gareth Puttock Memorial Day.

Puttock sadly died last year in his sleep at the age of just 24. He had started his rugby career at Launceston before joining Tavistock to play senior rugby. He later moved to Yorkshire to study and then take up a job. Saturday’s memorial match is due to start at 1.30pm.

On Sunday, Tavistock will also host a reunion day and interclub game celebrating the countless years coaching and playing Will Reed has given to the club.

Players, both male and female, who have played under Reed’s guidance are coming back for one last game to reminisce and thank him for his tireless voluntary work over the years.

DEVON ONE AND TWO

TAMAR Saracens are desperately hoping their Devon One match at Totnes beats the wet weather.

Totnes’ pitch has taken a real hammering this season, including last weekend when Old Techs visited the south Devon club.

Saracens’ league game with Dartmouth last week was postponed so they do not want another call-off.

They just want to finish their season now after their cup hopes were ended on Wednesday night with a 22-12 defeat in the Lockie Cup semi-final to Devonport Services seconds.

“It is doubtful whether it will be on,” said Sarries coach Chey Bryce. “But we just want to get a team up there and get it played.

“I think after losing on Wednesday the boys are a bit disheartened and just want the season to be over.”

He added: “I think it is going to be a bit of a challenge to pick the players up.

“It (Wednesday’s cup loss) was a little bit disappointing. I think we probably did enough to win it.

“We certainly held our own. I think at the beginning of the year we would have probably lost by 50 or 60 points, but we have improved a lot over the season.”

Old Techs finished their league campaign last weekend at Totnes.

This weekend they are due to travel to St Columba & Torpoint for a Devon Junior Cup match.

The draw has been kind to the Plymouth Combination clubs. If Techs win they will play OPMs in the quarter-finals, with the winners playing Topsham or Dartmouth in the semi-finals.

The losers of Saturday’s match between Saints and Techs will get a bye in the quarter-finals of the Devon Junior Plate and will then host either DHSOB or Totnes for a place in the final.

Both Saints and DHSOB will know it is a great chance to end a struggling season with a cup final.

DHSOB will complete their Devon Two fixtures on Saturday when they travel to Salcombe.

The game should have been played at Stonehouse Creek, but Salcombe asked if they would switch it as they are hosting an Easter festival at their club.

With the Stonehouse Creek dressing rooms getting an upgrade now that new operators have agreed to take over the community centre, DHSOB agreed to change venues.

“Salcombe asked if we could go up there as they have a festival on,” said DSHOB’s Mike Freeman. “They said it would be really good if we could and they are a nice bunch.”

The Old Boys are optimistic of getting a full squad to travel, especially as their colts are without a match.

They could have two games in three days as they are looking to play Totnes in the Devon Junior Cup on Monday.

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