Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Services face vital final league matches

IVYBRIDGE will bring an end to their league season on Saturday with a massive match at home to champions Dings Crusaders (2.30pm).

The Bridgers need a win to give themselves the best chance of staying in the South West Premier League.

They currently sit 10th in the table, one point behind ninth-placed Brixham, level on points with 11th placed Exmouth and five ahead of 12th-placed Newbury, who currently fill the final relegation spot.

Newbury and Exmouth, however, both have two games to play compared to Ivybridge and Brixham’s one, so the pressure is really on this weekend.

If Newbury were to lose to second-placed Bournemouth, then the Devon clubs should be safe, but Ivybridge coach Lewis Paterson does not want to rely on other results.

“It is what it is – a must-win game,” said Paterson. “There’s no hiding behind that.  A win will basically keep us up.

“It’s a nice challenge to have. Dings also beat us well at their place so we owe them one.

“We have everything to play for and they haven’t. But I know Dings won’t want to keel over. They are a good side and they will be relentless in how they will play against us. It should be a good game.

“We just want to make sure we don’t let up. We have to be ruthless and we can’t chase the game. We have to stick to the way we play.”

Six clubs go into Saturday knowing they could still fall into the final relegation spot. Ivybridge, who have won more games than all of their relegation rivals, would have been safe had they not had five points deducted for not following the league rules when postponing a game due to a waterlogged pitch.

“It is a funny old league, anyone could go down,” said Paterson. “We just have to prepare well for this game. “

Ivybridge, already missing the likes of Tom Scoles, Damon Akerman, Jamie Tripcony, Pete Abraham and Matt Finn, have suffered a blow with injuries to Billy Pinkus, George de Medonca, Alex Hall and Robin Luscombe, while Justin Rogers is unavailable this weekend.

Top try scorer Pinkus has a hairline fracture in his jaw, while de Medonca has a shoulder injury, Luscombe a foot problem and Hall broke his hand in Ivybridge’s last home game against Camborne. Hall only recently returned from a knee injury that had kept him out for most of the season.

“He’s had a bit of bad luck,” said Paterson, who is set to start at number eight in the absence of Hall, Rogers and Luscombe.

In Pinkus’ absence and Paterson’s move to the back-row, Hayden Coles and Harrison Legg are set to start on the wings.

Paterson admits it is a shame Pinkus is injured as he has been in good try-scoring form.

“Billy has been in really good form,” said Paterson. “It is a shame as he had got into the county squad but it has opened doors for Matt Grieveson. He played (for Devon) against Cornwall and is now being considered for the County Championship squad. He’s had a cracking season.”

Although the league season ends on Saturday, Ivybridge are through to the final of the Devon Senior Cup, which will be played at Cross-in-Hand on Monday, May 7.

WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services will head to Tiverton on Saturday knowing a win will secure them a place in the promotion play-offs.

Services moved back up to second place in the table last weekend with a tremendous 39-25 win over champions St Ives.

They are two points ahead of third-placed St Austell going into this weekend’s final matches.

While Services head to relegation-threatened Tiverton, St Austell will be at sixth-placed Sidmouth.

“It could be a stressful Saturday,” admitted Services coach Mike Lewis.

“We just have to make sure we better St Austell’s result.”

Lewis, though, knows it will be tough at ninth-placed Tiverton, who will be wanting the points themselves as they are one of six teams that could still be relegated on the final day. They do have former Albion players Tom Skelding, Wayne Sprangle and Ed Lewsey in their ranks.

“They need a win desperately,” said Lewis.

“When we played them earlier in the year they had a lot of unavailabilities and came with a lot of second team players. They have changed around completely since then and I think they have got a lot old heads back.

“They are not a bad side and we need to make sure we are aware of that.

“We know it is going to be a tough game.”

Lewis knows there will be pressure on his side, but he was pleased with how his side handled it last week when they had to beat St Ives to keep their hopes of promotion alive.

“I think there was probably more pressure last week than any other week,” said Lewis. “But we seemed to enjoy that pressure. We knew we had to win and against a good side.

“It is easy to get yourself up for the big games and I hope this week holds the same sort of magnitude for the players and they approach it the same.

“We know it is going to be sunny on Saturday and going to be a dry track and we can’t wait. We’ve been wanting a dry track all winter and it’s taken a while to come around.”

Services are forced to make changes to their side that impressed against St Ives.

Richard Goffin and Joe Daley are away, while Joe Page (ankle) and Joe Wyatt (hamstring) picked up injuries in last week’s game.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

SALTASH could take a massive step towards securing promotion on Saturday when they host Pirates Amateurs at Moorlands Lane.

The Ashes moved into second spot in the table after beating promotion-rivals Penryn last Saturday and then getting a walkover against bottom club Wessex on Wednesday.

They are one point ahead of third-placed Penryn with a game in hand.

If they were to win on Saturday and Penryn were to slip up at Tavistock then Saltash could be assured a top two finish.

Even if Penryn win this weekend, Saltash could guarantee themselves at least runners-up spot on Thursday when they travel to Tavistock.

It is still possible for the Ashes to win the title. However, they would need fourth-placed Honiton to beat leaders Wellington this weekend.

Wellington just need one point from their final two games to seal promotion and seven for the title.

RFU Senior Vase finalists Saltash are on a high at the moment and the club were further boosted by their second team winning the Pedrick Cup on Wednesday night.

Tavistock are hoping they could do Saltash a favour and beat Penryn at Sandy Park.

Tavistock have not been in the best of form in the second half of the season but they won the RNEC Cup on Wednesday night and also impressed against Penryn away from home on the opening day of the campaign.

“I am exciting about Saturday,” said Tavistock coach Hammy Kerswill. “The first game of the season could have changed our season. We went 17-0 up against Penryn but then had a few injuries and they came back and won 43-24. If we could have kept on and won that game then our season could have been completely different as we are such a confident side.”

Tavistock managed to get 42 players out for two finals at the Rectory on Wednesday and there should be competition for places this weekend.

Kerswill himself is still missing due to a back injury, while Ben Milligan and Ash Toll are also likely to missing through injury, while Jack Easton is away and Richard Cann unavailable. Mark Friend is set to play in his favourite back-row position in Cann’s absence. George Hillson is also available and is likely to play nine.

There is a derby match at Horsham Fields where Plymstock Albion Oaks will host city rivals Plymouth Argaum.

The sides, who came up from Devon One together in 2015, have already met twice this season – once in the league and once in the Devon Intermediate Shield – with Oaks winning both fixtures.

They are hoping they can make it a hat-trick, but know they cannot take their Plymouth rivals lightly.

“We have played Argaum so many times and we know it is never an easy game,” said Oaks’ Callum Cload.

Plymstock have been in relatively good form of late, but were disappointed to lose 33-5 away at Withycombe on Wednesday in the Devon Intermediate Shield semi-final.

Argaum, who sit one place and eight points behind Oaks, have lost their last two matches.

They slipped to a frustrating 36-19 loss to the Pirates before suffering a 82-0 hammering at Withycombe last week after arriving without a full 15.

“We had been hoping to get points from our last two games,” said secretary Stuart Quaterman. “But against the Pirates we did not play the way we should have done and against Withycombe we had lots of availability and logistical issues.

“It’s not the way we would have liked to have prepared for this game, but we have got good player availability this week.”

However, Argaum will be without former Oaks player Mike Hunt, John Fulton and Ben Glanfield.

DEVON JUNIOR PLATE

DHSOB will end a difficult season with a cup final on Saturday when they host Devon One side New Cross in the Devon Junior Plate at Stonehouse Creek (3pm).

The Old Boys have had a campaign to forget. They have struggled to get a team out most weeks and have had problems with their Stonehouse Creek home.

But things have picked up recently. The Creek Community Centre has re-opened this month under new management and DHSOB managed to avoid finishing bottom of Devon Two.

They know they will be up against it on Saturday against higher league New Cross, but they believe a final is a reward for all their efforts in keeping going.

“We are looking forward to it,” said Mike Freeman. “It is really an end of season celebration for us and also a reward for those who have persevered during a very trying season.

“Quite often we have struggled to get players, so it will be a reward for them – at least they will have a medal to show for all their efforts.

“We know we are going to be up against it playing a Devon One side. We played them two years ago in the corresponding fixture in the same competition and got well beat.

“We would like to get a big closer to them this time and at least be competitive, but most of all have an enjoyable day.”

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