Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Unbeaten Ivybridge aim to pass student test, while Plym Vic finally get going

IVYBRIDGE are keen to maintain their 100 per cent record in the South West Premier League on Saturday when they travel to fellow early high-flyers Exeter University.

The Bridgers sit second in the table, level on points with leaders Bournemouth. They are the only two sides to have picked up a maximum 15 points for their opening three games.

However, newly-promoted Exeter University are just three points behind in third spot after winning two of their opening three matches and picking up two bonus point in their other fixture.

Their only slip up came last weekend when they lost 31-24 at Exmouth.

Not only are league points up for grabs on Saturday, but also points towards the Devon Senior Cup, which Ivybridge are the current holders.

“It will be a big game,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson. “They are a good side, but they slipped up against Exmouth.

“They are going to be one of those sides that are unpredictable. With university students you don’t know who they have got or who will be playing each week.

“But we are just going up there with minimal changes and we just want to keep building on our momentum.”

The only likely change to Ivybridge’s starting line-up is set to come in the pack with lock George Wilson unavailable. In his absence James Sloan is set to come into the second-row.

Ivybridge prop Matt Finn has already played against Exeter University this season. He guested for Plymouth Albion in the pre-season victory over the students at Brickfields.

“Matt Finn came off the bench and did quite well in that game,” said Paterson. “But they (Exeter University) could have a completely different team out to that game.

“But we just have to be ruthless. There is no reason why we can’t come away with another win.”

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services welcome high-flying Bridgwater to the Rectory on Saturday for their second home match of the season in South West One.

After their baptism of fire at Okehampton on the opening day of the season, Services have beaten St Ives and Teignmouth to move up to sixth in the early standings.

However, they are expecting a serious test from Bridgwater, who are unbeaten this season and who put 80 points on Cullompton last weekend.

“When you see big scores like that then there has to be something wrong with the other team,” said Services coach Mike Lewis.

“But Bridgwater are going well. They have got Wayne Sprangle up there now and he’s a big influence and a big personality as well as a great player. Having someone like him has probably spurred them on a little bit.

“We don’t really know what to expect, but we know they are going to be good. We know Bridgwater, Okehampton and Launceston are all going to be good, but we have to be competing with these type of teams.

“Hopefully, we can put that Okehampton game right in our own heads.

“If we were to win this weekend against a top team like them, then we know we are going to be really competitive in this league.”

Services have had a good home record over the last few years and they want to continue that in this league.

“We do love playing at home,” said Lewis. “The pitch is in good condition and there should be a fair old crowd on Saturday. Our second team have Tamar Saracens on the Creek (in the Lockie Cup), the colts have their first league game against Ivybridge at Keyham and it also looks like we might get a third team out on the same day for the first time in a few years, which is really positive.”

In Western Counties West, Saltash will be finally hoping to secure their first win since their promotion when they host fellow Cornish side Truro at Moorlands Lane.

The Ashes have lost their opening three games, but will take heart from their only previous outing at home against St Austell, when they narrowly lost 22-19.

Truro have had a mixed start, with one win, one draw and one defeat to their name. They got their first win last weekend when they beat struggling Paignton at home.

After just three games there is already a split emerging in Western Counties West. Eight clubs have not won more than one game. Both Truro and Saltash fall into that category, which makes Saturday’s clash at Moorlands Lane important to both.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

EARLY Cornwall/Devon League leaders Plymstock Albion Oaks will be looking to make it four wins out of four when they host the unpredictable Withycombe at Horsham Fields.

Oaks have overcome Penryn, Pirates Amateurs and Plymouth Argaum in their opening three matches to sit two points ahead of everyone else.

But they know on their day, Withycombe can be a match for anyone. The Exmouth-based club have won two out of their three fixtures. Both their wins have come at home, beating Lanner 50-15 and Hayle 34-24.

But Withycombe were well beaten 47-12 by Plymouth Argaum in their only away trip so far.

“They are a bit hit and miss,” said Oaks coach Aiden Taylor. “One week they can have a very strong team out and the next they will have a weakened team.”

Oaks have been a bit similar themselves in recent years, but Taylor is hoping that the start his side has made will help with player availability.

“We just need to get consistent players out week in, week out,” he said. “If we have that team (which beat Argaum) out every week then we will be top six, which is our aim.”

Argaum, meanwhile, will be hoping to bounce back from last week’s loss at Horsham Fields when they welcome new boys South Molton to Bickleigh Down.

Argaum have won both their previous homes games this season to sit fifth in the table. However, last season’s Devon One champions South Molton will arrive boosted by a 55-3 victory over Pirates Amateurs.

“We have not played South Molton much in the past,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “I think we might have only previously been in the same league for one season.

“We have done a little bit of homework on them and so have a bit of an idea of what to expect.

“We certainly expect them to arrive with a big pack, but we know how we want to play and we have to try and dictate the game.

“We have to see if we have got bouncebackability. We have to try and get our heads up again. South Molton is likely to be a different type of a game to Oaks, especially with the way the weather looks like it will be.

“We know it is going to be a tough game, but we are positive. We have to try and put them on the back foot a bit more than we did with Oaks and when we do have long periods of possession we need to score some points.

“We also know we have to scrummage better than last Saturday. If we do that then we know we can take the game to them.”

Argaum will be without influential forwards Joe Walker and Dan James this weekend, but they are able to welcome back Mike Hunt, Chris Perkins and Adam Fitzpatrick, while Ben Baggott is set to be promoted from the second team after impressing.

Tavistock will be looking to finally get off the mark this weekend when they travel to fellow early strugglers Pirates Amateurs.

Both sides have yet to win a game, but the Pirates have picked up three bonus points to Tavistock’s one.

“We need to get off the mark with a win,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill. “We are feeling positive and are seeing new faces each week with an excellent vibe in training.

“Things are starting to click and I fully believe it won’t be long until we are playing a decent brand of rugby.”

Kerswill joined Tavistock’s injury list last weekend when he damaged his ribs in their home defeat to Penryn – a match where they ended up having to play the last part with 13 players due to injuries.

Joe Hair and Martin Budden were also injured in that game and miss the trip to Mennaye Field, as does Ethan Lamerton, who is still not fit.

However, Tavistock are set to welcome back Jack Jones, Ash Martin and Phil Wilson to the pack, while Richard Cann is likely to return to the bench following injury.

“It is looking like it will be monsoon conditions on Saturday, so it could be anyone’s game,” said Kerswill. “We are fielding a physical, yet mobile pack that will perform in open play.

“Josh Langton and Sam Northmore’s work-rate was fantastic last week and both will be pests in the back-row.”

Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe face a tough test when then welcome Torquay to Lux Park.

Newly-promoted Liskeard have a win, draw and a defeat to their name this season, while Torquay, who were relegated from Western Counties West, have only been beaten by promotion-rivals Honiton.

DEVON MERIT TABLE AND LOCKIE CUP

PLYMPTON Victoria finally start their season on Saturday when they visit Torquay Athletic II in the Devon Merit Table.

Plym Vic have seen all their Combination rivals playing fixtures, but they and Salcombe have had to wait to get going in the new-look league.

However, Plym Vic do face a tough start to their season. They have possibly the two most difficult fixtures in the opening two games – trips to Torquay and Kingsbridge II within seven days of each other.

“They are both unknowns to us and we’ll just go and see what it is all about,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt.

“You would expect them to be quite strong given Torquay and Kingsbridge’s pedigree, but we’ll have to wait and see. That’s what makes this season exciting as there are so many unknowns in it.

“We have virtually a full squad this weekend and a couple of subs as well, without even starting to badger people yet.

“We have recruited a couple of players and so we are not looking too bad.

“But we do have a couple of regulars are out, including Alan Dickins, who managed to break his leg in training. He also dislocated his foot, so he will be out for a good long while now.

“Nobody wants to get injured at any time, but it is even worse when you are just training. He just got caught with his foot under him and went over backwards.”

After finding themselves homeless in July after the Plymouth Devils asked them to leave St Boniface Arena, Plym Vic will play their home games this season at King George V Playing Fields. This week they have also started training at Lee Moor.

“We have managed to get our lighting rig fixed. We had to get that overhauled and working again.

“We are soon going to be getting a container up there (at Lee Moor) so we can then get ourselves settled in properly and get all the kit out of people’s houses. We can then settle into a bit of a routine up there.”

St Columba & Torpoint will be hoping to continue their good form in the Merit Table when they host Plymstock Albion Oaks at Defiance Field on Saturday.

Torpoint have impressed against Plymouth Argaum II and Tavistock II but know they will be facing a much sterner test against Oaks’ second string, who put 68 points on Argaum IIs last weekend.

Meanwhile, DHSOB will play their first home game of the season on Saturday when they University of Plymouth III at Stonehouse Creek.

The Old Boys had been due to be away but the university agreed to switch the fixture to tie in with the day-long ‘Cider and Sausage Festival’  that Orange Chilli are hosting at the Creek on Saturday.

“We’ve tidied the place up, got new players in, got a new kit and it will be nice to play in our own backyard,” said DHSOB coach Martyn Ruskin.

DHSOB were well beaten 89-0 by a very strong Kingsbridge second team last week, but they expect a more competitive game against the university, who drew with Tavistock seconds in their opening Devon Merit Tabel game.

“I don’t know how the Uni work their teams out,” said Ruskin. “But we know it will be different opposition to last week. However, we have to go out with the mind-set that we are playing Kingsbridge again.

“We have to work as hard as we know we can – and did against Kingsbridge. We understand that if we do work to that standard, then we can’t be going wrong.”

OPMs are also due to play a University of Plymouth III team at King George V Playing Fields in the Lockie Cup first round.

They will be hoping to put behind them their disappointing outing against North Tawton in their last home fixture two weeks ago.

Tamar Saracens are also due to be in Lockie Cup action. They are set to visit Stonehouse Creek to play Devonport Services II.

However, Old Techs appear to have been left without a fixture after Marjon II refused to play in the same competition this weekend.

The students have told Techs that they want to play in mid-week. Techs, though, do not want to be playing on a Wednesday and hamper their Devon One campaign. They offered this weekend or October 6 to play the match when they haven’t got league fixtures.

Techs did suffer a blow last week with Nick Friend damaging ankle ligaments against North Tawton that are likely to keep him out for around six weeks.

South West rugby fixtures can be found HERE.

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