IVYBRIDGE will bid to make it five wins out of five when they host Devon rivals Exmouth at Cross-in-Hand in the top game in the South West Premier League on Saturday.
The match is a repeat of May’s Devon Senior Cup final, which Ivybridge won 38-31 to claim the trophy for the first time in their history.
However, a few things have changed since then. Ivybridge’s grass pitch has been replaced by an artificial surface, while Exmouth have a new head coach in Steve Perry, who moved from Barnstaple to replace Jon Hill.
Both clubs have made good starts to the new campaign. Ivybridge have won their opening four games and sit in second spot, level on points with leaders Bournemouth.
Exmouth are just three points behind in fourth place. They have lost just once – a one point defeat to Drybook.
If form and previous meetings are anything to go by, then it should be a cracker at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday in a match that also counts towards the Devon Cup.
Ivybridge are set to welcome Damon Akerman back into their starting line-up. The winger has come on as a replacement in the Bridgers last two games following his return from a serious knee injury picked up in January that ruled him out of the second half of last season.
Lock George Wilson is back after missing last week’s trip to Exeter University, as is player-coach Lewis Paterson, who is set to start on the bench against Exmouth.
SOUTH WEST ONE & WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services will be looking to continue their winning run they travel to Somerset to take on Hornets on their artificial grass pitch.
Services have won their last three matches to move up to fourth in South West One following their promotion from Western Counties West.
Hornets sit in seventh place, two points behind Devonport, following their relegation from the South West Premier.
Services coach Mike Lewis says they are not sure what to expect from this weekend’s opponents, but he believes that should help his team focus.
“I think that’s good,” said Lewis. “When you come up against someone like a Kingsbridge, who you have played about 30 times in the last 15 years, you know everything about them. The team are like ‘we know what this player is like and what this one can do’, but when you go in almost blindfold you have to be at the top of your game.
“We just have to go in and do our own thing, which is what you want the players to do.”
Service are also not worried about playing on an artificial pitch with them having the use of Keyham as well as the Rectory.
“We are looking forward to going up there,” he said. “We train all the time on a 3G pitch so we are pretty used to that type of surface. It is the type of surface we enjoy playing on.
Services took a lot of confidence from ending Bridgwater’s unbeaten start last weekend.
“Considering the conditions we played some good rugby, especially early in the game,” said Lewis. “Towards the end we were a little bit silly with some of the decisions we made and it allowed them back into the game, but the way we kept them out was brilliant. Everyone put every ounce of effort in to keep them out right at the end.
“The final scrum of the game they had possession and we pushed them off the ball. I thought that was a key moment of the game. When you are on your own line you need that little bit of extra from the players. That scrum was fantastic, especially after 80-85 minutes of hard-up rugby with big boys running at you the whole game.”
Services certainly have plenty of competition for places at the moment, as they showed with the second team they put out against Tamar Saracens last weekend in the Lockie Cup. Services won that game 53-0.
“We have got good depth at the minute,” said Lewis. “That was our aim this year as we knew we needed more depth.
“Everyone is kept on their toes at the minute, which is fantastic.”
Devonport are without Richard Goffin and Jamie Shone this week, but backs Luke Kenny and Jonah Moore are available again after missing last Saturday.
In Western Counties West, Saltash face a tricky test at fellow Cornish side Wadebridge Camels.
The Ashes are still waiting for their first league win since their promotion back to level seven. Wadebridge have also had a tough start, with just one win to their name. However, that was an impressive 40-12 victory over Kingsbridge in their last home game.
Wadebridge’s defeats have come against Crediton, Falmouth and Paignton. Saltash have lost to Sidmouth, St Austell, Tiverton and Truro.
Despite their tough start Saltash are confident results will come their way.
“Things should be picking up for us soon,” said captain Lewis Wells, who was one of their try scorers last weekend against Truro.
This fixture is normally always a tense and competitive affair, which has gone Argaum’s way since they were promoted into the league back in 2015.
However, to add even more spice to the fixture this year there is the Cameron family clash.
Adrian Cameron took over as Argaum’s head coach in the summer, moving from Tavistock where he was their colts coach. But his son, Jasper, plays for Tavistock, along with a number of other youngsters he used to coach.
Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman is hoping his club’s players will do the senior Cameron proud on Saturday, but he is fully aware that Tavistock will be really targeting this game after not winning this season and not winning any of the last six meetings between the clubs.
“We know full well that Tavistock really want to beat us,” said Quarterman. “They will be targeting this game. They will see us a beatable team and they talked a lot last season about how they had not beaten us for three years.
“We know they have got enough quality in their side to cause us problems, so we know we will have to be really on it and stick our heads in where it hurts. “
After winning their opening two games against Pirates Amateurs and Withycombe, Argaum have lost to Plymstock Albion Oaks and South Molton.
This weekend they should welcome back hooker Dan James, who missed the South Molton game, while Ryan Chivers and Dave Shepherd could be back in the mix for selection. Mike Hunt is also fit after coming off late in last weekend’s game, but Argaum are still missing Joe Walker, while fly-half Al Murray has decided to leave Bickleigh Down to try his luck at Oaks.
Tavistock are struggling badly with injuries. Skipper Andrew Schuttkacker, vice-captain Martin Budden, player-coach Hammy Kerswill and Joe Hair are among their long-list of injured players.
“We have an abundance of injuries this week,” said Kerswill. “Obviously that is gutting with such a big derby ahead, but I am feeling a lot more optimistic than I may have in previous seasons. We’ve had lots of new and returning faces over the last few weeks and they are really showing some strength in depth – not just competing for first XV shirts but securing them.
“Our captain and vice are out and a number of other stalwarts but we are still fielding a talented squad.
“Argaum will no doubt have something different about them this year and will play good rugby, but we will too.
“We will field two sides and give Argaum a double-header which is something I feel very positive about considering our bad luck with absentees.”
Cornwall/Devon League leaders Plymstock Albion Oaks are expecting a tough test as they head to newly-promoted South Molton aiming to make it five wins in a row.
But player-coach Aiden Taylor is aware that South Molton, with their big pack, could cause them trouble at Unicorn Park.
Molton have only lost to Penryn since their promotion and have claimed bonus points wins over Pirates Amateurs and Argaum in their last two games.
Taylor is calling on his team to be totally switched on and focussed on their visit to north Devon.
“They have a very big pack and they are the type of team we could slip up against,” admitted Taylor.
“But we are on the back of four wins and are currently top of the league and so we just have to go up there with the right mentality and play how we know we can play.”
Elsewhere in the league, Liskeard-Looe visit fellow Cornish side Lanner on Saturday. Liskeard have a win and a draw to their name since their promotion, while Lanner have one win from the three games they have played so far.
DEVON ONE & DEVON MERIT TABLE
Recent clashes between the two clubs have been tight.
Last year they met in the David Butt Trophy with Techs winning 18-10 at their place and OPMs triumphing 20-15 at King George V Playing Fields.
The season before – the 2016-17 campaign – when they were last in the same league, they drew 17-17 at King George V, with OPMs winning 10-6 at Weston Mill.
Both clubs are expecting another close encounter this weekend. The only guide to go on this season is that they were both comfortably beaten by North Tawton after poor first half displays.
“We are looking forward to it,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “It’s a derby game and they are generally pretty close, hard-fought games.
“Both teams will really want to win and I think it is going to be a good game.
“We have heard a few things about them. Apparently they have got a big back and also some tidy players outside.
“We are still evolving as a team. We’ve only played two games so it is still early days for us, but everyone is working hard.”
Techs are without a few of their 29 Commando players due to work commitments, while Nick Friend and Dan Bartlett are out after picking up injuries in their last match at North Tawton.
Centre Friend suffered ankle ligament damage, while full-back Bartlett detached a tendon in his finger as he dislocated it and has had to undergo surgery.
However, Techs do have experienced forward Bryan Milford and scrum-half Johnny Young back in contention for the first time this season.
Techs had a week off last Saturday after failing to persuade Marjon II to play in the Lockie Cup.
OPMs did play in the cup and enjoyed a 25-5 victory over University of Plymouth III.
That was their first win of the season and has boosted them ahead of this weekend’s trip to Weston Mill.
“Everyone is definitely looking forward to the fixture, I know that much,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “It should be an interesting game.
“I think both teams were very surprised how North Tawton turned out.”
Sarries welcome unbeaten Tawts to the Parkway aiming to cause something of an upset against last season’s Devon Two champions.
The Ernesettle-based club believe last week’s tough Lockie Cup game against a strong Devonport Services II, which they lost 53-0, may actually benefit them in Devon One.
“It is going to be a tough one, but it is back down to our level again,” said player and spokesman Marc Cioffi.
“We have played and beaten them before. We know that they are like. We are going to have people missing again, but it is all about preparation.”
In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria face their tough trip of the season with an away game at Kingsbridge II.
The Western Counties West club’s second string appear like they might be a class apart in Division Two South and West Division having beaten DHSOB 89-0.
Plym Vic have a few players missing this week but they are looking forward to visiting High House where many of their squad have never been.
“We are looking forward to the experience,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt, who is likely to be in their squad for the trip. “It should be character-building.”
Elsewhere in Division Two South & West Merit Table, Tavistock II host Argaum Wanderers, while University of Plymouth III play Plymstock Albion Oaks II.