Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Oaks look to continue unbeaten starts

IVYBRIDGE have no intention of getting carried away over their impressive start to the South West Premier season.

The Bridgers won all five of their matches in September to sit level of points with leaders Bournemouth.

Both clubs picked up 24 out of a maximum of 25 points from last month’s games to sit three points ahead of third-placed Maidenhead and six ahead of fourth-placed Barnstaple.

Ivybridge will be hoping to continue that good form when they entertain struggling Weston-super-Mare at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday.

Lots of eyes maybe on them now with them flying high at the top, but that does not worry coach Jamie Tripcony.

“If people want to look, let them look,” he said. “But we’ll just concentrate on the next game – that’s the biggest one for us. The next game is always the biggest.

“We won’t get too carried away. It is very, very early and we just have to do what we can to beat Weston-super-Mare at home.”

Ivybridge have the luxury of playing back-to-back home games after entertaining Exmouth last Saturday.

They appear to have been enjoying their new artificial surface and have scored four or more tries in every home game they have played so far this season.

“We enjoy playing at home and making this a tough place to come for other teams. Hopefully, that can continue,” said Tripcony.

Weston-super-Mare will arrive at Cross-in-Hand boosted by claiming their first win of the season last Saturday. They beat fellow strugglers Bracknell 24-19. Although they have only one win to their name they have picked up four bonus points in five games.

Weston did finish eighth last season, one place and one point above Ivybridge, who would have been fifth had they not had five points deducted for not following proper protocol for postponing a match for a waterlogged pitch.

Billy Pinkus has been Ivybridge’s star man so far this season. He has scored seven tries and 84 points in the first month of the season.  He will again start on the wing in an unchanged back line.

However, there is a change in Ivybridge’s pack, where they are able to welcome back Devon forward Robin Luscombe (pictured top) following injury.

The Bridgers’, though, are missing player-coach Lewis Paterson. Justin Rogers and Harrison Legge come on to the bench.

SOUTH WEST ONE & WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

Devonport Services in cup action against Cullompton last season (picture by Mark Andrews)

DEVONPORT Services are hoping to return to winning ways when they host struggling Cullompton at the Rectory on Saturday.

Services’ three-match winning run ended last weekend when they narrowly lost 36-31 away at Hornets.

But they will be favourites to overcome Devon rivals Cullompton, who have not yet managed a victory this term.

However, Services coach Mike Lewis has warned his team not to take their visitors lightly.

“We had a similar scenario last season when we went to Sidmouth,” said Lewis. “Some of our guys went up there possibly thinking it might be an easy ride and they beat us and I think then they only lost one more game the rest of the season, so we are pretty good at giving teams favours.

“It is all about getting the mind-set right for certain games.

“It is easy to get up for big games, like St Ives at home last season or the play-off game. But when you see a team at the bottom of the table there is that danger that you might think you can have a bit of an armchair ride.

“They (Cullompton) beat us to promotion the season before last and they narrowly beat us in the cup last year in a pretty physical game under lights at our place.

“This year they are not doing fantastically well and we have to try and take advantage of that.

“We have talked about not being that nice team every week. Sometimes you have to really put lots of points on teams, like Bridgwater have done a couple of times this season. We need to do that once or twice to set our stall out and show that we can do it.

“I am not necessarily saying this week, but we have to do it at some point.”

Services won three out of their five games in September following their promotion.

“I am pretty happy with how the first month has gone,” said Lewis. “We have got some work-ons we need to focus on. We have been really working hard at it in training and hopefully you’ll see that this weekend.”

Services have Richard Goffin and Jamie Shone available again for selection after missing last Saturday’s game, while Danny Oner played last week after returning from Royal Marine duty.

However, Services did suffer a blow last Saturday when Mark Friend broke his ribs, which is likely to rule him out for six weeks. The summer signing from Tavistock had just returned to the first team squad after missing a couple of games earlier in the season.

“He came off the bench and had a really big impact for 15 minutes but then broke his ribs so had to come off,” said Lewis. “It’s a shame as he played a couple of games in the twos and played really well and so had got his chance again.”

Tyler Busfield also got his chance last week after impressing in the second team following his return to the club from Newton Abbot.

“He did fantastically well, so it will be tough to take the shirt off him,” said Lewis.

In Western Counties West, Saltash will face familiar opponents on Saturday when they host Wellington at Moorlands Lane.

The clubs finished first and second in the Cornwall/Devon League last season to win promotion to level seven.

However, the pair have enjoyed contrasting fortunes since their promotion.

Wellington, who have Cornwall boss Graham Dawe overseeing their coaching, sit third in the table with four wins out of five. Their only loss was a one point defeat at leaders Crediton where they missed a last-gasp kick to win the match.

Saltash, meanwhile, are still looking for their first victory since their jump up a league.

But they were boosted last weekend by picking up two bonus points in a close game at Wadebridge Camels. The Ashes will also know that they came close to beating Wellington twice last season. The Somerset club narrowly won 17-13 at their place and 32-26 at Moorlands Lane.

Saltash’s biggest problem is trying to find a way to stop conceding points. They have got the leakiest defence in the league, having conceded 192 points in their opening five games. However, they have scored more than all the other teams in the bottom five.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

LEADERS Plymstock Albion Oaks insist they will not be taking Tavistock lightly when the clubs clash at Horsham Fields in the Cornwall/Devon League.

Oaks have won all five of their fixtures to date to sit two points clear of Penryn at the top of the table.

In contrast, Tavistock sit in the bottom three. However, they did get their first win of the new campaign last weekend when they beat neighbours Plymouth Argaum 27-14.

“They beat Argaum and it’s another derby game,” said Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor. “I know Carl Parsons and Ben Hadfield are really looking forward to it as it is their old club, but we’ll just have to see what happens.

“We certainly won’t take them lightly. I know they are towards the bottom of the league and have only won one game but you don’t know what team they will have out and how they react in a derby.”

Oaks have had a dream start to the season, but everyone at Horsham Fields is keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

“It’s not the time to get carried away,” said Taylor. “We’ll just take one game at a time.  Our aim is still top six.

“We are excited as a club as we are doing well, but we just need to keep a lid on it and just take it one game at a time.”

Tavistock were boosted by last week’s home win over Argaum, but will know playing Oaks at Horsham Fields will be a totally different challenge.

“Plymstock are flying high and things are obviously clicking there, but I want us to concentrate on ourselves and just play the blokes in front of us,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“It will be far from easy but I have no doubt we can get a result there as the perceived underdogs.”

He added: “We’ve had another good week’s training and there is certainly a buzz after last weekend,not only Saturday’s result but a busy weekend of fundraisers, social events and a thriving junior section.

“For me this Saturday is a big turning point in the last couple of years as we are fielding two sides away from home.”

Tavistock are set to keep faith with the majority of last week’s squad. However, Ed Nettleship is missing this weekend and so Jack Easton moves to 10, with Andrew Craddock, Will Gardner and PJ Wilcox returning to the backline. In the pack, Jasper Cameron moves back to six, with Phil Wilsoon returning to hooker and newboy Leion Cole starting in the second-row.

Meanwhile, Plymouth Argaum are hoping they can end their mini losing run when they entertain newly-promoted Topsham at Bickleigh Down.

Argaum started the season brilliantly claiming bonus points wins over Pirates Amateurs and Withycombe, but they have since lost their last three matches against Oaks, South Molton and Tavistock.

Their visitors to Roborough on Saturday, Topsham, also have 10 points after winning two of their last three games since coming up from Devon One.  They have beaten Pirates Amateurs and Liskeard-Looe, but lost to Penryn, Honiton and Bude.

“We don’t really know what to make of Topsham,” admitted Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “We played them two years ago when they were struggling, but you have to respect sides that have just come up.

“But we need to get off this downward curve and play much better than last week. We just had zero energy last week and there has been a lot of soul searching gone on and we’ve also identified things we needed to work on.

“But we are going into the game positive and are able to welcome back a plethora of players this week.”

Among those available for selection again are ball carrying forwards Dan James, Joe Walker, Tom Worboys and Mason Edwards.

Argaum did not expect to have prop Edwards available at all this season as he was away in Belgium, but he has returned to Plymouth earlier than expected and could go straight back into the squad.

However, Argaum will be without the versatile Mike Hunt and Adam Griffiths, who picked up injuries last week.

Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe will be aiming to pick up their second win of the season when they host struggling Hayle at Lux Park.

Liskeard, in 11th spot, do have one win a draw to their name, which is more than bottom side Hayle have. They are still winless and have conceded more than 120 points in their last two games against Bud and Honiton.

DEVON ONE & DEVON MERIT TABLE

THERE’S another Plymouth derby match in Devon One on Saturday with OPMs hosting Tamar Saracens at King George V Playing Fields.

OPMs managed to narrowly win one last weekend when they edged out Old Techs 19-13 at Weston Mill.

That got them off the mark in Devon One after they lost to North Tawton in their opening fixture.

Tamar Saracens are just one point above them in the table, having won one of their three matches to date.

In a tight league so far, only four of the 11 teams in it have won more than one match.

Whoever does win on Saturday at Elburton will jump up the early standings.

The teams did play each other in pre-season, with Sarries winning a tight contest 22-10 at the Parkway.

“We are not taking anything for granted, even though I know we beat OPMs in the last game we played them,” said Sarries spokesman Marc Cioffi. “We are not going to go into the game unprepared.”

Saracens were boosted last week by the return of forwards Sam Gough and Josh Heath.

Gough had been out of action for nine months after needing his ankle reconstructed but produced a man-of-the match performance against North Tawton last week.

Former Redruth player Heath was back following a shoulder injury and also impressed.

Old Techs are without a game this weekend. They had hoped to play Marjon II in the Lockie Cup, but the students have forfeited the fixture after saying they could not play on the two Saturdays Techs offered.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria will play their first home match of the season when they host old rivals DHSOB at King George V Playing Fields.

It will be Plym Vic’s first game at their new temporary home and, after tough away matches against Kingsbridge and Torquay, they are looking forward to playing the Old Boys.

“It is going back to the familiar – a team that have been in our league so we know them and what level they are at,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “There’s not quite so much mystery going on. It should be a good game”

DHSOB coach Martyn Ruskin said: “It is nice to play a team we know are in our bracket. It’s a chance to see where we are at. This game will really show how far we have come from, so we are looking forward to it.

“The lads are really up for this game. They want to put that performance in and build on the last game against the University.”

DHSOB have enough players to select from but they are without captain Lewis Jeffery, who was handed a four-week suspension after picking up a red card for a dangerous tackle in their last match against the University of Plymouth.

Elsewhere in Devon Merit Table Division Two, St Columba & Torpoint make the trip to Salcombe.

Saints have made an encouraging start to the season, but will know Salcombe will a really good test of how far they have come.

Salcombe beat then 45-5 last term, but Saints have strengthen since then. Salcombe’s form is still unknown as they had a walkover in their only Devon Merit Table game so far, but they did beat Plym Vic in pre-season.

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