IVYBRIDGE will be aiming to get back to winning ways and claim their third Devon derby victory of the season on Saturday when they host struggling Newton Abbot.
The Bridgers’ winning start to their South West Premier campaign came to an end last weekend when they narrowly lost 33-29 away at fourth-placed Maidenhead.
They did return from Berkshire with two bonus points that keeps them in second spot in the table.
Newton Abbot, in contrast, will arrive surprisingly sitting in the bottom three of the division with just one win from their opening seven games.
However, the Devon All Whites, who finished fourth last season, have picked up eight bonus points from their seven games to date, which shows how competitive they have been.
“Newton Abbot are a very good side and I don’t think the league reflects that at the moment,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“They just haven’t had that finishing touch, but we don’t want to be side where they find it, especially with us being at home.
“They have some really nice players and there is always a good sense of friendship there, but at the same time it is a Devon derby and we lost to them last season.
“We want the win. We have to be relentless and I think the boys want to bounce back.
“We were massively frustrated to lose to Maidenhead and now we have a Devon derby to put it right.
“Everyone has forgotten Maidenhead and we have a massive point to prove this week after losing this Devon derby twice last year, even though we played so well against them away.
“I think a lot of boys will be physically and mentally up for it.”
The game will also count towards the Devon Senior Cup, which Ivybridge are holders of. The Bridgers have already beaten Exmouth and Exeter University in other Devon derby clashes this term.
SOUTH WEST ONE & WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services coach Mike Lewis is hoping his team can return with some much-needed away points when they travel to bottom side Coney Hill on Saturday.
Services are unbeaten at home but have only won once on their travels in South West One – at Devon rivals Teignmouth.
Last Saturday, Devonport lost 29-14 away at fifth-placed Thornbury.
“We didn’t get rid of that away bug last weekend,” said Lewis.
“We may have done all right at Teignmouth, but we just can’t put our finger on what it is with away games.
“We watched the video back (from last week) and you could see people were trying to get themselves up for it and in the warm-up they were running the right lines and putting that extra bit of effort in. And during the game when we were near the ball that happened, but when players were one or two phases away we were really slow to react and get organised. Thornbury had good line speed in their defence and they put a lot of pressure on us. We were quite flat – we were going from side-to-side – even though we had quite a lot of possession.
“If we had just had that bit more shape, like we showed when we scored a great try at the start of the second half, I don’t think we would have had much of an issue.
“But it just seems to happen all the time on away games.”
Coney Hill were the Western Counties North winners last season and came up with Services and St Ives. However, whereas Services and St Ives are proving competitive with four wins out of seven, Coney Hill are still waiting for their first victory.
Lewis said: “Coney Hill are not doing great in the league, but they are okay at home.
“We are not really sure what to expect, but we know our away form will make it a bit of a leveller.
“They have a bit of a reputation for being an aggressive side. We have told people at training that it is going to be a tough away trip and they are likely to come away battered and bruised, so they have to be up for the fight.”
Services should have backs Luke Kenny and Keir Murphy available this week, but Rhys Williams cannot make the trip to Gloucestershire.
Sam Bennett is still out with his hamstring injury, while summer signings Matt Neyle-Opie and Mark Friend are also still a week or so away from fitness after injury.
Services, meanwhile, are hoping long-term absentee Aaron Webb could be back before the new year.
“Aaron Webb is recovering from a shoulder injury,” said Lewis. “He had an operation to have it pinned and should be back around Christmas time. It will be great for him to get back on the pitch.”
The Ashes beat Falmouth at home in the Cornwall Cup two weeks ago before getting their first league win last Saturday at Bideford.
If they could back that up with a victory over Chard then they could move out of the bottom three for the first time.
Chard might sit in eighth spot with three wins out of seven, but they have yet to win on their travels. Their wins have come at home to third-from-bottom Paignton, Falmouth and basement side Bideford.
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks’ unbeaten start to the season will be under threat on Saturday when much-fancied Torquay Athletic visit Horsham Fields.
Oaks are the league leaders after seven wins out of seven, but they expect a tough test from Torquay, who are in fifth spot, just seven points behind.
The Tics were in Western Counties West last season and have only been beaten this term by Honiton and Penryn, who narrowly beat them by one point.
Last week the south Devon club hammered Plymouth Argaum 73-17.
“Torquay look like they are firing,” said Oaks’ player-coach Aiden Taylor.
“I think it will be a tight game. We are at home and hopefully we will get a big crowd up for the game.
“The league is very tight and we need to right a few wrong from last week.”
Oaks did win last week, beating Topsham 24-17, but Taylor was far from happy with his side’s display at Bonfire Field against a side that played for 60 minutes with 14 men.
Plymouth Argaum will again be without a host of players when they entertain Lanner at Bickleigh Down on Saturday.
Argaum were missing 12 first team regulars for last weekend’s trip to Torquay, where they were beaten 73-17.
Chenneye Edwards and Chris Baker picked up injuries in that game and are ruled out this weekend, while Joe Walker is again doubtful due to injury. They join the likes of Dan James, Calum Mills, Euan Collins, Jake Turfery and Adam Griffith on the injury table.
However, Argaum have added to their stretched squad this week with the signing of Louis Langman, while Tom Worboys should be back.
Lanner sit in seventh spot in the table, one place above Argaum. All Argaum’s wins have come at home, while Lanner have not won away yet this term, but the Cornish side have never lost to the Bickleigh Down club.
“We always seem to have availability problems when we play Lanner,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.
Head coach Adrian Cameron added: “Lanner had a massive result against Honiton in a rearranged fixture a couple of weeks ago, but at this stage of the season we have no idea what we are facing in terms of opposition teams.
“I would assume they will have big lumping forwards and be not dissimilar to South Molton, but we’ll see. Hopefully, we will do well against them.”
Tavistock will fancy their chances of claiming only their second win of the season when out-of-form Withycombe visit Sandy Park.
Withycombe sit two places and three points ahead of second-from-bottom Tavistock but they are in a shocking run of form.
The Exmouth-based club, who for years have always been one of the front-runners in the league, have conceded an average of 72.5 points in their last four games. They lost 78-3 at home to Bude last week, which followed on from a 69-3 loss at South Molton, a 92-0 home defeat to Honiton and 51-7 reverse at Plymstock Albion Oaks.
Although Tavistock have found wins hard to come by they have been competitive in most matches. They biggest loss this term was a 45-7 away defeat at leaders Oaks.
“I think Withycombe will have the same mind-set as us in that it’s a target game and we must come away with a minimum of four points,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill.
“However, it is going to be far from easy, especially as you rarely know what Withycombe will turn up.”
Tavistock are able to welcome back a plethora of players. Captain Andrew Schuttacker is back from injury and will start at eight in the absence of last week’s skipper Josh Langton, who has damage his shoulder.
Sam Northmore is also back, as is Jasper Cameron, Jack Easton and Anthony De La Dour, but Jack Glover is away.
Tavistock’s second team will play unbeaten Kingsbridge II and Sam Smerdon, Jed Bolt and Taylor Smart could all make their first appearances of the season.
It is a busy weekend for Tavistock. On Sunday they will host a memorial rugby day for former under-15 player Hannah Bragg, who sadly died earlier this year. A number of teams from Devon and Cornwall have been invited to send under-13, under-15 and under-18 teams to celebrate her life and raise money for Devon Air Ambulance. The first games will start at 1pm.
OLD Techs are suffering availability problems ahead of their home game against Torrington on Saturday.
Techs are keen to bounce back from last week’s disappointing 17-6 away defeat to city rivals Tamar Saracens. They did dominate territory and possession but could not turn it into points and suffered a third defeat in four league games.
Torrington will arrive at Weston Mill boosted by winning two of their last three games, including a 50-22 win over OPMs last weekend. However, they have not won away yet since their relegation from the Cornwall/Devon League and Techs hope, despite the absence of a number of players, that they get a much-needed win.
“We’ve got over 20 players unavailable this week,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“We were short last week but we are even shorter this. It is not what you want for any game, especially a home one.
“At the moment we are just going through a period where it is all hands to the pump, but we will get a team out. We won’t be at full strength, but I would like to think we will still be competitive.
“We will still be looking to try and get a result.
“Last week was disappointing,” added Bedford-Smith. “We just did not take the right options at the right time. It was the same last year. It is annoying when you have that much possession and don’t do anything with it.
“We are not far off and I think it will come. When we score some tries, I think our confidence will grow. And, hopefully, we will get stronger when we get players back.”
The likes of Dan Bartlett, Nick Friend and Stuart Ansell are all long-term injuries, while a number of their 29 Commandos are currently away. Steve Wilkinson, Rudi Baker and Johnny Young are among those that played last week who are not available this.
OPMs maybe in seventh place but they are just two points ahead Techs in 10th spot.
Totnes are in eighth also with 10 points like OPMs, but have only won one game this term and that was against bottom side New Cross.
Last week a makeshift Totnes side were hammered 73-3 at home to North Tawton.
OPMs will not be sure what to expect from the south Devon visitors, who have been very inconsistent so far this season.
The Old Boys were disappointed last week with their display at Torrington and have been working on their defence after letting in seven tries.
It will be a busy day at King George V Playing Fields as OPMs’ second team are also in action when they host Devonport Services’ Wanderers.