Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: High-flying Ivybridge and Oaks aim to avoid banana skins on their travels

HIGH-flying Ivybridge will aim to avoid a potential banana skin on Saturday when they travel to bottom side Old Patesians in South West Premier.

The Gloucestershire side are still waiting for their first win since coming up as champions of South West One East.

Ivybridge, in contrast, have only lost once this term – a 33-29 defeat at Maidenhead – and sit second in the table.

The Bridgers’ player-coach Lewis Paterson knows his players have to be mentally spot on this week with them being the overwhelming favourites.

“We are all set for this weekend off the back of a good win over Newton Abbot,” said Pateson.

“The boys have trained really well and hopefully we are all prepared.

“I think the mental side is going to be the biggest challenge with them at the bottom having not won yet. But they have actually scored some good points against some decent teams.

“We have to be on our game as there is nothing more dangerous than a team with nothing to lose. We are at the top and they are at the bottom so we are expected to win. All the pressure is on us.

“They are going to be big and physical and I am sure they will throw everything and the kitchen sink at us.

“We just have to go up there with a good attitude, which is our main work-on this week. We have to be humble and keep our feet on the ground and just make sure we come away with the win.”

Paterson is unavailable this week as is prop Matt Finn. Marcus Prout returns to the squad in Finn’s absence, while another youngster Will Lamont (pictured top), who has been unavailable for a couple of weeks, will come back into the centre in the absence of Paterson.  Hayden Coles is also back in the first team squad after impressing in training.

SOUTH WEST ONE & WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services will be looking to continue their winning run at home when they host Keynsham at the Rectory on Saturday in South West One.

Services, who sit in fifth spot, have won all their home matches since their promotion from Western Counties West.

But they are aware that they will not be able to underestimate Keynsham, who sit in ninth place with just one less win than them.

“They (Keynsham) have got four wins and four losses,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “Some of their results have been quite good, some have been indifferent, but they are not getting well beaten.

“It is definitely a game where we can’t worry about them too much. We haven’t got a lot of information on them and so we can’t focus on them. We will just focus on ourselves.

“We are always a better team at home. I don’t know if that is just because we are in familiar surroundings. I would like to think we have got a good chance of winning this weekend.”

Services were boosted last week by picking up five points on their travels with victory at struggling Coney Hill.

“Last week our defence was fantastic,” said Lewis. “They (Coney Hill) had a couple of big players who they really relied on, but people like Matt Gregory and Tyler Busfield made big tackles to knock them back quickly, which was fantastic and what you want from your back-row.”

Services picked up a few injuries in their second team match last week, which has reduced competition in the squad a bit, but the likes of Harrison Slade, Jamie Shone and Rhys Williams are all available again this weekend, while Sam Bennett and Mark Friend could also be back in contention after injury. However, Joe Daley is away for a few weeks, while youngster Tommy Pullinger has had a setback in his return from a shoulder injury picked up in pre-season and is likely to be out for another six weeks.

Saltash will be aiming to cause an upset when they travel to high-flying Crediton on Saturday in Western Counties West.

Crediton sit second in the table and are still unbeaten this season. However, Saltash will travel to east Devon is buoyant mood after winning their last three matches – one in the Cornwall Cup and two in the league. Their victory last weekend over Chard has moved them out of the bottom three for the first time this season.

The Ashes will be hoping to get their backs into the game against a Crediton side that are renowned for having a strong pack.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks’ player-coach Aiden Taylor has told his unbeaten team to be prepared for a tough game when they travel to Cornwall to take on Lanner.

Oaks are riding high at the top of the table with eight wins out of eight to their name.

Lanner, meanwhile, sit in seventh place with four wins out of eight, all of which have come at home.

“It’s no easy game,” said Taylor. “You look at the league table and think maybe they can’t be that good, but they have beaten some big teams. They beat Honiton, who are an outstanding side. For them to beat Honiton they must have something about them.

“And they definitely have to have something about them at home.

“We know it is going to be a tough game. We have to be switched on and play our own rugby. We can’t get sucked into their game.

“We have to play our nice expansive rugby.”

Injury-hit Plymouth Argaum managed to narrowly beat Lanner at Bickleigh Down last weekend, but they are still looking for their first victory on their travels this season.

They will be hoping it can come this weekend when they travel to bottom side Hayle, who have yet to win a match this season.

Argaum, though, will be wary of Hayle after losing last month at Tavistock, who at the time were also winless.

“We have played away to the bottom club already this season and come away with no points,” said Argaum’s Stuart Quarterman. “The biggest thing is to make sure we don’t think of them as the bottom of the league.

“It is a banana skin and Hayle will be fighting hard for points. Our result against Tavistock will make them think we are a side to target.”

Argaum are still missing a host of key players due to injuries. They added to their injury woes last weekend with Tom Shepherd (pictured), who had stepped in at fly-half, dislocating and fracturing his shoulder.

However, the Bickleigh Down club do hope to have Chris Baker, Brad Washburn and Euan Collins back for the trip to Cornwall.

Tavistock, another team who have not won away yet,  face a tricky trip to Exeter to face newly-promoted Topsham at Bonfire Field.

Topsham, like Tavistock, have only won two games and both have come at home, where they put 31 points on the Pirates Amateurs and 42 on Liskeard. They also pushed Oaks hard at home two weeks ago before losing 24-17 despite playing 60 minutes with 14 men.

Tavistock know it will be tough against a team with some quick backs on their own pitch, but they travel in positive mood after getting only their second win of the season last week against Withycombe.

“Topsham are another side I played a lot when I was at North Tawton,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill. “They are certainly a handful on their day.

“I used to play with their nine at North Tawton and he’s a useful player. I know they will look to stretch us at every opportunity.

“But we have much more to our armoury these days and that showed last week with us scoring tries through a number of different mediums.”

Tavistock are set to name a relatively unchanged squad to the one that beat Withycombe last week.

However, Phil Wilson is away and Joe Hair has picked up an infection in his leg, so Ash Martin and Charlie Charlton return to the prop positions, with Kerswill reverting back to hooker.

The only other change is at nine where Jack Glover returns for Jack Easton, who is unavailable.

On the bench Alex Lewandowski returns from university and Jack Jones is promoted after impressing in the seconds.

Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe will travel to struggling Withycombe looking for their third win of the season.

DEVON ONE & DEVON MERIT TABLE

OLD Techs are once again facing major availability problems for their trip to Totnes on Saturday in Devon One.

Techs were missing more than 20 players last week and had to name a makeshift side, that included veterans Mick Wheatley and coach Shaun Bedford-Smith in their pack and chairman Dave Evans and former player Jimmy Carter on the bench.

But Techs turned in a stunning performance to beat Torrington 43-10, which was their biggest league win in two seasons.

However, their problems have not got any better and this week they are also set to be without influential centres Matt Simmonds (pictured) and Joel Dicken and last week’s emergency flanker Bedford-Smith.

“I didn’t think it could get any worse from last week, but it has,” admitted Bedford-Smith.

“We keep hoping that we are going to start getting people back from injuries, but the more games we play the more injuries we get and the others have not come back.

“We are very, very short this weekend and it is disappointing when we have had a good result last week, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

“Yet there’s still no reason why we can’t have confidence going there. Totnes have been a bit up and down themselves. Sometimes when you are that short everyone really digs in and it can galvanise the team. We were in the same scenario last week.

“We have got people playing with injuries. If we had enough players they would not be playing. At the moment they just have to play as we haven’t got anyone else.

“We will have people playing out of position again, but after last week you never know.”

Tamar Saracens are unsure what to expect when they travel to ninth-placed Torrington on Saturday.

Torrington have proved one of the most inconsistent teams in the league since their relegation from the Cornwall/Devon League.

Last week they lost 43-10 at Old Techs, but the week before beat OPMs 50-22. They also beat New Cross 76-0 at home but lost 51-0 to Exeter Saracens.

“We haven’t played them for a few seasons,” said Marc Cioffi. “But a few of our lads will remember their pitch from old.

“It is going to be difficult as they are an unpredictable team. They seem to do really well one week but then the next fall from grace.

“We are going into it with the mind-set that it is unchartered territory.

“We are still trying to be the finished article ourselves and so I just do not know what to expect from this weekend.

“We are also missing quite a few players this week through injuries and other commitments.”

Apart from the top three teams – North Tawton, Exeter Saracens and Exeter Athletic – and bottom side New Cross, everyone else in Devon One is separated by just four points, with Sarries, Techs and OPMs in that middle area.

“I think it is still very early days in the season,” said Cioffi. “Look at us last year, it took us until after Christmas to get into gear. I think a lot of clubs are still waiting for players to come back in. The second half of the season is where things normally start to come together. However, ideally we want that to happen now.”

OPMs will have more of an idea of what to expect from their opponents this week when they travel to old rivals Buckfastleigh.

The two clubs came up from Devon Two together and had two good league games last season.

Buckfastleigh are currently fourth after suffering only their second defeat of the season last week when they lost 19-8 to leaders North Tawton. OPMs, though, are just one place and one point behind in fifth.

“It is not going to be an easy game at all,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “It never is when we play Buckfastleigh. They are also on form.”

Buckfastleigh do have the meanest defence in the league and have also played the top three. However, they have struggled a bit to score points, but have only been beaten by the top two.

In the Devon Merit Table, DHSOB will travel to Salcombe in a dress rehearsal for their Devon Junior Shield semi-final.

Salcombe are the form team in Division Two South & West. They have won four out of four of their games to date and last week ended Plymstock Albion Oaks IIs unbeaten start to the season.

DHSOB coach Martyn Ruskin is just hoping whatever happens this weekend his team learn from the experience, which will help them when they play them again in the cup.

“Each game is a learning experience for us,” he said. “What we have been developing in training we want to see on the pitch. We want the lads to walk off and say ‘yeah, that’s what that does’ or ‘that’s how that improves us’. Each game is a lesson.

“Results still don’t really matter to us at the moment. Obviously it would be lovely to get wins and progress in the league and cup but we are just trying to move forward as a squad and show that we are growing.”

Like a lot of clubs this week, DHSOB are struggling for availability on Saturday.

“We have 16 unavailabilities this week, but we have still got 15 at the moment,” he said. “It’s an international weekend and we have had two weeks off and it does not take a lot for lads to get out of the routine.”

St Columba & Torpoint are also back in action this weekend when they host another unbeaten side, Torquay Athletic II, at Defiance Field.

Although Saints have only got one league win so far they have picked up an impressive six bonus points in five matches – three for scoring four tries and three for finishing with a score – which shows just how competitive they have been this term.

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