RUGBY PREVIEWS: Clubs turn their attentions to cups during blank league weekend

IT may be a blank league weekend in rugby, but a number of the region’s sides are in cup action on Saturday.

In the Plymouth Combination Lockie Cup, Plymouth Argaum will host lower league DHSOB at Bickleigh Down, while OPMs and Old Techs both have Devon Junior Cup quarter-finals.

OPMs will entertain Exeter Athletic at King George V Playing Fields, while Old Techs will travel to Torrington, who they only played two weeks ago in the league.

OPMs have not yet faced ambitious Exeter Athletic, who have links with their Premiership neighbours the Chiefs. The club was formed in the summer by a merger of Wessex and Exeter Youth.

Exeter moved up to second place in the Devon One table last weekend with OPMs dropping down to sixth.

Buckfastleigh are the only team to have beaten Exeter yet this season, but Dartmouth did push them close. OPMs came within seconds of beating Buckfastleigh last week, losing 9-8 to a controversial last-gasp drop-goal, so they will take heart from that, especially after denying Buckfastleigh a try.

“We have not come across Exeter Athletic yet and we are quite excited to see how good they are,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “It will be a good test for us.”

The winner of the match at Elburton on Saturday will host either Buckfastleigh or Dartmouth in the semi-final.

Old Techs would also secure a home semi-final tie if they could beat Torrington for the second time within 14 days.

They beat them 43-10 at Weston Mill two weeks ago in the league, but Torrington have proved a different side at home and last weekend overcame Tamar Saracens 28-12.

Techs’ biggest problem is going to be getting a team together to make the trip. They have been struggling for a couple of weeks due to a host of injuries and unavailabilities. Next weekend they will have a number of their 29 Commando players back from duty which will aid them, while a number of their injured players are getting closer to returning, but they need a team for Saturday.

Sides that fail to fulfil a Devon Junior Cup fixture have been told they will be banned from next season’s competition. Tamar Saracens, St Columba & Torpoint and Plympton Victoria are all facing that prospect after entering and then not playing first round fixtures.

DHSOB are in the Devon Junior Shield semi-finals. They should have been playing Salcombe again for a second time in seven days on Saturday, but that fixture has been moved back a week so that DHSOB can play Argaum in a rearranged Lockie Cup match.

Devon Merit Table side DHSOB know it will be a tough challenge for them against a club in the Cornwall/Devon League. They lost at the start of the season to Argaum’s second team.

“We don’t know what type of team they will put out,” said DHSOB coach Martyn Ruskin. “We know they are a well-drilled unit and we will struggle against their first team, but if they put out a mixture of first team and second team players then we might be all right and if they put out a second team then we have a chance.

“But, like we say every week, we have learning points we want to take from the game.”

DHSOB lost 59-3 last week away at unbeaten Salcombe.

“The lads were disappointed last week they did not do more,” said Ruskin.

Plymouth Argaum say they will be showing DHSOB respect and are certainly not taking them lightly.

“We have got 19 players this week and it is a first team as they are the only players available,” said Argaum’s Stuart Quarterman.

“We are resting a few players who are carrying injuries – Jake Turfery, Tom Holiday and Joe Walker.  That’s not disrespecting the opposition but these players have been playing with injuries and need a rest. We certainly respect DHSOB.

“On paper we have a good squad. There is some inexperienced players mixed in with experienced and old heads and there’s talent there but it is a case of whether it comes together.”

Argaum are set to hand a debut to Marjon back-rower Jack Way. His university team-mate Ethan Wood is also in the squad having made his debut last week at Hayle. Wood is a scrum-half but is expected to play at fly-half on Saturday.

Argaum have three scrum-half players available this week as Ewan Collins is fit and Ellery Jones is back in Plymouth for the weekend and asked to play. Jones helped Argaum win promotion from Devon One but has been living in Wales for a few years, but has always stayed registered with the Bickleigh Down club. Another old boy, Andy Jones, is also available.

Meanwhile, Plympton Victoria are due to play Tavistock IIs away on Saturday in the Devon Merit Table.

Plym Vic have not played for a month due to blank weekend and the late postponement of their game with St Columba due to no referee turning up.

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