THERE will be county pride, family honour and vital league and cup points at stake on Saturday when Ivybridge travel to Astley Park to play big rivals Brixham.
Ivybridge, sitting second in the South West Premier League table, have met all their other Devon rivals in the division this season. They have beaten Exmouth, Newton Abbot and Exeter University but narrowly lost to Barnstaple.
Fifth-placed Brixham have also only lost one Devon derby this season – at home to Barnstaple – and Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson knows the Fisherman will be desperate to beat them in front of their own fans.
Games between the two clubs have been extremely competitive in the last three seasons and this weekend there is the added interest of the Pinkus brothers coming up against each other for the first time in a league match.
Billy, who has been in stunning form this season with 16 tries and 171 points, will be on the Ivybridge side, with is young brother Mitch, who left Cross-in-Hand in the summer, set to feature for Brixham.
“It is a big game indeed and it should be a good one,” said Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“We know they are a very good side and that they do well at home. They will have a big crowd, good support, who will make loads of noise, but we are focussed. We are a very ambitious side with a lot of drive and a lot of self-motivation and I think that will show on Saturday.
“Brixham are going to come out firing and will be up for it. This is their weather – good forward weather rugby. They are a tough, physical side and they are a difficult team to break down, but we know where they are weak and where we can exploit.
“We are going to Brixham full of confidence.”
After narrow defeats to fellow high-flyers Bournemouth and Barnstaple, Ivybridge bounced back last weekend with a bonus point win over Bracknell.
“We put in a good performance against Bracknell to score five tries in 28 minutes and then completed the performance,” said Paterson, whose side went 24-0 in front but allowed Bracknell to close to 29-21 at half-time before winning 35-21. “An old Ivybridge side would have crumbled under that comeback, but we were composed, took the points and won the game comfortably.”
An Ivybridge club XV then played a Plymouth Albion development side made up of players from local clubs on Monday night at Keyham.
However, that match did come at a cost to the Bridgers with number eight Robin Luscombe fracturing his ankle and Marcus Prout injuring his back/hip.
“We had a difficult game on Monday and picked up some knocks,” said Paterson. “Robin fractured his ankle and Marcus has picked up a knock on his back/hip, but at the same time these games are fantastic for our development. It gives boys a good opportunity.
“We didn’t have a big numbers, but it was good. Tom Scoles came back from injury. He played two games – Friday and Monday – which is fantastic. Having him coming back will be a massive bonus for us. Ben Collins and Wes (Vermingle) also got some game-time and Adam Northcott played and had a phenomenal match. It is good for us to get that development in to move forward.”
Mitch Pinkus had been due to play against Ivybridge for Albion in that game on Monday, but Brixham did not want him risked.
Northcott’s display means he gets a start at seven for Ivybridge on Saturday, with young number eight Nathan Davies getting an opportunity again due to Luscombe’s injury.
“Nathan is a phenomenal player,” said Paterson. “He and Robin have been tussling for that number eight shirt, which is brilliant having two young number eights who are so physical. This is a fantastic opportunity for Nathan.”
Paterson himself is available this week after missing last week’s game and he will start on the bench, alongside fellow player-coach Jamie Tripcony.
Devon derbies in the league this season also count towards the Devon Senior Cup with the top two teams progressing to the final in April. Current cup holders Ivybridge are second at the moment in the Devon Cup table, just behind Barnstaple, but Brixham are only a point behind them in that competition. In the South West Premier League standings, Brixham are eight points behind.
SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services will be looking to end a mini losing run when they host North Petherton in South West One on Saturday.
The match is due to be played at the Rectory, but could be moved to Keyham if the weather gets any worse. However, wherever it is played, Services want to win after losing their last three matches.
Although they were well beaten by Launceston they have lost by just one score to Lydney and Newent in their last two games.
Last week at Newent they were leading until the 13th minute of stoppage time when the hosts scored a converted try to win 31-27.
“We’ve gone a losing streak without really recognising it,” said coach Mike Lewis. “It doesn’t feel like we have lost the last two games. We played some great rugby and been so close to winning.
“This week we are playing against another team who are in a similar position to us.
“We have home advantage and hopefully we will go well. Our guys are really up for it. They’ve put a lot of effort into training and hopefully we will turn it around.
“It might just take a bit of character from some of the younger players stepping up or some of the older players leading from the front.
“Sometimes when you have lost a few games it is at the back of your mind and you can lose confidence, but hopefully we won’t do that. We know the only real losses we’ve had have been against Launceston and Okehampton. The rest of the defeats have been so tight and we easily could have nicked them.”
Services do have Mark Friend, Matt Clegg, Tyler Busfield back from injury and Richard Goffin available again after military commitments in Scotland.
The likes of Keir Murphy, Ty Colwell and Jason Stead are also making progress from injuries.
“We should have a good little influx of players coming back after Christmas which should push us on for sure,” said Lewis.
Meanwhile, Saltash will continue their climb up the Western Counties West table on Saturday, if they beat Winscombe away.
The North Somerset side are just one place and one point ahead of Saltash, who also have a game in hand.
The Ashes moved up to 11th place last weekend and they could jump another two spots if they could claim a sixth victory in seven league and cup matches.
They do appear to have found their feet at level seven after a tough opening six weeks.
A win this weekend would also equal the number of victories they achieved the last time they were in Western Counties West in 2015-16. That season the Ashes only managed five victories all year, but they have already got four now.
Winscombe also have fourth wins to their name – all at home. They have beaten Paignton, Kingsbridge, Chard and Bideford on their own soil, but lost 60-6 last week at Wellington.
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks are hoping they can get back to winning ways when they travel to Lux Park on Saturday to take on Liskeard-Looe in the Cornwall/Devon League.
Oaks have lost their last two matches against Honiton and Bude to drop down to third in the standings, having led the table for 10 weeks.
“We have got Liskeard and Pirates in the next couple of games and we have to try and get back-to-back wins,” said player-coach Aiden Taylor.
“We are just looking to get some consistency in the team. If we can get to Christmas in that top four then hopefully we can get some players back after Christmas and push on.”
However, Oaks know a trip to Liskeard will not be easy. The south east Cornwall side have proved competitive on their return to level eight and currently sit in eighth spot, ahead of Combination rivals Plymouth Argaum and Tavistock.
“It is going to be a hard game,” said Taylor.
One player who will be particularly frustrated to miss out on the trip to Lux Park is centre Will Booth, who damaged his knee a couple of weeks ago.
Booth moved to Plymstock from Liskeard in the summer and has proved a key player for Oaks in the centre and they have missed his presence in their last two games.
“He’s absolutely gutted at missing the Liskeard game,” said Taylor. “He has done his MCL and got a fracture in his knee. He is going to be out until after Christmas.
“Our other big ball carrier Dave Byng found out he has been playing with a broken wrist and is now in a cast and out for four to six weeks.”
Life does not get any easy for Plymouth Argaum, who face a trip to second-placed Penryn on Saturday.
Argaum have lost their last four games to drop down to 10th in the table.
They have had a tough run of fixtures but were disappointed last week not to beat Liskeard-Looe at home. They lost 20-14 after conceding two early tries and they just failing to snatch victory at the end.
Argaum, who did impress in the scrums last week, know they will be up against it at promotion-chasing Penryn on Saturday. They lost 64-0 there last season.
“We were disappointed to lose last week,” said Argaum’s Stuart Quarterman. “The lads played really well and we were very, very unlucky to lose. We did have a good try under the posts disallowed, but Liskeard-Looe are not the worst team in the world.”
He added: “Our aim has to be to get a bonus point this week or whatever we can. We would certainly expect to be competitive.”
Argaum should have a similar pack out to last week, but there could be changes in the backs, although youngster Callum Malone should keep his place after impressing last weekend.
Tavistock are another side with a tough trip to a promotion hopeful. They visit in-form Honiton on Saturday.
In their last four games, Honiton have put 75 points on Pirates Amateurs, 53 on Argaum, 48 on Plymstock Albion Oaks and 44 on South Molton.
Tavistock, in 11th spot, know it will be a tough test for them in East Devon, but they took loads of confidence from last week’s impressive 45-19 win over Hayle.
“Honiton, in my opinion, will be the toughest place to go this season,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill.
“They play their slope well and are equally as deadly in the pack as out wide. One thing that both aspects have in common is they are sizeable and run hard.
“Our defence will be key to how the game goes, but with last week’s performance fresh in the mind and consistency in selection, I see no reason why we can’t put in a performance.”
Tavistock are boosted by the arrival of their second Australian import within three weeks.
Back five forward Doug Morgan-Thomas has joined his University North Owls team-mate Hamish Dawson at the west Devon club.
Scrum-half Dawson has made a quick impression in his first two games and scored two tries last weekend.
“Doug will feature on the bench after impressing in his first session on Thursday,” said Kerswill.
Tavistock, who have lost vice-captain Martin Budden for the rest of the season with a knee injury, revert to last year’s front-row of Charlie Charlton, Kerswill and Joe Hair, for Saturday’s game. However, other than that their pack remains the same, while they are only expected to make one change in the backs, with Jack Glover returning for Will Gardner, who is away with work. Richard Cann does return to the bench after recovering from a rib injury.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
Old Techs will be aiming to continue their good form when they host league leaders Exeter Athletic at Weston Mill on Saturday.
Techs have beaten Dartmouth and Buckfastleigh in their last two matches to move up to fifth in the standings.
However, they will be fully tested against an Exeter Athletic side who have only lost once so far this term – a narrow 18-14 loss at Buckfastleigh.
“We don’t know anything about them really,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “They have had some big results, but Dartmouth ran them close and they went to Buckfastleigh and lost so they are not unbeatable.
“Our confidence is up at the moment and we are playing some decent rugby and our structures are getting there. We are also at home, which will help.
“Realistically there is no pressure on us, apart from what we put on ourselves, as people will not be expecting us to win so we can just go out there and play our game and see where we are.
“We went away to Dartmouth and did well and also did well against Buckfastleigh and Torrington, but we didn’t do so well away at North Tawton. We are playing the top of the league again this week and it will be nice to see where we are now. We have certainly got nothing to lose, but we know we have to be clinical as they will be, just like North Tawton were.”
Dave Clack, Rudi Baker, Johnny Young and James Douglas, who played last week, are set to be missing this Saturday, but Techs expect to have Tom Luxton and Jack Coutney back.
OPMs also face a tough home game on Saturday when they host third-placed Exeter Saracens – another team that have only lost once in the league this season.
The Old Boys are hoping to bounce back from their 46-7 loss at fellow high-flyers Exeter Athletic last weekend in their last home match of 2018.
“I don’t remember playing them (Exeter Saracens) before,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “It is going to be another test and we’ll just have to see what they have to offer.”
OPMs have lost their last three league games.
“The win is there, it is waiting for us,” said Garratt. “It is just that last pass that we just seem to lack. It just needs to be tiny bit earlier or a little bit better so that we can go in for the score.”
Tamar Saracens are also at home this weekend. They entertain Dartmouth at the Parkway looking to claim their first win since October 20.
Their recent run of results has seen them drop to second from bottom in the table, but a win could move them up into the top seven. Dartmouth in sixth are only four points ahead of them.
Injury-hit Dartmouth have also been struggling for form, but they did beat OPMs three weeks ago on their last trip to Plymouth.
In the Devon Merit Table, struggling Plympton Victoria and DHSOB will be hoping they can find some form against tough opposition.
Weather permitting, Plym Vic are due to host unbeaten league leaders Salcombe at King George V Playing Fields.
The clubs know each other well and played each other in pre-season, with Salcombe winning.
“They are doing pretty well,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt.
Plym Vic have been struggling for player availability in recent weeks but hope to be able to get a full team out on Saturday.
Meanwhile, DHSOB are due to visit Tavistock IIs, who have been a bit inconsistent this term.
“You never really know with Tavistock,” said DHSOB coach Martyn Ruskin. “But we just have to do what we did against Plymstock Albion Oaks but just reduce the mistakes.”