IVYBRIDGE player-coach Lewis Paterson says his team are determined to try and bounce back from their defeat to Drybrook last weekend when they host Devon rivals Exeter University at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday in South West Premier.
The high-flying Bridgers suffered only their fourth loss of the season last Saturday when they narrowly went down 17-10 in Gloucestershire.
They did drop down to third place in the standings after that reverse but they do have the same number of points as second-placed Barnstaple.
“Last week was frustrating but we only had ourselves to blame,” said Paterson.
“We have worked really hard at training this week and there is a huge focus on Saturday.
“We are looking for that hunger and want again and to right a lot of wrongs.”
He added: “We did push ourselves to some absolute limits in training on Tuesday and we may be needed that wake-up call. They do happen during the season – teams at the top can slip up against really hungry underdogs.
“But we still came away from Drybrook with a bonus point, which is nothing to be ashamed about.”
Ivybridge’s opponents this week, Exeter University, sit in eighth spot but have been somewhat inconsistent in their first season at level five. The students, who drew with Exmouth last weekend, were beaten 25-19 by Ivybridge at the start of the season.
“It is going to be a big bruising game and will be a big test,” said Paterson.
“They are students and they are unpredictable, but you have to try and bully them. We were aggressive when we played them up at their place and I don’t think they expect that, but I am sure they will remember how aggressive we were.
“We are coming off the back of a loss and any team that has faced us after one before will tell you it is a battle. We are a team that does respond and I think we will be really hungry to get it right this week.”
Ivybridge hope to have a few players back from injury. Paterson, though, is not available, but fellow player-coach Jamie Tripcony is back after missing last week.
SOUTH WEST ONE & WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
The teams sit next to each other in the South West One standings, with Bridgwater in fifth and Services in sixth.
Both have got almost identical records, but Bridgwater are three points ahead due to scoring more tries.
“They are one place above us,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “We have both won nine games and lost six, but they have got a few more try scoring bonus points than us.
“We beat them by a point at home. I think they were questioning a few decisions and so we know they are going to be out for us. No-one wants a double over them, but we are really looking forward to it.”
Services, who beat Bridgwater 13-12 in September, have won their last three matches and started 2019 with a 32-5 win against Teignmouth last weekend.
“I think we have a bit of momentum at the minute,” said Lewis. “It’s the new year and players are keen. We have plenty of people wanting to play. We have first, seconds and colts out this weekend and all are full. We’ve even got extras and so some may miss out if they haven’t been training this week.
“We are in a strong position. We really have competition for places. It is like we were at the start of the season. It’s like we’ve set the re-start button.
“It’s a great place to be, but makes selection tough. We have five to 10 players putting their hands up for the first team this week and unfortunately some are going to be let down.”
A number of Services’ summer signings are now finding their feet in South West One, including winger Matt Neyle-Opie, who scored a hat-trick last week against Teignmouth.
Lewis said: “We know Toby Knowles on one wing and Matt Opie on the other have so much pace, but they are only light weight and so they need a bit extra space as they are not going to run over people, but they are going to run around people effectively. We just need to get the ball to them in space. We have been working on that, trying to give them the opportunity to run even more.”
In Western Counties West, 11th-placed Saltash have a Cornwall derby on Saturday when they travel to Truro, who sit in eighth spot.
Truro may be three places and seven points ahead but they have only secured one more win that Saltash this term and have proved quite inconsistent this term.
They did beat Saltash 36-10 early in the season, but that was when the Moorlands Lane club were still trying to find their feet in the league.
The Ashes were a bit frustrated to lose 23-17 at home to Tiverton last weekend and with Chard beating Winscombe they are only one point clear of the relegation zone so could do with a win this weekend.
The Pirates leapfrogged above Tavistock last weekend by surprisingly beating South Molton 23-12.
That means Tavistock find themselves back in the bottom three with 11 games to go.
The Sandy Park club’s performances have picked up over the season but they have still been finding wins hard to come by. They have only got three this season and could really do with one tomorrow.
“We are very much realistic that nothing but a win is good enough on Saturday,” admitted player-coach Hammy Kerswill. “We have to be targeting the games against teams around us in the league, especially at home.
“It was tight down there (Pirates won 14-9). We just ran out of time and were hit bad with an abundance of injuries.
“If we do the basics well and finish our chances we’ll set ourselves up for the result we want, but we have got to convert better than we have in our last two fixtures and reduce our error out.”
Tavistock are boosted by the return of a number of players, but will be without full-back Josh Birch, who is away.
Phil Wilson moves back to hooker from centre, with Kerswill going to tight-head prop. Australian Doug Morgan-Thomas will make his first start for the club at number six in an otherwise unchanged pack.
In the backs, Ed Nettleship, Jack Easton and Louis Cockcroft all return to bolster the squad.
Plymouth Argaum have also found themselves dragged into the relegation battle after winning just one of their last seven matches.
They played well last week but ended up losing 44-15 to local rivals Plymstock Albion Oaks, who scored four late tries.
This weekend they face a tough trip to South Molton, who have a good home record.
“We just need to get a bit of consistency with the team.
“There is no denying now that we are in the relegation mix.”
Argaum were beaten 31-7 by South Molton at Bickleigh Down earlier in the season. That day South Molton did the damage with scrums.
“On our day our scrum can be as good as anyone’s,” said Quarterman. “It was very good last week, but we can be inconsistent there.
“We know how South Molton are going to play and we know how we would like to play, but it depends on personnel.”
Argaum suffered a blow last week when all-action back-rower Joe Walker ruptured a bicep. Tom Worboys also picked up an injury, while forward Mason Edwards and fly-half Cheyenne Edwards are unavailable this week. However, Argaum should have Gavin Orr, Chris Perkins and Rory Dingenans available.
At the top end of the table, Plymstock Albion Oaks will be expected to pick up five points away at bottom club Withycombe.
But Plymstock know they cannot afford to underestimate their Exmouth-based hosts, who for years have been one of the top teams in the division and who beat Oaks last season to reached the Devon Intermediate Shield final, which they won by overcoming Honiton.
“Let’s hope we can keep our run going at Withycombe,” said Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor.
“You see they are bottom of the league but you just don’t know what Withycombe side they are going to put out. We have a few boys unavailable, but hopefully after that we can get some boys coming back.”
Oaks are hoping that strong ball carriers Will Booth and David Byng will come back from injuries by the end of this month.
Elsewhere, seventh-placed Liskeard-Looe visit fifth-placed Torquay Athletic.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
Just one place and three points separate the clubs in the table, with Techs in seventh and OPMs in eighth.
In a tight league, positions are switching around every week with just five points between fifth and nine spot. Tamar Saracens, Old Techs and OPMs all have four wins and six defeats to their names.
Games between OPMs and Techs over the last few years have always been close. When the sides met in the third game of this season, OPMs narrowly won 19-13 after Techs controversially had a try disallowed.
“That game has gone now. You can’t change what happened,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “Hopefully things like that even themselves out during the season.
“It’s a local derby and they are always close games. There’s nothing really between the two teams. It will just come down to the day.”
He added: “You always want to win every game, but it adds a bit more to it when you are playing other teams from Plymouth.
“We know there won’t be much in the game. It will be a tough, but we are looking forward to it and I’m sure they are.
“We just have to try and stick to our game-plan and go through our phases. One win in this league and you jump up a number of places, so it is important.”
Techs took positives from their performance last week against high-flying North Tawton. Although they lost 34-24 they did pick up a bonus point for scoring four tries against the title-chasers.
“We did take a lot of positives out of last week against a good North Tawton side,” said Bedford-Smith. “We were missing quite a few players but came within 10 points and got a bonus point. Obviously we would have liked to have won, but we showed loads of character after going four tries down in the first half to come back.
“We didn’t collapse and showed loads of spirit and played really well second half. It was a bit frustrating we didn’t do it in the first half as we showed what we could do after the break. We just need to do it for 80 minutes.”
Techs should be boosted by the return of Matt Simmonds, Dan Bartlett, Nick Friend, Jack Williams and Sean Doyle, who have all been out injured or ill.
OPMs have not played a league match since surprisingly losing 6-3 to New Cross on December 15.
Although they played a club fixture last week at Salcombe, they are desperate to get back into league action and are really looking forward to Saturday.
“I know we had a club XV game against Salcombe last week, but in Devon One we have had quite a break,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt.
“But this is a nice tough game to start the new year off with. We’re looking forward to it. I’m certainly raring to go – I can’t wait to get back to it. I hate not playing rugby and so I’ve have hated this break.”
He added: “It is always a close game against Techs and we’ll be expecting the same on Saturday.
“Hopefully, we will go out there all guns blazing.
“I think it is going to be an interesting game. We are coming back from our Christmas break, whereas they have already had a game and by all accounts did well against North Tawton. But hopefully, we can walk away with the win.”
Elsewhere in Devon One, Tamar Saracens face a tough trip to North Tawton.
However, they will go there knowing they caused them problems when they met at the Parkway earlier in the season. North Tawton eventually won that match 33-21 but Sarries gave them a real run for their money.
“When we played them last time we should have won, but we gave them two very late tries through silly interceptions,” said player Marc Cioffi. “We will be looking to take the game to them again this time.”
Sarries have risen up to fifth in the table after a walkover against Dartmouth and a 17-9 win over New Cross last Saturday.
Sarries were not at their best last week, but feel that game will help them on Saturday.
“We won last week and dusted off the cobwebs and we’re just looking at North Tawton now,” said Cioffi.
There are some tough games for the region’s sides In the Devon Merit Table.
Plympton Victoria, fresh from their impressive 36-14 win over Tavistock II last weekend, host second-placed Torquay Athletic II at King George V Playing Fields.
Plym Vic were delighted last week by not only their win but the amount of players they had.
“We are lucky to have had players come back,” said Chris Hunt. “It should be an interesting fixture with Torquay as we are at home.”
Plym Vic were beaten 51-0 away by the Tics but they were far from at full strength that day. A big boost for them last weekend was the return of star centre Sam Stockdale, who had missed the first half of the season.
Also in the Merit Table, DHSOB face a trip to Plymstock Albion Oaks II.
Oaks won the first game 31-7 and DHSOB know they are likely to be stronger at Horsham Fields.
Unlike Plym Vic, DHSOB have not had a new year boost of players, but are confident they will get a team out.
“We will have a team,” said director of rugby Martyn Ruskin. “We have been pretty consistent with our numbers all season, but it would be nice to have a few new faces.
“Now we are in the second half of the season it is more about goals now. We know our style of rugby and we now know each other so now it is about taking that forward and taking it to the next step.”
Club coaches Steve Chapman and Pete Rushmore have taken on more responsibility with the Old Boys’ first team with the club trying to build from within.
Elsewhere in the Merit Table, St Columba & Torpoint will host unbeaten leaders Salcombe in possibly the match of the day.
Salcombe have won all eight of their league games so far, but fourth-placed Saints have proved on their day that they can cause anyone in the division problems, which is highlighted by the fact that they have picked up seven bonus points from eight games.