IVYBRIDGE are keen to build on last week’s bonus-point win over Maidenhead when they make the short trip to troubled Devon rivals Newton Abbot on Saturday.
The Bridgers ended a run of four consecutive defeats with a 24-17 success over Maidenhead, which keeps them in the running for second place.
They are just seven points behind Barnstaple who currently sit second and still have the north Devon club to play.
However, before they can even start thinking about targeting Barnstaple they have to get a win this weekend against a Newton Abbot side that find themselves second-from-bottom and seven points away from safety. If that was not bad enough for the Devon All Whites, they have now lost some players due to issues over contracts.
Ivybridge are not totally sure who Newton Abbot will have playing for them this week, but they are just concentrating on themselves.
“We just have to go there with the momentum from last week’s win,” said player-coach Lewis Paterson.
“We can’t focus on their situation; we just have to look at what we want to achieve – which is a big win.
“We have a good side out and, hopefully, we can do some damage.”
He added: “Hopefully, we can start building up some momentum again now and getting some wins under our belts after a terrible January.”
Ivybridge are set to make just one change to their starting line-up following last week’s win, with youngster Adam Northcott coming in at flanker, while Luke Martell is available again but will start on the bench.
Saturday’s match is also important for Ivybridge if they want to reach the Devon Senior Cup final again. This year league games against other Devon sides count towards cup points and there is currently a five-way battle for the two final places.
SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
Sixth-placed Services have been in impressive form recently, scoring 40 points or more in their last three matches to close the gap on the teams above them.
They are now within one win of fourth place and are only 11 points behind second-placed Launceston, who they still have to play at the Rectory.
Lewis, though, has told his team they cannot just expect another win this weekend against a Coney Hill side, who got their first victory of the season last Saturday when they beat Cullompton 46-42. The Services boss wants his side to show the same focus and mind-set as they showed last week against Thornbury.
“You just have to watch yourself with games like these,” said Lewis.
“You look at their result last week against Cullompton and they scored 46 points and we only scored 40 against them. Their defence was not quite as good as ours and they were at home, but it shows they are not a bad team.
“When we played them up there they had three or four really good key individuals. We were just fortunate we were able to keep them out of the game.
“But this is one of those games that is a potential banana skin, if we don’t have the right attitude.”
He added: “We have got consistency in our squad at the minute – we are only likely to be making two or three changes – but I do not want us turning up thinking we have got this.
“We have scored more than 120 points in our last three games, which is fantastic, but we can’t just go into this game expecting to score another 40 or 50 points just because they are bottom of the league.
“What we have done really well in our last three games is dominate up front – our scrum, line-out and individual forward play has been fantastic – and that has got us on the front-foot and allowed our backs to be able to play. If the mind-set is not right then you don’t make those extra two yards and you are playing off the back foot and so you don’t get those breaks and scores and you get frustrated and get on top of each other.”
Although a top two spot may be a long shot with just seven games left to go, Lewis has told his team to aim as high as possible.
“Let’s not be comfortable with sixth,” he said. “Let’s see if we can push on to fifth, four, third maybe and you never know if we have two great performances against Okehampton and Launceston and get two wins then that closes the gap on them. That is goal we have to look at.”
Services expect to have a similar squad out to last Saturday, but Mark Friend and youngsters Jonah Moore and Toby Moss are not available this weekend.
In Western Counties West, Saltash have a massive match away at third-from-bottom Chard.
A month ago the Ashes were looking like they had pulled clear of danger and were eyeing a mid-table spot on their return to level seven. But three consecutive defeats, coupled with wins for the teams below them, mean Saltash are back in a relegation fight.
If they were to lose on Saturday they could find themselves back in the bottom three again as Chard are only two points behind them.
All the teams in the division now have at least five wins to their name, meaning all the clubs in the bottom eight now find themselves looking over their shoulders.
Saltash narrowly beat Chard 26-24 at home in October and the Cornish club will not be totally sure what to expect from their Somerset rivals, who have proved very inconsistent this season.
Defeat in Cornwall would leave Argaum with an uphill battle to avoid the drop. A win, though, could move them out of the bottom three and give them real hope going into their final six matches.
At the moment Argaum sit third from bottom, three points behind Lanner and nine behind 10th-placed Pirates Amateurs. The Pirates play second-from-bottom Hayle this weekend, so a win is crucial for Argaum.
“It’s not all over even if we do struggle this weekend,” insisted Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “But there is no hiding from the maths.”
“Every game now is a cup final.”
If they could get ahead of Lanner this weekend then on paper they have a better run in than their Cornish rivals, but if they were to fall eight points behind them then they would need to win at least three of their last six matches to have any hope of staying up.
Argaum could be hit by more availabilities issues again this week. Although they hope to have Dan James available to travel to Cornwall, Jamie Burton, who impressed on his comeback last week, is struggling with illness, while Rory Dingemans and Tom Holliday, who also had good games last Saturday are doubtful, while Mason Edwards has moved away.
Argaum, though, have boosted their squad recently by signing scrum-half Lee Evans, 18-year-old South African-born back JJ vom Hagen and former colt Lewis Hunt.
Fourth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks are expecting a tough task on Saturday when they travel to fifth-placed Torquay Athletic.
Oaks have only lost three times this season and are only six points off second spot with the top two – Penryn and Honiton – playing each other on Saturday. Plymstock know if they could win at the Recreation Ground then they would still have a real chance of promotion.
Plymstock did beat Torquay 27-15 at Horsham Fields in October, but the Tics proved tougher to beat on their own patch.
“Torquay away is going to be a very hard game,” said Oaks’ player-coach Aiden Taylor.
“We are not going to go into that one lightly at all. Hopefully, the weather is nice and we can play our style of rugby.
“They will be a hard team. I think it will be a close game, but hopefully we have good availability and can put on a bit of a performance.
“If we play like we did at times last Saturday we can beat any team in the league, I believe. It is just about getting that consistency for 80 minutes.”
Tavistock are also on their travels this weekend. They head to bottom side Withycombe, who appear resigned to relegation after having points deducted. Even in the Exmouth-based club did win all their remaining seven games it would still probably not be enough to stay up.
“We haven’t won at Withycombe in a number of years and although they are struggling this season they will see us as a winnable game,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.
“We must concentrate on ourselves and keep doing what we have been doing whilst not putting too much emphasis on the opposition.
“I’d like to think we are virtually safe now but we don’t want to be a side to settle for safety.
“All season I’ve felt we will and should finish sixth and it isn’t too far away, but will require the string of performances to continue for the rest of the season.
“The atmosphere at the club is great at the moment and the boys are thriving on a winning mentality and really enjoying their rugby.”
Tavistock have said goodbye to Australians Hamish Dawson and Doug Morgan-Thomas, who have been influential in their upturn in form.
Jack Easton will be handed the number nine shirt that Dawson has worn so well for the last couple of months, with Jack Glover continuing at full-back after impressing there last week. Jack Lewis takes over the number six shirt, with Kerswill coming back in at hooker and Seb Cox and Leione Cole returning to the second-row.
There is also a start on the wing for veteran Tom Charlesworth after he impressed in the second team last week, while Hallam Bourton is named on the bench after returning from illness where he will join Rob Pratt, who has returned to Tavistock after spells at Brixham and Devonport.
Elsewhere, seventh-placed Liskeard-Looe, who pushed Honiton all the way last week, head to third-placed Bude.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
Saracens entertain Torrington, Techs host Totnes, while OPMs welcome Buckfastleigh to King George V Playing Fields.
Saracens had a week off last Saturday but have been in great form since the start of the year. They are unbeaten in 2019 and will be hoping to continue that against a Torrington side who have won three of their last four games, including wins over Techs and OPMs.
Techs were frustrated to lose 26-5 last week against Torrington. They have lost their last two games are keen to put that right against Totnes at home on Saturday.
“Totnes is always a hard fixture,” said Techs’ Sean Bedford-Smith. “But we could do with a win after a couple of losses.
“Our problem has been getting some consistency in the team. We are having to make five or six changes every week. We have got some new players but they are still learning our game-plan. Everyone is doing well and trying hard but we just need to get that cohesiveness.
“Totnes usually have quite a big front-row, but we are at home and it should be a dry day and it would be nice to get a result.”
Techs should welcome back Matt Simmonds, who missed the trip to Torrington, but they are likely to be without other players who are not available this week.
OPMs are desperate to get their season back on track after failing to get a win in 2019. They have lost their last five matches, including a surprise 38-7 defeat at Totnes last weekend. That was Totnes’ first win since Christmas.
OPMs will know what to expect his week having played Buckfastleigh regularly over the last few seasons. Both clubs came up together from Devon Two and recent meetings have been very close. Buckfastleigh won 9-8 at their place at the start of November. Last year’s meeting at King George V Playing Fields was also a one-point game.
“We know they are physical up front and then when they get it wide they are quick,” said Garratt. “We have to be very switched on this Saturday.
“Hopefully, we will have a strong team out and we can get a win.”
In the Devon Merit Table, there should be a good battle at King George V Playing Fields where in-form Plympton Victoria host St Columba & Torpoint.
Plym Vic have won three out of their five games since the new year to move to within five points of fifth placed Saints, who have not played for nearly a month.
Plympton Victoria will go into the match in a positive mood after beating DSHOB 48-14 last weekend.
“Training has been going really well and the game-plan is coming on,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “Things are looking up and there have been plenty of positive steps forward.”
Those positives steps including bringing some young players into their squad and getting more numbers at training, having switched to Ivybridge for January and February.