Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge look for for highest league finish

IVYBRIDGE can guarantee their highest league finish this weekend, if they can win at Bracknell.

The Bridgers currently sit in fourth place in the South West Premier League table, seven points behind second-placed Maidenhead, who play leaders Bournemouth this weekend.

Not only could the South Hams close the gap of the sides ahead of them on Saturday but a bonus-point victory would mean they would definitely finish in the top five.

Their previous best finish was sixth in the 2016-17 season. They have already surpassed their best points tally in level five, but the Bridgers are not just happy to settle for that.

However, they are expecting a tough test at Bracknell, who know a win will guarantee their place in the league for another season.

“They (Bracknell) went away to Exmouth last week and got a big win,” said Ivybridge player-coach Jamie Tripcony. “Exmouth is a tough place to go and win – we didn’t do that – so we won’t take Bracknell lightly at all.

“I think they will be absolutely gunning us on Saturday.

“We just have to turn up with the right attitude. It is a long, old journey and sometimes that can affect you, but we won’t be looking for excuses come 2.15pm.”

Ivybridge will be missing highly-rated youngsters Will Lamont and Nathan Davies this week as well as the injured Luke Martell.

Lamont and Davies have really established themselves in the side this summer after coming up through the club’s colts’ side.

“They have been big parts of the squad,” said Tripcony. “I think we are always blessed with youngsters coming through and our current team speaks volumes for that.

“Ivybridge is a club where if you are big enough to put your hand up you are big enough to play. I think the youngsters have been doing really well and have been taking their chances. It is one thing having a chance, it’s another thing taking an opportunity. Some guys have certainly done that this year and last and the year before that. The club is in a good place.”

Ivybridge’s current set of colts’ will get the chance to impress on Sunday when they play Cullompton at Cross-in-Hand in the semi-finals of the Devon Cup (11.30am). The winners will take on holders Topsham in the final at Exmouth on April 7.

Sunday’s colts’ game will be followed by Devon Schools’ under-15s against Bristol under-15s.

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services are desperate to get back to winning ways after three consecutive defeats.

Those losses have seen them drop out of the race for a top three finish and they are currently seventh.

However, they are only five points behind fourth-placed Bridgwater, but face a tough test on Saturday when they host third-placed Newent at the Rectory.

Newent have won their last five games. Their only defeat in their last seven matches was a narrow 15-12 reverse at leaders Okehampton.

Services, though, will take heart from their impressive home record. Their last two defeats have been away, while they only narrowly lost 26-22 to promotion-chasing Launceston in their last home fixture. That was only their second defeat of the season at the Rectory – and their biggest.

“We are consistent at home but at the moment when we go away we under-perform,” said head coach Mike Lewis. “We know we are considered a better team at home and hopefully we can continue that this weekend.”

He added: “But Newent are going really well.

“They were a solid team when we went up and played them earlier in the year. They were quite clinical on the ball and good at slowing ours down.

“They have got a core group of players who are very much local lads who have been with them for years and so are quite a tight little group.

“When we played them up there they beat us in the 13th minute of added-on time and we felt a bit aggrieved, so I think we owe them one down here.”

After such a promising season following promotion, Lewis does not want his team to end it in disappointing fashion.

“I have given team talks recently about how we want to end on a high and how you always remember how you finish,” he said. “You can do really well at the start but all you do remember is your finish to the season.

“We just need to grind out a result – even if it is not a pretty performance – we just want to get back on that winning bandwagon.”

Services are far from at full strength this weekend as they have a number of players unavailable, but Lewis is hoping his squad’s depth will show through on Saturday.

In Western Counties West, Saltash have a massive match away at relegation rivals Paignton.

The south Devon club are bottom of the table but they are only four points behind 11th-placed Saltash, who are just staying out of the relegation zone on number of wins and points difference.

The Ashes will be looking to put last week’s controversial 17-14 home defeat to Kingsbridge behind them.

Saltash thought they were going to win the game when they were awarded a penalty in their own 22 in the final minute of the match, but, after discussions with players, the referee changed his mind and awarded Kingsbridge a scrum from which they scored a match-winning try.

A win last week would have put Saltash in a great position to stay up, but they know it is still in their hands.

They also have the added bonus of finishing their season with two home games. This weekend will be their last away trip.

Paignton, like many of the sides towards the bottom, have been inconsistent this season. They have lost their last two games to Winscombe and Kingsbridge but did beat Falmouth 35-10 at home at the start of the month.

There was little between the teams when they met at Moorlands Lane in December with Saltash just edging the game 17-15.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE AND ROUND-UP

PLYMOUTH Argaum could be relegated this weekend if they lose away at Combination rivals Liskeard-Looe.

Argaum are nine points from safety with three games to go and the Bickleigh Down club are preparing for the worst, albeit without giving up hope of a great escape.

“We remain positive,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “We have got some key individuals back, but we are well aware we really need five points.

“If we can pull off a surprise win it might mean it goes to the end of the season.”

Argaum were frustrated to lose 20-14 to Liskeard at the start of December after having a try controversially disallowed.

“We believe we should have beaten them at home before Christmas, but since then they have kicked on and we know they are strong at home,” said Quarterman. “It is also their president’s day so they will be up for the game.”

Argaum should be boosted by the return of Tom Holliday, Chris Perkins and Cheyenne Edwards, who have all missed the last few games.

Tavistock could do Argaum a favour by beating third-from-bottom Hayle away.

Hayle are third from bottom, six points ahead of Argaum.

“It is never easy going to Hayle,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill. “And they will be really up for this one.

“They will see us as very beatable now we have confirmed our safety, but we still have ambition to see the season out and will be looking for a result.

“Last week (against Lanner) we fell asleep in the middle half-hour and we have got to avoid that as Hayle is a hard place to win when you’ve gone behind.”

Tavistock are forced to make a few of changes due to work commitments and injuries.

Seb Cox and Joe Hair return to the pack, with Jack Lewis moving from the bench to start at hooker. Jack Glover returns at scrum-half and Conor Packwood will make his second start on the wing

Fourth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks saw their hopes of sneaking into the top two all-but mathematically ended last weekend by losing to Honiton at home.

However, they want to finish an impressive season on a high, starting on Saturday when they travel to third-placed Bude.

Oaks want to play like they did in the first half against Honiton last weekend, when they led 20-3, and pay Bude back for a 19-5 home defeat at the start of December, which was their first at Horsham Fields.

“Hopefully, it is going to be a nice day and we can play our fast-game,” said Oaks’ player-coach Aiden Taylor.

Oaks will secure a top four spot if they do win on Saturday or Torquay lose at Withycombe.

“Fourth would be an excellent season,” said Taylor. “We had been looking for just the top six at the start of the season.”

Elsewhere, Old Techs could reach the Lockie Cup final on Saturday if they beat the Peninsula Medical School at Weston Mill. The winners will meet Devonport Services II at the Rectory on April 24.

“It would be good to get to a final, but we have to beat Peninsula first,” said Techs chairman David Evans. “It is going to be a hard game and we have got a few away.”

In the Ellis Trophy, Tamar Saracens II will take on Saltash III for a place in the final.

Sarries’ first team are already through to the RNEC cup final and would love to make it a cup double.

Meanwhile, in the Devon Merit Table, DHSOB are due to play University of Plymouth III at Stonehouse Creek, while St Columba & Torpoint are set to host Tavistock II at Defiance Field.

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