Services’ second team have had an impressive season. They finished fourth in a 12-strong Devon Merit Table Division One, not far behind leaders Okehampton, Exmouth and Barnstaple. Those four clubs were more than 20 points ahead of the rest, which included Brixham, Newton Abbot and Ivybridge’s second team, who finished nearly 50 points behind Services.
Devonport have also been unstoppable on their way to the Lockie Cup final. They beat Techs’ Devon One rivals Tamar Saracens 53-0 and Cornwall/Devon League sides Tavistock 68-15 and Liskeard-Looe 36-10.
But Techs are relishing the challenge of trying to upset them and win back the Lockie Cup that they lifted in 2016 and 2017.
“We are really looking forward to it,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“They (Services) have 100 players to choose from so they are going to have a strong team. They have done very well this season in the Devon Merit Table and have been beating teams for fun. In the Lockie Cup they have beaten two Devon/Cornwall sides, which is no fluke.
“We know we will have to be on our top game. We have spoken about the task we have. We are under no illusions; we know how hard it is going to be.
“Any neutral will be saying Services are going to win. We know we will be the underdogs, but we have some quality players and we are confident that we can compete.
“We are on a good run, winning our last three games and we have been scoring quite a few points. Hopefully, if the game is allowed to flow it should be a good one.
“As I said, we know it is going to be a tough game, but that’s what you want in a final as you want to see where you are. We have people in our team who are capable of playing at a higher standard, but they want to play for Old Techs, which is good.”
Techs are without a few players, including winger Peni Turua, who has been scoring tries for fun in recent weeks, but they feel they have got a good side out.
“It’s a cup final so we have got decent availability,” said Bedford-Smith. “We have got a couple missing, but it’s not been an easy selection as we can only pick 19.
“It’s a good headache to have and selection has been really tough and we’ve had to disappoint people.”
However, Matty Anstis has not made either final after chipping a bone in his ankle in their final league game 11 days ago.
He had been hoping to play in the Lockie Cup final to mark the end of his long Services career.
“This would have been his final game, but when we played Okehampton (in our last league game) he cracked a bone in his ankle,” said Services’ head coach Mike Lewis. “He was hoping he might be able to hobble around and have a bit of a game, but he’s not going to make it.”
Services also have a doubt over hooker Dave Wilkins, who turned his ankle after coming on as a replacement on Sunday.
Tonight’s cup final will mark the end of former Devon under-20 forward Ben Morris’ Services career.
“He has been here for four years while at university,” said Lewis. “And he’s been a good servant to the club.”
Services are set to have a mixture of young players, such as Toby Moss and Joe Vatcher, who came on as replacements in Sunday’s Devon final, and more experienced players like Adrian Montague and former Techs forwards Tony Sibley and Bryan Milford.
“We have got quite a good mix of youth and experience,” said Lewis.
The Services coach has been delighted with how the club’s second team have performed this season. They ended their league season on Saturday with a 69-37 win over Brixham II, which followed a 41-18 victory over champions Okehampton II.
Lewis said: “Our second team this season have done really well in terms of the standard of rugby they have played and the commitment they have shown.
“They have finished fourth in Devon Merit Table Division One just 11 points off the top. Above us they was only Barnstaple, Exmouth and Okehampton, who we beat a couple of weeks ago. They are all big teams and so I think we are punching well above our weight.”
But Lewis expects Techs to pose a much different threat to the teams they often play in the Devon Merit Table.
“Second team rugby is quite different,” said Lewis. “And I’m sure Old Techs will have all their players available as it’s a cup final – a big occasion – and they will be right up for it. It will be quite different to a second team fixture. I think it will be a lot more fiery and physical and just as fast-placed as playing one of the top teams in the Merit Table.”
He added: “Even though on paper we might look like the favourites, I don’t think there will be a big gap in the scores. I think it could be a five to 10 point game either way. It will come down to who has the best attitude and plays the best rugby on the day.”
Many of Services’ team tonight will have had first team experience at some point, but Lewis said: “We have used 67 players in the first team this season so almost everyone has played.
“We have also used 100 players for the twos making sure we get a team out every week. It is great for the club that we can rely on that many players.”
Saltash are another club will a lot of depth and their third team will be on show in the Ellis Trophy final against Tavistock II tonight in the other Plymouth Combination cup (6pm).
The Ashes side will be a mixture of some of their promising colts and some of their veterans.
Tavistock’s team is also set to feature plenty of youth as well as a few more experienced heads in their pack like Duncan Law, Darren Guppy and Phil Wilson.
Tavistock will be looking to add the Ellis Trophy to the RNEC Cup they won last Wednesday.