IVYBRIDGE head coach Gareth Elliott insists his side will not be taking Launceston lightly when they host the Cornish side at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday in their opening home match of the season.
The Bridgers were without a game last weekend as the South West Premier only has 13 teams in it this year, leaving one club without a fixture every Saturday.
“The break has been a bit weird and having it the second week of the season probably was not the best time to have it,” said Elliott.
“But we have worked on some stuff in those two weeks. It’s almost been like an extra two weeks of pre-season really.
“The boys have been training hard, but it will be good to get back into matches. It will be good to have a run of games now as it has been a bit stop-start.”
While Ivybridge were having an unwelcome break, newly-promoted Launceston were hammered 76-24 at Polson Bridge by Exmouth, who the Bridgers had drawn with away on the opening day of the campaign.
But the Ivybridge coaching staff have warned their team about reading anything into last week’s result.
Three seasons ago, Launceston were struggling at the foot of the table and had not won away in more than a year but they turned Ivybridge over 23-16 at Cross-in-Hand having come back from 13-0 down.
“That is still fresh in some players’ minds,” said Elliott. “We are not going to take them lightly for several reasons – one, they have come here before when they have been struggling a bit and turned us over and, secondly, we haven’t won a game yet this season and it is our first home game. There are loads of motivating factors for us and I’m sure the lads are up for it.”
Ivybridge are without player-coach and former Launceston forward Jamie Tripcony due to a slight knee injury, while centre Jordan Anderton is also out after tweaking his hamstring.
The Bridgers are set to had a first team debut to youngster Matt Gilbury, who is named among the replacements for Saturday’s game.
Ivybridge’s second team are also at home on Saturday. They entertain Paignton in Devon Merit Table Division One.
SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
DEVONPORT Services will be hoping to continue their impressive start to the 2019-20 season when they entertain newly-promoted Sidmouth at the Rectory.
Services are the early leaders of South West One West after beating Newton Abbot 52-13 and North Petherton 41-21.
Sidmouth, in contrast, are still waiting for their first win after losing 36-15 at Cleve in their opening match and then narrowly going down 30-28 last week to Crediton after conceding a last-gasp try.
But Devonport head coach Mike Lewis is wary of threat Sidmouth will pose this weekend.
“We didn’t play them last year but we did the year before – the year we got promoted – and they were the only team to beat us twice,” said Lewis.
“We played them away in about the six or seventh match of the season and they had not won but they beat us and that put them on an upward curve and they finished just outside the play-offs. When we played them at home the game had to be moved to Keyham as the weather was pretty appaulling and they beat us by five points.
“They are a good team, who play a good brand of rugby. They are quite well organised and I think this might be the toughest game we have had so far.
“You just don’t know where teams stand at this stage of the season. We might have played the two best teams in the league or the two worst, you just don’t know.
“But I am aware of how good Sidmouth were when we played them in Western Counties and I don’t think they will have got any weaker. We are definitely aware of what they are going to bring and so we have to take up it another step again.”
Services have certainly been running in the tries this season.
“For the last few years we have always been trying to play an exciting brand of rugby,” said Lewis. “We still want a good defence as well, but we are trying to play a brand of rugby that people enjoy playing. It’s not Fiji-style, but maybe not quite as structured as other teams play.”
Services are still without fly-half Richard West and they are hoping Alex Mawdsley, who made his league debut at 10 last week, will be fit enough to play this week after picking up a nasty graze at North Petherton.
They are also boosted by the return of Royal Navy back Rhys Williams, who has yet to feature in the first team this season due to injury and work commitments.
In Western Counties West, Saltash face a tough first home game of the season when they entertain Cornish rivals St Austell.
The Ashes have had to play back-to-back away fixtures at the start of the campaign and have just a bonus point to show for their efforts against Penryn and Wiveliscombe.
In a competitive league they are one of only four teams not to have a win from their opening two matches of the season.
Ambitious St Austell, with former Plymouth Albion captain Kyle Marriott as their head coach, sit at the other end of the early standings with two wins out of two. They have beaten Honiton away and Penryn at home.
Saltash have a double-header to mark their first home fixture of 2019-20 as their second team are also at home to Plymstock Albion Oaks II.
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will be looking for a third straight victory when they host winless South Molton in their first home match of the 2019-20 campaign.
Oaks have overcome Cornish sides Pirates Amateurs and Veor away in their first two games.
South Molton, who lost a number of players to higher league Tiverton in the summer, have been beaten by the Pirates and Paignton in their opening fixtures.
“They lost to the Pirates Amateurs who we beat, but you never know what they are going to turn up with,” said Oaks head coach Aiden Taylor.
“I’ve heard they’ve lost a few players, but we can’t underestimate anyone. We just have to take each game as it comes and not look any further than that. With our injury list we can’t afford to look any further.
“It is our VP day so hopefully we have good availability and can really push on.”
Oaks will be missing last week’s hat-trick hero Ben Hadfield who is unavailable and teenage number eight Pete Keanie, who dislocated his shoulder at Veor.
Meanwhile, Oaks will be making Oliver Brown and his younger brother Benjamin mascots for the day.
Oliver has a rare disease called Myelodysplastic Syndrome – a blood cancer affecting four children per million worldwide.
In the last few years he has undergone two bone marrow transplants but the cancer has returned and there are no other curative options available.
Oliver’s brother Ben is in Plymstock’s under-nines team and so the club are trying to help the family raise funds for The Grand Appeal, which is the Bristol Children’s Hospital charity.
The club will present a shirt to Oliver and then have a team picture with him and his brother and also one with the other under-nine players before doing some passing drills with the two brothers before kick-off.
Tavistock will be looking for their first win of the season when they travel to the Pirates Amateurs.
Tavistock are so far lost both their opening games without scoring a point – going down 26-0 away at North Tawton and 21-0 at home to Paignton.
The Sandy Park club have been boosted by the arrival of a number of new players this week.
New Zealanders Pjay Luatua and George Fa’auma have arrived at Tavistock on a season playing holiday from Auckland University Rugby Club.
They have also signed former Launceston and Brixham back-rower Sam Snell and Matt Redman, who has been playing and working in Holland but is going to work at Mount Kelly, while Aidan Mason and Will Slater have returned to the club. Back-rower Slater has had numerous injuries after a season at Plymouth Albion and then going away to university in Wales.
A third of their starting line-up this weekend will be debutants. Among those handed a chance is first-year senior Ollie Noy-Scott, who will line-up in the back-row alongside Snell.
Tavistock also have player-coach Hammy Kerswill back at hooker after a head injury.
“Pirates away is never easy,” said Kerswill. “We’ve had some tough battles down there over the years, but they are always close.
“We’ve got a new-look team and the boys who have come up from the twos have earned their stripes.
“We need to start being clinical in what we do and converting opportunities we create.
“It’s a slow burner, but with a player base easily exceeding 60 now it will take a little time to get the right combos and click.”
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
THE big game in Devon One is at Bickleigh Down where Plymouth Argaum will host city rivals OPMs in a rare competitive meeting.
The clubs have been in different leagues for years, with both going up and down at various times.
“I can’t remember playing them in a competitive game,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman, who has been involved with the Roborough-based club for 20 years ago.
“We play every Christmas, but it is going to be a little odd playing a league match against them.”
“It is going to another tough game,” said Quarterman.
OPMs head coach Rick Orkney also said the same thing and added: “It will be a good measure of how far we have come.”
Argaum will be without new signings Billy Stockwell and Billy Evans, who impressed on their debut last weekend.
Stockwell broke his arm in that game, while Evans is away. Alex Cameron and Luke Nichols are also unavailable, but Argaum have other players back, including Mike Hunt and Will Lord.
Hunt can play in the backs or the forwards but he could be an option in the line-out where OPMs impressed last week with new player-coach Pete Abraham.
“He was outstanding and has made a big difference to us,” said OPMs coach Orkney on Abraham’s performance last week.
Old Techs face another road trip with a journey to former Cornwall/Devon League outfit Withycombe.
“It’s not going to be easy going to Withycombe,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “I see they put quite a few points on Buckfastleigh and to do that at Buckfastleigh shows they must be a good side.
“It is a long time since we have played them in the league so we are going into the unknown but, equally, they won’t know anything about us.
“They are going to have that experience of playing in the league above, but I think we can cause them some problems.”
Bedford-Smith was encouraged by his side’s performance last week despite conceding two late tries in their defeat to OPMs.
“We’ve been working on the little things that went wrong, but there were plenty of positives,” said Bedford-Smith. “It was just a couple of mistakes that cost us – maybe a bit of rustiness as we did not have many pre-season games.
“I think we are team that is going to get better when we get some games under our belts.
“I was happy with our fitness last week – I thought that has improved since last season – and defensively I thought we were outstanding, as they (OPMs) were as well.”
Techs, starting the season with back-to-back away games, are missing four of last week’s squad but should have a few other players back.
Tamar Saracens play their first home match of the campaign on Saturday when they welcome New Cross to Parkway.
Sarries opened their season last Saturday with a 26-13 win away at Ilfracombe.
“Hopefully we can get a home win and go from strength to strength.”
New Cross finished bottom of Devon One last season but have proved before that they can upset Sarries, who will be keen to improve on their discipline after picking up three yellow cards last weekend.
In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria will get the chance to play at Astley Park as they take on Brixham Albion, which is the South West Premier club’s third team.
The match is due to be played at 4.30pm after Brixham’s first team take on Barnstaple in a big Devon derby.
“We have no idea what we will be facing,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “Brixham are obviously a good outfit but if they put out a genuine third team it should be an interesting and exciting game.”
Elsewhere in Devon Merit Table Division Two, DHSOB will play Plymouth University III.
The Old Boys were handed a walkover last week by St Columba & Torpoint.
“We had a squad for 18 for that game so it was disappointing not to play,” said DHSOB’s Mike Freeman. “You can lose a bit of momentum and the previous week was highly-successful.”
DHSOB are missing some players but hope to have a few back and will be looking to recruit some student this weekend for their side. They will host the University of Plymouth’s freshers’ trials on Sunday, where between 50 and 60 players are likely to attend.
DHSOB have also had what they described as a ‘positive’ meeting with Plymouth Sutton & Devonport MP Luke Pollard about the problems with Stonehouse Creek and how the closure of the community centre is impacting on their club.
Also in Devon Merit Division Two, OPMs II are due to host St Columba & Torpoint, while Tavistock II will entertain Salcombe and Saltash II will play Plymstock Albion Oaks II.