Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Tough away test for Ivybridge as other sides face derby battles

IVYBRIDGE head out of Devon for the first time this season on Saturday when they make the long trip to Berkshire to play ambitious Maidenhead.

The Bridgers have only played two games so far this term – away at Exmouth, where they drew 17-17, and at home to Launceston last weekend where they triumphed 69-14.

Maidenhead, who finished third last season behind Bournemouth and Barnstaple, have played three games. They beat Drybrook 27-17 away in their first match before overcoming Exeter University 45-43 in a high-scoring thriller at their place, but they slipped up last weekend, going down 32-30 away at Exmouth.

Ivybridge know it will be tough in Berkshire against a team with a good home record and coached by former World Cup winner Will Greenwood, but they will head there confident after last week’s big win over Launceston.

“I think this is our longest trip of the season and it is going to be a tough one, but I think the boys are looking forward to it,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott.

Ivybridge nearly beat Maidenhead away last year, despite travelling with an under-strength squad. They narrowly lost 33-29.

“I spoke to the lads about that this week and they said it was quite a tight result and we were winning at one point,” said Elliott.

“They (Maidenhead) have got a decent pack, so that will be a challenge, but Exmouth turned them over, so form wise we have a good chance seeing as we drew with Exmouth at their place.

“We are going to go into it pretty confident.

“Last week we had a really good showing. It was only our second match, but the lads played for the full 80 minutes and they are keen to impress and put in another good performance this week.”

Ivybridge will be without forwards Jamie Tripcony, George Wilson and Marcus Prout, which means youngster Matt Gilbury, who impressed as an early replacement last week against Launceston, will earn his first start. The Bridgers are also able to welcome back centre Will Lamont for the trip.

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services have been left without a match this weekend after St Ives pulled out of hosting them in South West One.

It is the third game in a row that St Ives have forfeited due to lack of players. They have indicated they are now likely to withdraw from level six totally and look to re-entry the league system next season at the bottom level.

It is a sad situation for a club that beat Services to the 2017-18 Western Counties West title just 18 months ago.

Devonport have won their opening three matches and are the early leaders of South West One with a maximum 15 points.

Although they do not want to lose momentum, Services head coach Mike Lewis is not too worried about an unexpected weekend off.

“I think it has come at a good time to be fair,” said Lewis. “In the first few weeks we have picked up a few niggling injuries and it gives boys a couple more weeks to recover.

“Even if St Ives did get a side together to play us this week they are probably going to drop out of the league at some point and so at least we’re not risking players getting injured for a game where the result might not stand.”

After comfortably winning their opening two games, Services had to dig deep last weekend to see off winless Sidmouth 26-9. With 25 minutes to go they were losing 6-5 and down to 14 players after having Rhys Williams red carded for a dangerous tackle.

“We weren’t switched on enough last week,” admitted Lewis. “We saw that they had lost a couple of games and we’d won ours and so maybe there was a bit of complacency. I think it was a mental thing.

“But our defence was fantastic and when Rhys got red carded everyone suddenly thought ‘crikey we are going to have to really push hard’. That changed our mind-set and the dynamics. We almost needed that bit of adversity to kick us up the bum.”

A Services XV did have a run out on Wednesday evening against the Royal Navy Western Region – a match Devonport won 29-12. And their second team will also play on Saturday when they entertain Barnstaple in a top-of-the-table Devon Merit clash.

In Western Counties West, Saltash’s start to the season does not get any easier as they face a tough trip to Teignmouth on Saturday.

The Ashes are still looking for their first win after defeats to much-fancied Penryn and St Austell as well as Wiveliscombe.

A third away trip in four games is not really what they went, especially to a team that has just come down from South West One.

Teignmouth have beaten Penryn and Kingsbridge this term, with their only loss a narrow 26-24 reverse against Honiton.

Western Counties looks like it is going to be a tight league. Only two teams have won all their opening three games – Bideford and St Austell – and only two sides – Saltash and Cullompton – are waiting for a win. No-one has a maximum 15 points and everyone club has got at least one bonus point.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

IT IS derby day in the Cornwall/Devon League where winless Tavistock host unbeaten Plymstock Albion Oaks at Sandy Park.

If current form is anything to go by, then Oaks would be expecting to return from their shortest trip of the season with five points, but they have lost on their last two league visits to Sandy Park, going down 19-10 last year and 29-0 there the season before, so they are wary of playing their nearest rivals.

“Tavvy are our bogey team,” admitted Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor. “We never seem to win away at Tavistock. We just want to put in a performance at Tavvy and not lose.”

Oaks are struggling with injuries at the moment and they know that Tavistock will be gunning for them after losing their opening three games.

Tavistock, though, improved last week after bringing in a number of new signings, including two New Zealanders, and were unlucky to lose by one score away at the Pirates Amateurs.

“For the last couple of seasons we’ve done a first/second XV double over Oaks in this fixture and we hope to continue that again come Saturday,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill.

“We are on a bit of a slow burner as it stands results wise but our first result is literally around the corner. It would be perfect to record this at home in a derby.

“We haven’t looked into Oaks’ result and are not too interested in adjusting how we play to cater for them.

“Last season it was believed that the weather and conditions won the game for us, despite a dominant set-piece, so we have been doing all we can this week to ensure it’s a level playing field for both teams, this being said, it’s still going to rain and rain a lot so the winning team will just have to adjust and play the conditions.”

Tavistock are set to hand a start to new prop George Fa’uamu, after he impressed as a replacement last weekend. Seb Cox and Jamie Legg are also set to return to Tavvy’s pack. In the backs, Glenn Fuller is unavailable but Jack Easton and Jack Glover return.”

Elsewhere in the Cornwall/Devon League, Liskeard-Looe, who have yet to win this term, face a tough trip to Bude.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE TWO

IT IS also derby day in Devon One where Old Techs host Plymouth Argaum at Weston Mill and OPMs entertain Tamar Saracens at King George V Playing Fields.

Techs have not played Argaum in a league game since the 2014-15 season and this year’s meeting has been given extra spice with Billy Evans’ switch from the Old Boys to the Tigers in the summer.

Evans missed Argaum’s 15-15 draw with OPMs last weekend but will be back for Saturday’s game at Weston Mill.

Argaum have not lost yet since their relegation from the Cornwall/Devon League – beating New Cross and drawing with OPMs. Techs, meanwhile, are still looking for their first win after losing away at OPMs and Withycombe.

“It is nice to have a home game after starting with two away matches on the trot,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “And we really want to get a win under our belts.

“Last week against Withycombe we played really well but conceded two tries in the last five minutes.

“In both our opening two games we played well for 60-65 minutes, but it is just about doing it for 80 minutes. If we can do that there’s no reason why we can’t turn defeats into victories.

“I can’t fault the players for their efforts; it is just now about fine-tuning. We were a bit behind anyway with our pre-season.

“Playing at home should help and it’s another big derby game which both teams will want to win.”

Bedford-Smith has been keen to play down Evans’ early return to Weston Mill.

“It’s not Old Techs v Billy Evans, it’s Old Techs v Plymouth Argaum,” he said. “Argaum will have 14 other players on the field and if we focus on just one the other 14 will play around us.

“He knows how we play and we know how he plays. He played for us for a long time, won a lot of things with us and was our captain, but he’s playing for Argaum now so we just have to draw a line under it.

“We just have to focus on ourselves and what we want to do, which is to get a win.”

As well as Evans, Argaum should have Dan Smith back. They could also have Ryan Chivers available for the first time this season, while new hooker Dr Tom Mann could make his debut.

“We are unbeaten but we are under no illusions about how difficult this game – and all the others – are going to be,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.

“Our line-out last week was very good and, although we conceded at the end, we did defend overall very well.”

The match at King George V Playing Fields is also expected to be closely-fought. Neither OPMs nor Tamar Saracens have lost yet.

Both league matches between the sides last year were close, with OPMs winning 25-24 at home and Tamar Saracens triumphing 14-3 at their place.

“It will be a test,” said Tamar Saracens coach Pete Lethbridge.

“I think everyone in this league is going to lose points somewhere along the line. I don’t think it is going to be a one-horse race this year.

“We know it will be a battle but I don’t think any game for any team this season is going to be easy. It is quite an open league.

“It always seems to be a close game when we play them. Last year we lost by one point at their place and although we beat them down here that was close as well.”

Saturday’s match will be the start of four consecutive Plymouth derbies for Sarries.

“We have OPMs, then Techs two weeks in a row and then Argaum away, so the next few weeks are going to test our character a bit.”

OPMs are holding their vice-presidents’ day on Saturday and will have three teams playing at home.

After facing Techs and Argaum in their opening two games, they expect Sarries to pose an even tougher test.

“I think it just keeps getting that little bit harder,” said OPMs coach Rick Orkney. “But we are at home and I hope to have a few boys back. I think we will give them a very tough game.”

OPMs’ second team will also be in action at home when they host Plympton Victoria.

The game is down as a Devon Merit Table match on the RFU website, but it is also down as an Ellis Trophy fixture.

Plym Vic are still waiting for their first win of the season after going down to Salcombe and 20-12 away at Brixham Albion last weekend.

Plym Vic felt they were a bit unlucky to not pick anything up from Astley Park last weekend.

“It was a great game,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “We had a try disallowed and they had a try allowed that may should not have been, but overall it was a fair game.

“We are looking forward to this week and another game against OPM II. They have their VPs day and have three teams playing at home so it is going to be busy at Elburton.”

Elsewhere in Devon Merit Table Division Two, DHSOB visit Salcombe, who suffered their first defeat last week when they were narrowly beaten 7-5 at Tavistock II. St Columba & Torpoint, meanwhile, are due to host Brixham Albion.

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