UNBEATEN Ivybridge are keen to keep their impressive early season form going when they host Newbury Blues at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday in South West Premier.
The Bridgers drew away at Exmouth in their opening match before hammering Launceston 69-14 and then going away to much-fancied Maidenhead last weekend and returning with a full five points from a 36-33 victory.
“Everyone is buzzing,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott. “Training on Tuesday was really good.
“Last weekend we had to make quite a few changes but the guys that came in just got on with it, which was really pleasing and I am hoping for another good performance this weekend.”
Newbury only have one win to their name this term, but that came last weekend when they shocked Exmouth and ended their unbeaten start to the season with a 25-15 victory.
“They beat Exmouth last week,” said Elliott. “But this league is like that – anyone can beat anyone on their day.
“I think the lads are focussed and there are still loads of things we can improve on. We are still developing and I think we can still get better.”
The Bridgers are able to welcome back Robin Luscombe, George Wilson and Jay Toogood into their squad.
“We are looking pretty strong at the moment,” said Elliott. “Selection is really, really hard as those not selected this week will not be getting any rugby as the second team don’t have a game.
“But training is unbelievable. Tuesday’s session was the best we have had from the start of pre-season. Guys are training really well and that’s showing on the field.”
SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
THE top two in South West One meet on Saturday at the Rectory with Devonport Services hosting Bridgwater & Albion.
The match will also see Services head coach Mike Lewis come up against his former Plymouth Albion team-mate Wayne Sprangle, who is player-coach at Bridgwater.
After losing their opening game against Thorbury, Bridgwater have won their last three fixtures to sit just behind early leaders Services, who are the only team to have not dropped any points this term.
“We are both on a winning streak, but one is going to lose that this weekend and we just have to make sure it is not us,” said Services coach Lewis.
“Both games with them last season were quite competitive.
“This season they have played against teams you would expect to be doing well in the league and won well. I think it is going to be a close league but to be near the top you need to win most of your home games.
“However, winning is not the most important thing – it is all about the performance. We have looked at what we need to do better from our last game two weeks ago like keeping possession better for longer periods. That’s our main aim this week as they can’t score tries if they haven’t got the ball.”
Services had an unexpected weekend off last Saturday after struggling St Ives pulled out of playing them.
“I’m hoping the break might be a help rather than a hindrance,” said Lewis. “It might be a bit of a refresher after a long pre-season and a few tough games. It might just give us a bit of an impetus to go again for three or four weeks to the next break.”
Services are without Royal Navy back Rhys Williams, who received a four-week ban for getting sent off for a dangerous tackle in their match against Sidmouth two weeks ago. They are also still without Matt Neyle-Opie, Kier Murphy and Tyler Busfield due to injuries and are waiting to see if Matt Gregory and Sam Bennett will be available this week, but they do have Jason Stead back in contention.
In Western Counties West, Saltash welcome Tiverton to Moorlands Lane for only their second home match of the campaign.
The Ashes have had to play three of their opening four games away from home and are still waiting for their first win.
They have got two bonus points to their name but sit bottom of the table after the first month.
But the Ashes will take confidence from their narrow 23-18 loss last weekend to Teignmouth, who were playing in South West One last season and have only lost once this term.
Tiverton have been inconsistent so far in the first month of the campaign. They did beat Penryn last weekend and Falmouth on the opening day, but in between were beaten 77-15 at home by Kingsbridge and 25-17 at Honiton.
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will be looking to keep their unbeaten start to the season going when they host Topsham in only their second home match of the campaign.
Oaks have won their opening four fixtures – three away from home.
Topsham, in contrast, have not enjoyed a particularly good start to the season. They did beat Liskeard-Looe 10-3 away on the opening day but have lost their last three games since.
Oaks coach Aiden Taylor, though, knows they cannot underestimate the Exeter-based club, who are known for being quite unpredictable.
“They are a bit of a surprise package as you don’t know which Topsham side you are going to get,” said Taylor.
“We will have plenty of respect for them. When we went up to their place last year they nearly beat us. They got a few tries up and so we just have to switch on.”
Oaks have not had any luck with injuries at the start of this campaign. David Byng, who was persuaded to come out of retirement to play, was the latest to join their injury list last weekend when he damaged his shoulder at the end of their 19-12 win at Tavistock.
Centre Will Booth has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign after rupturing knee ligaments in training as he attempted a comeback after missing the second half of last season.
“Will’s going to have to have an op so he’s out for the season,” admitted Taylor.
Oaks’ women’s team will play their first home match the following day when they entertain St Mary’s Old Boys at Horsham Fields.
Tavistock are hopeful they can finally get off the mark in the Cornwall/Devon League on Saturday when they travel to fellow winless side South Molton.
Tavistock have two bonus points to their name after picking one up last weekend in a 19-12 defeat to unbeaten Plymstock Albion Oaks. They also know that they were one of the few teams to win at South Molton last season.
“Conditions will mirror those of last year when we went up to Molton and won by the narrowest of margins,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.
“We do need a win and it is coming. Naturally with a new-look young side it is taking time to gel. It’s been a little longer than hoped but I have every confidence in the squad.
“Last week we finished strong and we need to emulate that from the start this week if we are to get a first ‘W’.”
Tavistock do make a number of changes to their side. Glenn Fuller and Conor Packwood return and will start on the wings, while Joe Hair is back in the front-row and Sam Northmore has recovered from an injury to start on the bench.
Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe, who are also looking for their first win, entertain newly-promoted Exeter Athletic at Lux Park.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
TAMAR Saracens host big rivals Old Techs at the Parkway on Saturday in the first of two meetings between the city sides in the space of seven days.
This weekend’s clash comes in Devon One, but next Saturday they also play each other in the Devon Junior Cup at Weston Mill.
Tamar Saracens have won all their opening three league matches this term to sit second in the early Devon One standings behind Withycombe.
Techs only have a draw to their name from their matches against Plymouth Argaum, Withycombe and OPMs. But Sarries know they cannot afford to take their near neighbours lightly.
“We call this the A38 derby,” said Tamar Saracens player and spokesman Marc Cioffi. “Techs are our big local rivals and we know we are going to have to work hard to get the win.
“The big thing is not to be arrogant. We know on their day they can beat anyone, so we have to be wary.”
He added: “We are looking forward to it. We have two games in a row against them as we also meet them away in the cup next week.
“Everyone knows playing against Techs is going to be a fight, but for us it is about not getting sucked into their game. We just have to play our own style of rugby, like we managed to do last week.
“Last week (against OPMs) was the first time where everything the coaches wanted in terms of set-plays and stuff happened. So we are keen to do the same this week.”
Sarries are holding a family fun day on Saturday with their second team playing the Peninsula Medical School at lunchtime before the Devon One fixture with Techs. They also have kids’ coaching and a bouncy castle lined up.
“We are looking really strong this weekend,” said Cioffi. “Nearly everyone is available this weekend so it’s going to be a selection headache.”
Old Techs may still be looking for their first win but they have taken confidence from their performances against Withycombe and Argaum in their last two games.
“We can be encouraged by our performance last week and the week before,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“We seem to be getting better every week. We got a draw last week but I think if it had been drier we could have sneaked a win. The conditions meant we just could not get the ball out wide. Although we were happy to get some points on the board I think we could have got a win.
“I’m pleased with how we are defending and our scrum has improved since last season. We can’t fault the players’ effort and commitment. I think we are going in the right direction. A lot of it now is just getting that game management and playing in the right areas.
“This is going to be a tough game. It’s another local derby. They (Tamar Saracens) have got off to a good start with three wins out of three, but if we turn up like the last two weeks then I think it will be another tight game.
“It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to and we want to go there and put a mark down for ourselves.”
OPMs will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season when they travel to Torrington on Saturday.
“I thought Tamar Saracens were a bit better than us last week,” admitted OPMs head coach Rick Orkney. “They are quite a good side – not a lot better, but just a little bit. Whereas, in my opinion, we were the best side in the other two games we played.
“We are confident this week, but I have no idea what they (Torrington) are going to be like.”
Torrington have two wins to their name this term but they were a 29-26 victory over Ilfracombe and a 26-24 victory over New Cross. In their opening match they were beaten 66-5 by Exeter Saracens.
But OPMs will be on their guard after suffering a disappointing 50-22 loss at Torrington last season.
Elsewhere in Devon One, Plymouth Argaum visit former Cornwall/Devon League rivals Withycombe on Saturday.
The pair came down from the higher league together last season and both are currently unbeaten. However, whereas Withycombe have three wins out of three and scored a staggering 140 points, Argaum only have one victory and two draws to their name.
“We did the double over them last year,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “But I know they have recruited some players over the summer. I think they had five former players come back to them.”
Argaum did pick up a couple more injuries last week, but they are confident of travelling with a strong squad to Exmouth.
Plym Vic are holding a VPs, sponsors and old boys’ day and inviting local councillors to the game at their new Underwood Recreation Ground home at St Mary’s where they will be presented with their RFU club accreditation by Devon RFU chairman Geoff Simpson.
They are hoping DHSOB are able to get a team together after pulling out of last week’s game at Salcombe, but if not Plym Vic should have plenty of players to lend them.
“I think we might have eight substitutes this week,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “We’ve got really good numbers this week for our VPs/old boys’ day.”
Elsewhere in Devon Merit Table Division Two South & West, St Columba & Torpoint are due to host Kingsbridge II, while Saltash II host Salcombe and Plymouth University III head to Torquay II.