Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge, Services and Oaks bid to keep unbeaten league starts going away from home

IVYBRIDGE will be looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season when they make their first league visit to Okehampton in six years.

Okehampton have joined the Bridgers in the South West Premier league after winning South West One last term.

The last time the sides met at Showfield was in October 2013 when they were both in Western Counties West. Ivybridge ran out 48-12 winners that day, but they will be expecting tougher test this time around.

Okehampton are unbeaten so far at home this season, beating Exeter University 35-21 and Camborne 28-14. However, they have lost their three away matches, but apart from losing 26-5 at Exmouth last week, their other away games have been close.

“You can see they are competitive and they will be wanting a strong showing because it’s a Devon derby and they are at home,” said Ivybridge coach Gareth Elliott.

“I am fully expecting a tough test, but we are going up there with a good amount of confidence. We still haven’t lost a game and we will have some fresh bodies in there who should be fit and raring to go.”

He added: “It is clearly going to be a tough match, but we just have to focus on ourselves.

“Last week we got a few things wrong in the second half and allowed Newbury to come back into the game. So now we just have to focus on ourselves rather than worrying about what Okehampton might bring.

“We know if we can tidy up a few areas then we should be quite threatening, but we are fully aware that it will be a tough Devon derby.”

Ivybridge are set to make a number of changes to their squad for the joint league and Devon Cup fixture with Matt Dayment, Jordan Anderton, Harvey Dunn and Marcus Prout back in the squad and George Wilson coming back into the starting line-up. 

“We have got quite a few people coming back into the team so we are able to rest a few guys and give others opportunities,” said Elliott.

“The thing is we have a load of good players but there are only 18 slots available each week. There are guys who are training well and deserve to have their shot.

“All the guys that have come out this week have not been playing poorly, but it allows them a bit of a recharge and gives other guys a bit of an opportunity. We just think it is the right thing to do. It shouldn’t weaken us as they are all good players coming in.”

Captain Jay Geraty (pictured top) and fly-half Matt Grieveson are both due to make their 200th appearances for the club this weekend. 

Devonport Services celebrating winning promotion at Chew Valley in April 2018 (picture by Mike Yeats)

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

SOUTH West One leaders Devonport Services will make only their second visit to Chew Valley on Saturday.

Their only previous trip to the Somerset club came just over 18 months ago when the teams met in a promotion play-off clash.

Services won 22-12 in a tight affair to secure promotion to South West One. But Chew Valley have followed them up now by easily winning Western Counties North last season.

Chew have made an impressive start to life at the higher level. They have only lost once so far – a defeat away at fellow high-flyers Bridgwater – and have put more than 50 points on both Thornbury and Cleve. They did score 89 against St Ives on the opening day but that result has now been wiped out following the Cornish club’s withdraw from the league.

“Chew Valley have only lost one game this season so we are expected a good performance from them,” said Services coach Mike Lewis.

“This will only be the second time in our history we will have played them. The last time was when we played them in the play-off to get promoted. That was quite a close game, but we just got ahead with a couple of penalties. But we both gave as much as we got that day and played a similar style of rugby.

“Even though it was all in good spirits, on the day there was a lot of emotion and it did get the better of some people, so they will be gunning for us for sure.”

He added: “We have chatted to other teams that have played them recently and by all accounts they have a real good 15 who was playing at Dings last season and a couple of other good players. They also have a big old pack, like you would expect from teams in that area.

“They have a real small pitch – short and narrow – so we have been practising on a bit of a smaller pitch this week.”

Services, the only team with a 100 per cent record in the division, will be without lock James McQuillan, but they are boosted by the news that Tom Goodman and Sam Bennett have recovered from knocks picked up in last week’s win over Bridgwater.

Devonport’s second team are also in action when they play Exmouth at home in a top-of-the-table Devon Merit Table Division One clash. Both teams have won their opening four games.

In Western Counties West, Saltash will be hoping to build on their impressive win over Tiverton last week when they make the trip to Wadebridge.

Saltash finally got off the mark last Saturday with a 40-14 victory over Tiverton at Moorlands Lane, which lifted them off the foot of the table.

Wadebridge have won three of their opening five games and are unbeaten at home this season.

Both matches between the sides last season came down to just one score, with Wadebridge winning 37-32 at their place at the start of the campaign before narrowly running out 10-6 at Moorlands Lane.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

CORNWALL/Devon League leaders Plymstock Albion Oaks know they will have to be at their best this weekend if they want to maintain their unbeaten start to the season when they travel to third-placed Torquay Athletic.

Oaks are the only team in the division who have not lost a game yet, but Torquay are only three points behind and have not lost since the opening day of the campaign when they narrowly went down 10-8 away at Lanner, who also have four wins out of five to their name.

“We have got a really hard three weeks now,” said Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor. “We have Torquay away, Truro at home and then Bude away. These three weeks could make or break our season, in my opinion.

“We lost at Torquay last year and it is a hard place to go. We know how good they are, but we just have to go there with the right mentality and hopefully get something from the game.

“We have done all right getting five wins from five but we just have to try and keep in the mix after these next three games.”

Tavistock will be hoping that this is the weekend when they can finally get their first win of the season.

They find themselves bottom of the table after five matches, but will be looking to return from newly-promoted Veor with four points on Saturday.

Tavistock have picked up a losing bonus point in their last two games against South Molton and Plymstock Albion Oaks and they will know Veor have also had a tough start to the campaign. The Cornish club have only one win to their name – a home victory over fellow strugglers South Molton – and were beaten 41-11 last week by Lanner.

“We know next to nothing about Veor and are relatively happy about that,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill.

“It is the same story as previous weeks, we know we can win – we have the side to do it – but we need to be more clinical.

“We haven’t had the rub of the green on a few occasions this season are league position could be very different if we did. Ultimately, though, we are under-performing, but when we find the correct balance we will do very well.”

Tavistock will give New Zealander Pjay Luatua a run in his preferred position at scrum-half after playing at fly-half in recent weeks, while they are also able to welcome back Sam Snell at number eight, which will see captain Andrew Schuttkacker move into the second-row. Aidan Mason returns on the wing for the injured Glenn Fuller with Tom Pearson moving to the other wing. Jack Lewis comes into the squad after impressing for the second team last week, while Josh Langton is set for his first run out for the first team this season from the bench.

Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe, fresh from their first win of the season last Saturday, travel to Lanner on Saturday.

DEVON JUNIOR CUP

IT is cup weekend for Devon teams at level nine and below and all eyes will be on Weston Mill where Old Techs host Tamar Saracens in the second meeting of the teams in seven days.

Sarries won last week’s league clash 24-5 after Techs had a Rudi Baker sent off early in the second half.

Both teams, though, say last Saturday’s clash will not count for anything this weekend.

“It’s the same clubs, but it is a different week, a different competition and probably different teams,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.

“A few things did not go our way last week, but I didn’t have a problem with the result. I think they (Tamar Saracens) were just a bit better drilled than us.

“I think we have been playing some good rugby, but we just need to be a bit more clinical. We just need to be a bit more drilled and have that game-management.

“We are competing with the top teams, but we just haven’t quite got that finishing edge yet. It doesn’t help that we never seem to have a settled side.

“We are probably going to have to make eight changes this week. A few picked up injuries last week as it was a tough old game and some others are available. With it being a cup game you don’t want to risk too many people.”

Tamar Saracens are also unsure of their team, but are keen to progress in the cup.

“We want to win, whether it is a league or a cup game,” said Saracens player Marc Cioffi.

“Everyone wants to play, but we also have another derby the week after.

“Last week was a very physical game, but we are not going to look at last week’s result.

“With Techs you never know what to expect, but I think it will be an exciting game.”

There are two other Plymouth derbies in the first round of the Devon Junior Cup with Plympton Victoria hosting Plymouth Argaum and DHSOB entertaining OPMs.

Argaum pulled out of last weekend’s Devon One game against Withycombe due to a lack of players but they are expected to have a side to take on Devon Merit Table side Plym Vic for the first time in a competitive for a few years.

They are set to give a debut to former Ivybridge youngster Toby Studds, who has joined the club this week. He can play hooker, flanker, wing or scrum-half.

“We just need to get back on the pitch after an unacceptable week off,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.

“I am certainly looking forward to this game. I have a lot of respect for Plym Vic. They have some brilliant people at their club.”

As well as Studds coming in, Argaum are also able to welcome back JJ Vom Hagen, who was injured playing for Plymouth Albion’s colleges’ team.

Plym Vic enjoyed a 17-10 win over DHSOB last weekend but will know that Argaum, who were two divisions higher than them last season, will be a much tougher test.

OPMs, meanwhile, hope to be able to give some squad players a run out against DHSOB on Saturday.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to rest a few players,” said OPMs coach Rick Orkney. “It’s a chance to play some first team boys who have not had much of a chance so far yet this season and one or two second team boys who are pushing hard.”

Teams that lose in the first round go into the Devon Junior Plate competition so all the clubs will still have something to play for no matter what happens on Saturday.

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