Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge, Services and Oaks look to bounce back from first defeats

IVYBRIDGE will be forced to make a host of changes to their side as they bid to get back to winning ways against second-placed Weston-super-Mare at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday (2.30pm).

The Bridgers suffered their first defeat of the season last weekend when they went down 27-11 away at Devon rivals Okehampton.

The South Hams club picked up a host of injuries in that game and had to play a large part of the second half with 14 players and Okehampton took advantage with score two late converted tries to seal victory.

Winger Damon Akerman suffered a badly broken leg in that game. He needs an operation and so is likely to be out for a lengthy period of time.

Robin Luscombe was one of the other players to go off. He suffered a head injury and is unfit to face Weston-super-Mare, as is young forward Matt Gilbury, who dislocated his knee and is facing a number of weeks out.

“Last weekend was tough with the injuries, but we have worked on stuff this week which will hopefully stand us in good stead,” said Ivybridge coach Gareth Elliott.

Weston-super-Mare caused a big surprise last Saturday by beating Exmouth 63-7.

The Somerset club are in second spot, but they have played a game more than Ivybridge. Weston have been beaten twice this season – both games away from home, losing at Camborne and Exeter University.

Ivybridge are still unbeaten at Cross-in-Hand this season and Elliott says they have to take belief from that.

“They (Weston) look like they are in pretty good form at the moment, but we have won both our home games so far so we are pretty confident,” he said.

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season when they entertain Cleve at the Rectory on Saturday (3pm).

Services narrowly went down 26-24 away at fellow high-flyers Chew Valley last weekend.

Cleve were in the South West Premier last season and have slowly been adjusting to life back at level six. They have won two and lost three of their opening five games. Their wins have come against Devon sides Sidmouth and Crediton, who they impressively beat 38-7 last Saturday.

“They have some real big players in their team and I think they were probably relying on that the first few games,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis. “But now they have a couple of Navy boys who are travelling up from Portsmouth and they played in their last game against Crediton and I think that has added another dimension to their team.

“We know for sure they have some real big forwards so we are going to have to nullify that threat in the early stages of the game and try not to give them too much ball.”

Services have a good home record and want to maintain that. Lewis is also hoping to see a response from his team to last week’s narrow defeat.

He feels his team are slowly developing more of a cut-throat edge, which he feels they will need if they want to finish towards the top of the table.

“At amateur rugby clubs players do play for a hobby and they are there to have a good crack,” he said.

“They are annoyed if they lose for sure, but they want to play well, play with their mates and want a competitive game and try and win. But I think we are getting more away from just wanting to play with mates to wanting to win a bit more.

“We have put in some good performances this season, which is great, and I think the mindset has changed steadily.

“Performances can get you so far, but you need an almost cut-throat attitude in some games to get that extra three points or that extra try to win the game, instead of the ‘it will be all-right we will do it next week’ attitude.”

Services are still without backs Kier Murphy and Matt Neyle-Opie. Winger Neyle-Opie, who injured his hamstring after scoring a try in their opening day win over Newton Abbot, has suffered a set-back in his recovery.

“He has re-torn his hamstring and so will likely to be out until Christmas,” said Lewis.

“He just pushed his rehab a bit too far. He was probably only a couple of weeks away from come back.

“It is annoying for him and annoying for us as he has so much pace and you want players like that in your squad.”

However, the better news for Services is that back-row forward Tyler Busfield is set to make his comeback in the second team this week after a number of weeks out with concussion.

“He took a bit of time out and relaxed and now feels fit and ready to go again,” said Lewis. “His graduated return to play protocol has gone really well and he has passed everything and so hopefully he will be involved with the seconds this week.”

In Western Counties West, Saltash will be looking to cause an upset when they host second-placed Wellington at Moorlands Lane (3pm).

Wellington, who have Cornwall coach Graham Dawe heading up their coaching set-up which also includes fellow former Plymouth Albion favourite Nic Sestaret, only lost three games last season and have only been beaten once so far this term. However, that one loss this season did come in Cornwall when they beaten by one score at Falmouth.

Saltash, in contrast, have only won once this term, but that did come in their last home match when they enjoyed a big 40-14 win over Tiverton.

The Ashes and Wellington do know each other quite well having enjoyed a Cornwall/Devon League title battle in 2017-18 and also having played each other last term on their return to Western Counties West.

Wellington should have won promotion last season but were docked five points for playing for few minutes without taking a player off when they had to go to uncontested scrums against Kingsbridge. Had they not lost those points they would have finished above both Sidmouth and Crediton and gone up as champions.

Last year’s game between the two clubs at Moorlands Lane was quite tight before Wellington ran out 26-6 winners.

The match the previous year in the Cornwall/Devon League was even closer with Wellington edging it 32-26.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

LIKE Ivybridge and Devonport Services, Plymstock Albion Oaks will be looking for a response after suffering their first defeat last weekend.

Oaks were beaten 27-12 away at fellow high-flyers Torquay Athletic. This Saturday they face another top-of-the-table clash when they host Truro (3pm).

Truro replaced Oaks as league leaders last week after they beat Pirates Amateurs 40-18.

But just two points separate the top four in the table with all having won five and lost one of their opening six games.

“They (Truro) will be up for it and firing as they are top of the league now,” said Oaks head coach Aiden Taylor. “But it is now up to everyone else to knock them off their perch. We have to try and do like Torquay did to us last week and really get fired up for this game.”

He added: “Last week Torquay were just better than us on the day and deserved to win. We had patches in the game but just didn’t put our phases together and our heads went down.

“We just didn’t really get going but it was a strange game and I wouldn’t read too much into the result. There wasn’t much to separate the teams – just one try and their boot. We scored two tries but gave away too many stupid penalties.”

Taylor had to go off in that game with a quad injury and he is a major doubt to face Truro this weekend.

“Truro have a big pack and also some useful backs, but we just have to look at ourselves and just put in a performance at home,” said Taylor.

“If we do lose games we do have to start trying to at least pick something up, either a losing bonus point or a point for four tries.

“We need to go out there and look to score some points and be positive.

“When we are upbeat and positive we are a handful, but I haven’t really seen us like that yet this season. We did go five unbeaten but, if I’m honest, we haven’t really clicked yet. Hopefully, on Saturday we can click.”

Oaks have added to their squad this week by signing Marjons fly-half Christian Brown, but he will not be available until early November due as he is recovering from a broken finger.

Tavistock will be desperate to get their first win of the season on Saturday when they host Topsham at Sandy Park (3pm).

Tavistock find themselves at the foot of the table and are the only side not to have a win to their name yet in the league.

But they will fancy their chances against a Topsham side that are known for their inconsistency. Tavistock also have good availability for the match, which will be their VP and sponsors day.

“It’s an exciting weekend with us fielding three XVs for the second time this season,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill. “It is our VP and sponsors day so fingers crossed for results.

“Availability is good and some big calls have been made around selection – ones I hope we have got right to get the season going.”

He added: “We are becoming a bit of a nearly team this season, having been in every game but with little to show for it. Last week (losing at Veor) hurt and I know the boys want to put that right with a victory on Saturday.”

Kerswill will move to prop for Saturday’s game with Phil Wilson coming in at hooker. Jake Crabb and Seb Cox will line-up in the second-row, with Sam Snell returning at number eight. Jack Glover and Aidan Mason are unavailable but Tavistock are boosted by having George Hillson home from university and he will start at full-back.

Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe entertain Veor in match both teams will be desperate to win after a quite tough starts to their seasons.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

TAMAR Saracens will finish a mini run of four consecutive Plymouth derby games on Saturday when they visit Plymouth Argaum in Devon One (3pm).

Sarries have overcome OPMs and Old Techs in successive league games and then also beat Techs again in the Devon Junior Cup last week.

They are now looking to complete a full house of derby wins by seeing off Argaum at Bickleigh Down.

“It’s another derby and another test,” said Saracens spokesman Marc Cioffi.

“We are wary of Argaum as we haven’t played them for a couple of years and we know they have got some good players like Dan Smith and Tom Holliday. On their day they can beat anyone, but we have got a lot of momentum at the moment and are silently confident.”

Sarries are boosted by having scrum-half players Tom Rigby and Rikki Brandham available again.

They have won all five of their games so far this season. Only Withycombe, who they meet next week, are also still unbeaten.

“I think our discipline is a lot better than last year and the systems we play are starting to come together,” said Cioffi.

“But it would be nice this week if the forwards and the backs fire together. In recent weeks the forwards will have fired and not the backs and the next game it will be vice-versa. It would be nice if both fired at the same time. I think we are due a big game.”

Argaum opened their season with a win over New Cross before drawing with both OPMs and Old Techs. They failed to travel to Withycombe and so were docked five points, but they are technically still unbeaten and overcame Plympton Victoria last week in the cup with a mix-and-match side.

They do have a number of players unavailable this week but do have most of their core players like Smith, Holliday, Tom Bradshaw and Ben Baggott available. They could be set to give a debut to back Will Daley.

“Tamar Saracens are unbeaten,” said Argaum’s secretary Stuart Quarterman. “They finished last season on a high and have added to their squad with some good players.

“But we also have a lot of quality in our squad, although we could always do with a bit more.”

OPMs have so far only been beaten by Tamar Saracens this season. They will be looking for another win when they host Totnes at King George V Playing Fields (3pm).

The teams did meet in a pre-season friendly, which OPMs won away and they are hopeful of backing that up with another victory.

“We beat them away 24-14 or something and we are getting better,” said head coach Rick Orkney. “We are looking forward to this one. We are going into it confident.”

Meanwhile, Old Techs will be looking to finally get off the mark when they host Torrington at Weston Mill (3pm).

So far Techs only have a draw with Argaum to their name, having lost tight games to Tamar Saracens, Withycombe and OPMs.

However, they have only played one league game at home – their draw with Argaum – and so will be optimistic they can get four points this week against a Torrington side who have historically found it hard to win away.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria will host Plymstock Albion Oaks at Underwood (3pm).

Plym Vic will have taken confidence from the way they played against Plymouth Argaum in the Devon Junior Cup last week. They should also be boosted by the return of a number of players who missed last Saturday’s game due to a wedding.

St Columba & Torpoint are still looking for their first win of the season. They are due to play University of Plymouth III.

DHSOB are without a league game but are due to take on Tavistock II away in the Ellis Trophy.

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