IVYBRIDGE know they will have to be at their best on Saturday if they are to avoid a third consecutive defeat in South West Premier when they travel to unbeaten league leaders Barnstaple.
The Bridgers themselves were unbeaten until two weeks ago but after been hit by a number of injuries they have lost to both Okehampton and Weston-super-Mare.
Barnstaple are the only team still without a loss to their name in the division this term, but Exmouth came agonisingly close to ending that record last week and Ivybridge have proved in recent years that they can be more than a match their Devon rivals.
As well as counting towards the league, the game also counts towards the Devon Senior Cup and Ivybridge could really do with a win if they have any hopes of reaching the county cup final.
The Bridgers should be boosted by the return of second-row forwards George Wilson and Jamie Tripcony and they certainly do not fear a trip to north Devon.
“We are excited about this weekend,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott.
“The lads have trained really well and everyone is up for it. It is good that we have both (first and second) teams going up on the bus as it will make a really good atmosphere.”
He added: “I watched back the game from last weekend (against Weston-super-Mare) and we did do a load of good things, but we were just a little bit ill-disciplined and that was main thing that hurt us as it relieved pressure on Weston and put it back on us.
“But a lot of the stuff we are doing on the pitch is really good and we have chatted about what we need to improve on.
“We are confident if we get everything right we can beat anyone in this league.
“It is going to be a tough game. We know they have a good record and they are unbeaten so far this season, but that does not mean we are going to hold back. We are going to give it our best and go out there expecting to play well and enjoy it.”
SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
SOUTH West One leaders Devonport Services also have a Devon derby to look forward to this weekend when visit mid-table Crediton.
Services have only lost once this term – a 26-24 reserve at Chew Valley two weeks ago – while newly-promoted Crediton have three wins and three draws to their name since coming into the league.
Devonport will be favourites to pick up another victory, but they know from experience that it is never easy to win at Blagdon.
“We have always struggled there,” said head coach Mike Lewis. “We might be in form and we might be playing some really good, front-foot rugby but somehow they always manage to neutralise that, which is a credit to them.”
Crediton beat previous leaders Thornbury last weekend and have also overcome North Petherton and Sidmouth this season. However, they have lost to Bridgwater, Chew Valley and Cleve.
“The week before last they did not have a good result against Cleve but last week they turned over Thornbury,” said Lewis. “Their results are a bit inconsistent so you have to wonder what week you are going to get them on. But we have to be prepared that they are going to be at their best.”
Services have not visited Crediton in a league game since October 2017, when they narrowly won 21-15.
“They are a little bit unknown to us in the sense that I think they would have changed since when we played last played them,” said Lewis.
“But I know they have a strong Exeter Chiefs link with their coaching so you kind of know the style they are going to play, similar to Sidmouth and Cullompton.”
He added: “I do like going there as there is always a nice atmosphere in the bar afterwards and it’s a good pitch to play on. They also have plenty of people I know well and played with so I always look forward to going there.”
Devonport are missing quite a few players this weekend for that match that also counts towards the Devon Senior Shield. Hooker Sam Bennett took a knock to the head in last week’s 57-27 win over Cleve and Services do not want to take any chances with him. Kyle Browne is also doubtful with a shoulder injury, while Tom Goodman, Luke Kenny, John Kirwan and Sean Dunn are unavailable.
However, Royal Navy back Rhys Williams is back after suspension and captain Matt Gregory is available again.
Services will be taking their first and second teams to Blagdon on Saturday. Devonport’s second team currently top of Devon Merit Table Division One.
In Western Counties West, bottom side Saltash have a tough trip to third-placed Bideford.
Bideford have only lost two of their seven games so far, while the Ashes have only won once.
But Saltash have been improving in recent weeks. They pushed leaders Wellington hard last Saturday before losing 29-19 to a late try. They also put 40 points on Tiverton this month.
In addition, they know what it is like to win at King George’s Field having triumphed 13-10 there last year – a win that kick-started their season.
The Ashes certainly believe they can do like last term and move off the foot of the table after a slow start.4
Oaks are second in the standings, having lost just once this term – away at leaders Torquay Athletic.
Plymstock had a good win over Truro last weekend and are keen to reproduce that performance against Bude, who they struggled against last season.
Bude ended Oaks’ 10-match winning run last term with a 19-5 victory at Horsham Fields before hammering them 52-7 away at the end of March to end Plymstock’s hopes of challenging for promotion.
“We owe them one, massively,” said Oaks head coach Aiden Taylor.
“It is another toughy, but if we can get a win that would really build some momentum before a week off. But it is just getting the right team to go to Bude.
“By all accounts Bude are not really firing so they are there for the taking and that’s what we need to do if we want to be really competitive in this league, which we know we can be after beating Truro.”
Meanwhile, life does not get any easier for bottom side Tavistock as they have to visit league leaders Torquay Athletic this weekend.
Tavistock remain the only club without a win to their name this season, while Torquay have only lost once this term.
And Tavvy will know how tough it is to win at the Recreation Ground, having gone down 48-12 there in March. They are not helped by having a host of unavailabilites this weekend, but they will still be taking two teams to Torquay on Saturday.
“We have got a tricky period and not the easiest run of games coming up, but the league is proving open,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.
Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe will face something of an unknown challenge when they host North Tawton at Lux Park on Saturday.
North Tawton have come into the league this season but have made a promising start and sit sixth in the table with just two lossess to their name. Liskeard are 11th with two wins to their name – one of them coming last week when they comfortably beat Veor 32-15.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
Both clubs are unbeaten this season and have already opened up a bit of a gap on the rest.
Sarries will go into the game high on confidence after beating Plymouth Argaum 55-7 away last Saturday.
But they were disappointed with their set-piece last week and are hoping to put that right for the trip to east Devon.
“It will be a big test,” said Tamar Saracens head coach Pete Lethbridge.
The last time Sarries visited Withycombe was in February 2017 when they lost 30-3. That year Tamar finished bottom of the Cornwall/Devon League while Withycombe finished fourth. But now it is Withycombe who are rebuilding after finishing bottom themselves last term and dropping into Devon One.
Whatever happens on Saturday the pair will stay first and second in the league, but Sarries could move to the top if they were to win.
Old Techs will be hoping to build on their first win of the season last weekend when they travel to Totnes on Saturday.
Techs ran in six tries to beat Torrington last Saturday to move from bottom up to seventh in the table. They could move up another place if they were to beat Totnes, who find themselves bottom after losing five points last week for not travelling to OPMs.
OPMs are fourth in the table. They have only lost once – against Tamar Saracens – and will be hoping to add another win on Saturday when they visit out-of-form Buckfastleigh Ramblers.
Buckfastleigh finished third last season but have not got going yet this term and only have one win to their name.
But Buccs are always tough to beat on their own pitch and so OPMs will not be taking them lightly.
OPMs have this week said goodbye to Darren Ewers who has decided to join city rivals Plymouth Argaum.
However, Ewers will not make his Argaum debut this week when they make the trip to Torrington, but fellow recent signings Edward McMenamin and Toby Studds could feature, while the likes of Karl Sullivan and Luke Nicol could also be back.
“We have got a lot more people available than last week,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quaterman.
“We know Torrington is a difficult place to go, but if we can win our set-piece and play the rugby we can then we can beat anyone in this league.”
Meanwhile, Argaum have appointed Bill Hitchins as their new club president.
In Devon Merit Table Division Two, Plympton Victoria are due to host Brixham Albion at Underwood.
The teams only met last month at Astley Park where Brixham narrowly triumphed 20-12 in a highly-competitive fixture.
Plym Vic will be hoping they can make their home advantage count this week and pick up a win that can help them move up the table.
DHSOB are due to return to league action on Saturday when they visit Saltash II.
The Old Boys will be expecting a tough test across the Tamar as the Ashes second team have only lost once this season on their debut in the league.