Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Devonport Services target crucial home wins

IVYBRIDGE are hoping to build on their impressive win against Barnstaple last time out when they host Bracknell at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday.

The Bridgers became the first team to beat Barnstaple this season when they triumphed 15-12 at Pottington Road.

That win moved the South Hams club back into the top six and they are keen to keep putting the pressure on the sides above them by overcoming 10th-placed Bracknell.

“I don’t know much about Bracknell, but, like we always say with this league, there is no easy game – everyone can beat everyone so we will have to be at our best to get what we want out of the game,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott.

“We are all good to go, but it feels like it has been a while since we played Barnstaple.”

Ivybridge lost their last home match, going down 34-25 to leaders Weston-super-Mare, and so they are particularly keen to impress in front of their home fans this week.

“The lads were a bit disappointed with the Weston game and we do take big pride in our home form and performances so it would be great to get back on it in front of our home crowd,” said Elliott. “After the Barnstaple win it would be nice to show that we can back up a performance like that.

“The same things we did at Barnstaple will be the same things that will determine whether we are successful or not this week. I will be reminding the players that we need to reach those levels again.”

Ivybridge do not have to worry about whether their game will be on or not this weekend due to the wet weather with their artificial grass pitch. Elliott said the pitch was particularly useful for training this week, especially on Wednesday.

“Training is one of the main benefits we get from having an artificial pitch,” said Elliott. “And this weekend will probably be a different game to a lot of others around the leagues.”

Ivybridge hope to have Robin Luscombe back in their squad after nearly a month out after suffering concussion against Okehampton. The experienced Jordan Anderton and Matt Finn are also back, while player-coach Jamie Tripcony is set to return to the starting line-up for the first time since the opening day of the season.

Centre Matt Skeemer could also make his first team debut this weekend after securing a spot in the squad after impressing in training and for the second string.

Matt Gilbury, Damon Akerman and Tom Scoles are among those injured, while George Wilson is unavailable this weekend.

Services’ Rhys Williams in action against Thornbury last season (picture by Mark Andrews)

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services head coach Mike Lewis has described his side’s top-of-the-table home clash with Thornbury on Saturday as ‘huge’.

Thornbury, who have former Plymouth Albion, Bristol and Harlequins lock Olly Kohn on their coaching staff, currently sit top of the table, four points above second-placed Services but the Gloucestershire side have played a game more.

“It’s a huge one this weekend,” said Lewis. “It is still the early stages of the season but whichever way this result goes gives a bit of a buffer to the other team.

“We also have a VP, sponsors and ex-players day at the club.”

Services lost their last game, going down 13-7 away at Devon rivals Crediton.

“We need to put the Crediton result right,” said Lewis. “As long as we are playing good rugby we are not too worried about the results but when we are not playing good rugby that’s when we get frustrated.

“We need to keep pushing because as soon as you start under-performing and losing games that’s when it gets frustrating and we were against Crediton. In our other defeat, Chew Valley we just the better team on the day.”

Services are unbeaten at home this season and do not want to lose that record.

“Our performances over the past two seasons have been better at home,” said Lewis. “We do seem to have a different energy level, a better drive and a better success rate in terms of task completion at home.”

On what he expects from Thornbury, whose squad includes former Albion and Marjon forward Jim Massey, Lewis said: “We played them last season twice and they play a similar style to us. They like to play a bit of rugby, but they do have a plan B as well. We saw them play a few weeks ago and they set up a 13-man maul.”

Services have much better available than they did two weeks ago when they lost to Crediton.

Kyle Browne, Tom Goodman, James McQuillan and John Kirwin should all be back for Devonport after missing the trip to Crediton, while Royal Navy back Rhys Williams is also available.

However, Services are still missing hooker Sam Bennett due to concussion and scrum-half Dom Eyres is also out after suffering a head injury against Crediton.

Meanwhile, Devonport have re-signed Eddie McGinley from Launceston.

“He’s a centre and we are missing an inside centre,” said Lewis. “We have got boys playing there and doing a fine job, but he is an out-and-out 12.”

Services are also hoping to add another couple of players to their squad but are waiting for them to be confirmed before revealing any names.

In Western Counties West, bottom side Saltash will be hoping to cause an upset and end Chard’s six-game unbeaten run when they host the Somerset club at Moorlands Lane on Saturday.

Chard lost their opening two games to high-flyers Wellington and Bideford but have since beaten Wiveliscombe, Cullompton, Kingsbridge, Honiton, Penryn and drawn away at Falmouth.

Saltash have only won once this season – a 40-14 home victory over Tiverton.

The Ashes are much better at home and they will be desperate to get something out of the game so as not to lose ground on the teams above them.

 

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

It will be top against bottom at Sandy Park on Saturday when winless Tavistock host leaders Truro.

Truro will be big favourites but the conditions could be a big leveller this weekend and Tavistock would love nothing better to pull off an upset.

Due to the World Cup and bad weather, Tavistock have not played for three weeks.

“The boys have enjoyed the time off and we are still in great spirits, despite our league position,” said Hammy Kerswill.

“We have nothing to lose on Saturday and we just hope to perform how we know we can.”

Tavistock are missing captain Andrew Schuttkacker due to injury, but are not short of players to select from this week and will have two teams out – weather permitting.

Third-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Bude last time out when they host struggling Exeter Athletic at Horsham Fields on Saturday.

Exeter are third-from-bottom with only one win this term, whereas Oaks have six victories out of eight to their name.

But Oaks will know they cannot take Exeter lightly, especially after losing 22-6 at out-of-sorts Bude two weeks ago.

The weather conditions could be similar to a fortnight ago, but Plymstock will be keen to show they are more than just a fine weather side.

Also in the Cornwall/Devon League, 11th-placed Liskeard-Looe will travel to fourth-placed Paignton.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

PLYMOUTH’S four Devon One side are all at home this weekend.

Plymouth Argaum host Totnes, Tamar Saracens entertain Torrington, OPMs welcome Dartmouth to King George V Playing Fields, while Old Techs play Buckfastleigh at Weston Mill.

Techs have not played for three weeks due to the World Cup break and a waterlogged pitch at Totnes.

It means they have not been able to build on their 38-24 win over Torrington in their last outing.

“We have had a couple of weeks off, which has been good for some players with injuries, but it is not when you want to build a bit of momentum,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.

“The lads were disappointed the Totnes game was called off late as after the win against Torrington they wanted to go up there and get another.

“We will find out on Saturday if the break has been a good thing or a bad thing.”

He added: “We’ve had some good battles against Buckfastleigh over the years. They are always tough games against them.

“I think last year we beat them at our place and they beat us at theirs. We are on the same amount of points this year, so they fancy it, like we will. We are playing at home and we want to get a win to move up the table.”

Techs have full-back Dan Bartlett available for the first time this season and they recently added Brendan Bevan to their squad from Tamar Saracens.

Techs are holding their sponsors and old boys’ day on Saturday, with pre-match drinks from 1pm.

Second-placed Sarries have also boosted their squad recently with the addition of former Ivybridge winger Josh Perkin and former Services and Argaum player Joe Staniforth.

They will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season last time out when they play sixth-placed Torrington.

Sarries narrowly lost 6-0 away to leaders Withycombe in their last game.

“We were disappointed with the way we played at Withycombe,” said player Marc Cioffi. “But we have learned a lot from that and have been training hard since.

“We will be trying to get back to winning ways this weekend. Hopefully, the Withycombe loss was just a little bump in the road.”

He added: “I think both teams could be a bit rusty at the start on Saturday, but we just have to stick to our game-plan, but we know Torrington are a tough and physical team to play against.”

Sarries are able to welcome back former Ivybridge player Sini Manu after he missed their defeat to Withycombe.

OPMs are in fourth spot, level on points with third-placed Exeter Saracens and their opponents on Saturday, Dartmouth, who sit in fifth.

Both OPMs and Dartmouth have four wins, one draw and just one defeat to their name from their opening six games. But whereas OPMs’ loss was only a 24-3 defeat to Tamar Saracens, Dartmouth’s defeat was a big 70-7 reverse to Withycombe.

The Old Boys do go into Saturday’s match full of confidence after beating Buckfastleigh 46-8 in their last outing.

Meanwhile, Argaum could desperately do with a win when they host fellow strugglers Totnes.

The two teams sit in the bottom two after both lost five points for pulling out of a fixture.

Argaum’s only win this season came on the opening day when they beat New Cross away. They did draw with OPMs and Old Techs but have since struggled and lost 53-12 at Torrington in their last fixture.

But Argaum have good availability this weekend and are able to welcome back players such as Billy Stockwell and Rory Dingemans, while Darren Ewers could make his debut.

“We could get two teams out this weekend as we have 33 available,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.

“I think it is all starting to pull together now. We have got a few boys back and had an influx of people at training.”

He added: “What we remember about playing Totnes is that they were always physical games, but we just have to try and play our brand of rugby.”

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria make the short trip to King George V Playing Fields to take on OPM II.

“Hopefully, it should be a good game,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “We look to have reasonable numbers this week.”

In the same division, DHSOB are due to entertain Kingsbridge II at Stonehouse Creek.

The Old Boys are also hopeful they will have decent numbers for the game against the team sitting in fourth spot.

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