Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Big derby battle for Ivybridge, while Services face another top-of-the-table clash

IVYBRIDGE expect a fierce battle on Saturday when they head to Astley Park to take on big rivals Brixham in the South West Premier league.

Ever since Ivybridge came into the league this fixture has become their main derby game.

And the match has added spice this season with former Bridgers player-coach Lewis Paterson and last term’s top scorer Billy Pinkus now in Brixham’s ranks, alongside Mitch Pinkus, who made the move the year before.

Brixham might be struggling at the bottom end of the table, but Ivybridge know the Fisherman will be tough to beat.

The South Ham club’s head coach Gareth Elliott feels they will have to play even better than they did last week in a 36-0 win over Bracknell.

“Since we have been in this league this fixture is one that a lot of people care about,” said Elliott.

“You want to play games that people are desperate to win, but it is important that we go about it the right way and we don’t let emotion override the situation. We just have to try and play rugby at a higher standard than we have been. We hope we can raise the level.

“It is going to be won on the gain-line and who can really dominate collisions and who can produce their set-piece to the best of their ability – there’s no secret behind it.”

Ivybridge go into the game on the back of good wins against Bracknell and Barnstaple. They sit fifth in the table, just five points behind second-placed Weston-super-Mare having played a game less.

Meanwhile, Ivybridge’s second team will play Brixham at Cross-in-Hand on Friday night (7.30pm).

Matt Gregory goes through to score a try for Services against Hornets last season (picture by Mark Andrews)

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services have a second successive vital home clash in South West One.

Last weekend they moved back to the top of table after beating Thornbury 27-15 at Keyham.

That match had to be moved from the Rectory due to the conditions and Saturday’s game might also have to be switched if the weather does not improve.

Services would certainly prefer to play on the grass at the Rectory, especially against third-placed Hornets, who play on an artificial surface at their Hutton Moor ground.

The Somerset club sit just one point behind Devonport in the table.

“We played them last season home and away and they did have quite a forward-orientated game,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis. “But they have had a change of coach and if you look at their results they have obviously changed something for the good as they have not lost since the second game of the season.”

Lewis has challenged his team to match the level they showed against Thornbury last week.

“We played really well – some of the best rugby we have played all year,” said Lewis.

“There were still some points we can improve on but in attack we were quite dangerous for about 65 minutes of the game. We opened them up and played on the front foot quite a bit. I thought the forwards did well to get us across the gain-line and give us a bit of space.

“We probably could have snuck in a couple of more tries early on if we had made better decisions. But they played some fantastic rugby as well. I think we got a bit of the rub of the green at some points, but we worked hard and we were probably just that bit more clinical.”

Lewis knows it is not always easy to back up good performances.

“You look at the World Cup after England beat New Zealand in the semi-finals everyone thought that was the final,” said Lewis. “They tried to do the same two weeks on the trot – play at the real top of their game – but couldn’t quite do it. We will see if we can do it again.”

Services held a joint training session with National One club Plymouth Albion on Thursday and Lewis hopes that will have inspired his team.

“We mixed it up this week,” he said. “Albion came down to train with us on Thursday. Hopefully that will give us more motivation and see that we still need to step the pace up and be that little bit quicker. Hopefully, that will give us more impetus.”

Services are without Royal Navy back Rhys Williams, while Joe Daley and Kyle Browne picked up knocks last week and will need fitness test.

In Western Counties West, Saltash will be hoping they can move of the foot of table when they travel to Cullompton on Saturday.

The Ashes have only picked up one win so far this term – a 40-14 home victory over Tiverton – but they have pushed high-flying Chard, Bideford and Wellington hard in their last three games.

Cullompton have had some mixed results this term and are only in ninth place with three wins out of nine to their name since coming down from the league above.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

SECOND-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks are expecting to be thoroughly tested when they visit Cornish side Lanner on Saturday.

Lanner sit sixth in the table and are renowned for their home form. Oaks did win down there last season but only 16-6.

“We played there last year and it was tipping it down with rain,” said Plymstock coach Aiden Taylor. “Their scrum was really good and their pitch is tiny so we couldn’t play the expansive rugby we wanted to.

“It will probably be raining and miserable again, which they will probably love.

“They are doing all right this season and we just have to plan for their forward-oriented game that they’ve got. We just have to hope to get something from the game as the top is so tight.”

Tavistock bid to get their first win of the season and move off the foot of the table when they travel to eighth-placed Bude on Saturday.

Bude have not quite hit the heights of last season when they finished third, but they are always tough to beat on their own pitch.

Tavistock do head to north Cornwall boosted by their performance last week against league leaders Truro. Tavistock were leading with 10 minutes to go before slipping to a 21-10 loss.

“The conditions suited us last Saturday and we played well using them to our advantage,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“Bude away is notoriously difficult, no matter who travels there, but the mentality is still the same for us. We need wins but are not bothered who they come against or how they come about.

“We had another decent training session on Thursday with good numbers and we are looking a much more confident side than a month ago.”

Tavistock keep a similar side to last week but they are able to welcome back Andrew Schuttkacker after injury. He will replace the unavailable Martin Budden, while Rob Pratt, Aidan Mason and Will Gardner bolster their back line.

Elsewhere in the Cornwall/Devon League, Liskeard-Looe host the Pirates Amateurs at Lux Park.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

OLD Techs are still to decide whether they will play Dartmouth away on Saturday after the tragic death of their prop Shaun Hedges.

The 25-year-old was killed in a single-vehicle collision at the junction of Ferndale Road and North Prospect Road in Plymouth on Sunday.

The club have been left shattered by the news and on Thursday night they visited the spot where the crash happened and added a shirt and tie to a memorial there for him.

He had been part of Techs’ squad that had played against Buckfastleigh last Saturday.

“We went and hung an Old Techs shirt and tie up there after speaking to his dad,” said Old Techs chairman David Evans. “We met the players up there and spent a quiet minute together. It is really sad.

“Everyone has taken it really hard. It has affected everyone as he was just such a gentle nice fella. It’s so tragic.”

Hedges joined Old Techs has a 17-year-old and played for them for years before taking a break from rugby. However, he returned to the club and the game at the start of this season and once again became a popular member of the squad.

Techs have held talks with the league about whether to play this Saturday or not. Evans said the decision will be left to the players.

“It’s down to the players and the coaches,” said Evans. “I think everyone would be understanding if we didn’t, but there’s no right or wrong answer.”

Meanwhile, league leaders Tamar Saracens will be hoping Totnes’ pitch is playable on Saturday so they can keep the pressure on rivals Withycombe.

Withycombe’s game with Ilfracombe was postponed last weekend which allowed Sarries to leapfrog above them.

Sarries will be hoping the same does not happen to them this Saturday. Totnes’ last home match against Old Techs was postponed for a waterlogged pitch and the weather has not improved since.

If the game does go ahead, Sarries will be favourites to win. Their only defeat this term is a narrow 6-0 loss away at promotion-rivals Withycombe, whereas Totnes are bottom of the table, having lost five points for not travelling to OPMs.

OPMs are in third place but their credentials will be firmly tested on Saturday when they travel to Exeter Saracens, who are fourth.

“It will be a good test,” said OPMs’ head coach Rick Orkney. “But this is the sort of game now that we are looking forward to.

“I think, by the looks of it, providing it does not go pair shaped, we should be in the top half of the table.”

Plymouth Argaum will be looking to build on their good 31-0 home win over Totnes last weekend when they travel struggling Buckfastleigh.

Argaum’s victory last weekend was their first since the opening day of the season and was just the boost them needed after a disappointing month.

“We were incredibly pleased to score five tries in that weather last week,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “But more important was keeping a clean sheet, even though they did have quite a lot of pressure. We really fronted up.

“But as usual we can’t get the same team out although the side will be on par with that.”

Buckfastleigh, after finishing in the top five last season, have only won once so far this term – a 24-22 victory over Ilfracombe – and last week run out of players against Old Techs.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria are due to visit Torquay Athletic II.

Torquay won the David Butt Trophy last season after finishing second in the division but they have not quite hit the same heights this term, although they did beat Salcombe last weekend.

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