RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge look to end year on a high with Devon derby at Cross-in-Hand

IVYBRIDGE will be aiming to end 2019 on a high note when they entertain Exeter University at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday.

The game will be the Bridgers’ last South West Premier fixture of the year as they have a blank weekend next Saturday.

They are hoping to return to winning ways after two narrow defeats and a draw in their last three matches.

Last weekend they were 20-3 down in the first half against Drybrook before coming back only to lose 23-20.

“There’s a couple of things we need to get back to – fundamentals of our game that we have just not been getting quite right,” said head coach Gareth Elliott.

“The other thing is we haven’t really sustained a performance for a full 80 minutes.

“We have played in spits and spats and produced some decent level of performance. But like last weekend, it was not until 25-30 minutes that we started to get a foothold in the game and we can’t afford to give a team a head-start like that. At one point we were 20-3 down before coming back. The same happened against Brixham, while against Camborne it was the other way around – we were quite comfortable and then we let them back in.

“It is about sustaining the level of performance and not letting a team have 20 minutes when they can accumulate points to hurt us. That is really important.”

He added: “But we are back at home and it’s our last league game before Christmas and it’s a chance to take some form into the new year.”

Ivybridge were missing a number of players last weekend but they will be able to welcome a few back on Saturday, including backs Will Lamont and Tom Scoles, to face Exeter University, who they lost to in pre-season.

Young centre Lamont will be playing his final match for the foreseeable future for Ivybridge ahead of going in the Royal Navy, while Scoles is back after becoming a father last week.


Devonport Services in action against Newent last season (picture by Mark Andrews)

SOUTH West One leaders Devonport Services will be aiming to avoid a banana skin when they travel to second-from-bottom Newent on Saturday.

Services have not lost since the end of October but they are decimated by unavailabilities this weekend for their longest trip of the season.

They will also be wary of Newent, who have beaten Cleve and pushed Crediton hard away before narrowly losing 31-28 in their two games.

“It is a potential banana skin,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “It is our furthest away trip of the season and an awkward place to get to, the pitch is an awkward one to play on, but it is a great local club with that spirit.

“It is going to be a challenge for us. Can we get off that bus with the right attitude and mentality?

“They (Newent) have had a couple of okay results recently and that will give them a bit of confidence playing at home in front of their family and friends.

“Complacency can slip in and players can think they can settle into games but before you know it you can be 20 points down and chasing the game. That is something we really have to address.

“At home last week (against Lydney) we pretty much did that. We just seemed tired and fatigued and it was a bit of a graft to go that extra mile, which we are usually quite good at.”

Devonport have a host of players missing, including try-scoring hooker Sam Bennett, who broke his hand last weekend.

“We are decimated and that is likely to be our biggest issue this weekend,” said Lewis. “But we will still have a good bunch of players out who have been around the club for a fair number of years who really want to push this team forward. Many are really good club men who will really graft.”

Veteran forwards Tony Sibley and Ignatius Oberholzer are among those players likely to come into the squad, while back-row forward Tyler Busfield could be given a chance at hooker.

In Western Counties West, Saltash play the first of two massive home matches before Christmas as they welcome old rivals Honiton to Moorlands Lane.

Saltash sit in 13th spot with 13 points, while Honiton are in 10th with 18 points. The following week the Ashes will host 12th-placed Wiveliscombe.

These two games before the end of the year could be crucial for Saltash’s hopes of staying in the league.

The east Cornwall club have picked up form in the last couple of months, especially at home, and will be optimistic that they can get the better of Honiton on Saturday.

The clubs last met during the 2017-18 season when Saltash won 39-22 at Moorlands Lane but Honiton triumphed 18-11 at their place.


THIRD-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks will be looking to become only the second team this season to beat leaders Paignton and close the gap at the top to just one or two points.

Oaks are currently six points behind the south Devon side, who have won their last eight games.

Plymstock were left frustrated last week after conceding a try with the last play of the game to lose 21-17 away at North Tawton.

“I hope we are going to have some response but looking at numbers – availability and injuries – we are likely to be fielding a scratch side,” said head coach Aiden Taylor, who is set to play at fly-half due to Oaks missing a host of backs, including Tom Richards, Ben Hadfield and Joe Brearley.

“I don’t know much about Paignton only that they have only lost one game and are going well,” said Taylor. “They know how to win, which is the big thing and why they are top of the league.”

On last weekend’s defeat where Oaks let a 10-0 half-time lead slip, Taylor said: “We were so stupid last weekend. We kept pushing and pushing for that bonus point and forgot to just see out the win.

“North Tawton got their tails up but we should never have lost that game. It was a massive disappointment and the lads could not even look at each other in the eye.

“But hopefully we can get something out of this game.”

Oaks are likely to be without highly-rated young back-row forward Pete Keanie for a while after he dislocated his shoulder for a second time this season playing for Devon under-18s.

Meanwhile, there is also a big game at Sandy Park where Tavistock host Liskeard-Looe.

Tavistock sit in 12th spot, with Liskeard in 11th place, but the east Cornwall side are eight points ahead.

If Tavistock have any hopes of getting out of the bottom three then this is a game they need to win.

“There are no excuses this week, we need to win and we have prepared ourselves as well as we can,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“The weather is set to be horrendous so possession and territorial rugby will be important, especially if our first team pitch is not fit.

“We have our old boys’ lunch prior to the game and there is always additional pressure to impress. But we just have to turn up and get a result however ugly it comes.”

After availability issues last week, Tavistock are virtually at full strength this weekend. Their only real absentees are Ethan Lamerton and Jack Glover.

Kerswill, Pjay Luatua, Rob Pratt, Jack Easton, Aidan Mason and George Hillson all return to the starting line-up, with Tom Pearson back on the bench.

Tavistock lost 37-24 away at Lanner last weekend, whereas Liskeard-Looe beat South Molton 36-3 thanks to five tries from Jordan Smith.

The two clubs met on the same weekend last year at Sandy Park, with Liskeard winning 11-5 in horrible conditions.


OPMs will be bidding to do what no-one else has managed to do this season – beat Withycombe.

The Old Boys host the Devon One league leaders at King George V Playing Fields on Saturday.

OPMs lie in fourth place, with just two defeats to their name this season, but they are 13 points behind Withycombe, who dropped out of the Cornwall/ Devon League last term.

“We are at home and it is our fortress,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “We know how to play our pitch and we just need to stick to our structures and play the game we have been playing.

“But we know playing Withycombe will be a very difficult game.

“I have never played against and I think the majority of our lads have never played against them.”

It is likely to be a crucial weekend in Devon One with the top four clubs meeting each other.

At the Parkway, third-placed Tamar Saracens will host second-placed Exeter Saracens. Just two points separate the teams in the league, with both clubs having eight wins and two defeats to their name.

“It is going to be an interesting game,” said Tamar Saracens head coach Pete Lethbridge. “We have a lot to work on from last week but we do have a lot of players to come back in.”

Tamar Saracens are set to open a new spectator shelter at their ground on Saturday. The club have been working hard trying to improve their facilities at the Parkway.

Plymouth Argaum and Old Techs are also at home for the final week of fixtures in 2019 for Devon One teams.

Argaum host bottom side Ilfracombe at Bickleigh Down, while Old Techs will entertain New Cross at Weston Mill.

Last weekend Argaum were struggling for players and travelled to Exeter Saracens will just 13. They ended up handing the hosts a walkover before the match due to a lack of front-row players but they did play out a friendly.

“I think we have all our front-row players available this week,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. We also have Joe Martin, who impressed against OPMs, back and Jack Morris is back from university so is available. Rob Aston, an old colt, has returned, but we are still missing players.”

Argaum’s absentees include Tom Worboys, Billy Stockwell, Karl Sullivan, Scott Oliver and Luke Nicols.

“We have a decent side unavailable,” said Quarterman. “But I think we will still have a decent team out.”

Ilfracombe will arrive in Plymouth on the back of their first win of the season and so Argaum will not be taking them lightly.

“We need to take every game honestly no matter where teams are in the table,” said Quarterman. “We know where we are at and we can’t take anything as a given.

“We know we have a lot of potential but we are a team that need to step up. We just need to find that spark.”

Old Techs are also looking to rediscover their spark after losing their last three games, including to Ilfracombe last weekend.

This weekend they entertain second-from-bottom New Cross looking to get a much-needed win before the Christmas break.

“We just need to get some players back,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria travel to second-placed Tavistock II.

Tavistock are set to name a strong side that includes Jasper Cameron, who is back from university.

“It will be a hard game,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “They are up at the top of the league so it will be a good test and a good yard-stick for us.”

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