RUGBY PREVIEWS: Services, Saltash, Plymstock and Tavistock hope to end year on a high

Devonport Services’ Toby Knowles in action against North Petherton at home last season (picture by Mark Andrews)

DEVONPORT Services will be hoping to get back to winning ways and end 2019 on a positive note when they host North Petherton at the Rectory on Saturday in South West One.

The league leaders suffered a surprise 22-20 defeat to Newent – a game that marked the halfway point of Services’ season.

They start the second half of the campaign sitting four points clear at the top of the table, but it could have been so much better had they not conceded a last-gasp try to lose last weekend.

“Last week was one of those games where we are eight points up with 10 minutes to go but we gave away silly penalties and gave away possession easily,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis. “We just did not play to the 80th minute and it cost us the game.

“A few of the penalties looked very arguable but if you keep the ball for 10 minutes and don’t let them have it then you don’t let them score.

“We went wide a couple of times, got isolated and got turned over and then gave away penalties and they kicked to the corner and put us under pressure.”

Devonport beat North Petherton 41-21 in the second match of the season, but Lewis knows his team cannot afford to take them lightly.

“It was tough up there and was probably a bit closer than the scoreline suggested,” said Lewis.

“We know what they are all about. We know they have a big old pack and a couple of good backs, but hopefully we can nullify their forward threat.”

Services have been hit by injuries in recent weeks and had to field quite a makeshift squad last Saturday.

“We have 21 injuries across both first and second team squads – 14 who have played at least two games for the first team. Plus a couple of uni lads and a couple of navy lads have also gone home for Christmas.”

Services, though, do hope to have a stronger squad than last week and will still be able to get two senior and their colts team out on Saturday.

North Petherton are bringing their colts to play Services, while Devonport’s second team will host Cullompton in the Devon Merit Table.

In Western Counties West, Saltash have the chance to pull away from the bottom three when they host Wivelscombe at Moorlands Lane.

The Ashes moved out of the bottom three last Saturday with a 14-8 home with over Honiton. That was Saltash’s third home win in five games and they will want to make that four in six this weekend.

However, Wivelscombe will be wanting the win as much as Saltash as they dropped to the foot of the table last Saturday after losing 49-19 at Penryn.

Western Counties West has got tight at the lower end with just four points separating the bottom five.

In the Cornwall/Devon League, third-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks will be hoping to get their first win in three games when they entertain Cornish side Veor at Horsham Fields.

Oaks have had a frustrating couple of weeks, losing by one score to both Paignton and North Tawton.

They are desperate to get a win before the Christmas break and so they can keep the pressure on Truro and Paignton above them.

“Hopefully, we can get a win,” said Oaks’ player-coach Aiden Taylor. “If we had won the last two games we would be top of the league.”

Veor sit fourth from bottom and when the teams met in the second match of the season in Cornwall, Oaks triumphed 33-14.

Also in the Cornwall/Devon League, Tavistock face a tough trip to league leaders Paignton.

But Tavvy will travel in good heart after beating Liskeard-Looe last weekend.

“Last week we were rewarded for persistence and confidence under pressure,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“This week, if the weather holds, we are away to a Paignton side who know how to win. But we have nothing to lose leading up to Christmas against a top side.

“It is a perfect opportunity to test our ability to take last week’s performance forward.”

Kerswill and captain Andrew Schuttknacker are ruled out after picking up niggles last weekend, but there is a welcome return for Richard Cann and Ethan Lamerton, while Toby Teague and James White are back from university.

There are no Devon One match this weekend, while Ivybridge also have a blank weekend in South West Premier.

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