Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge look for double over Maidenhead, as other clubs prepare for derby battles

IVYBRIDGE will be looking to complete the double over second-placed Maidenhead on Saturday when they host them at Cross-in-Hand in the South West Premier.

An under-strengthen Bridgers side surprised their ambitious Berkshire opponents at the end of September with a 36-33 win at Braywick Park.

And the South Hams side hope they can repeat that performance this weekend after a frustrating 20-16 defeat at Launceston last Saturday.

“We went up to them (Maidenhead) having had to make lots of changes with a lot of people coming in due to injuries and unavailabilities, but that was one of our best performances,” said coach Gareth Elliott.

“So there is no reason to think we can’t do the double over them.

“But it will be down to defence and keeping it going for a full 80 minutes.”

Ivybridge again have to make a number of changes. Devon forward Robin Luscombe has been ruled out with a shoulder injury, while wing Ben Fenton is out with a hamstring problem and George Wilson is unavailable.

Ben Collins gets the chance to come into the pack, as does former player-of-the-year Toby Borrow.

Borrow returned to Ivybridge at the start of last season after playing and living in Bahrain and before that London, but he got injured straight away.

He has been training and has played a couple of second team matches and now gets his chance again.

“Toby’s struggled with a knee injury,” said Elliott. “But he’s been training well and played a couple of games for the second team. He is a really good player.”

Ben Watts returns at scrum-half for Saturday’s match, with Jay Toogood moving to the wing.

Devonport Services are without a match in South West One following St Ives’ withdrawal from the league.

In Western Counties West, Saltash have an important home match against Teignmouth at Moorlands Lane.

The Ashes dropped to the foot of the table last week after losing at promotion-chasing St Austell, but it is tight at the bottom with just two points separating five teams.

Ninth-placed Cullompton are only five points ahead, so one win and Saltash could be nearly in mid-table.

Teignmouth, though, will offer a tough test to the Moorlands Lane club. The south Devon side, who were unlucky to be relegated from South West One last season after finishing 12th with 44 points, have won their last four matches and sit sixth in the table.

When the sides met at Bitton Park, Teignmouth, coached by former Plymouth Albion lock Colin Stewart, narrowly won 23-18.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

THIRD-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks say they will not be taking anything for granted when they host relegation-threatened Tavistock at Horsham Fields on Saturday.

Eight places and 30 points separate the Plymouth Combination rivals in the table, but Oaks’ coach Aiden Taylor says that will count for nothing in a derby game.

“It’s a big derby against Tavistock and I think we both enjoy playing against each other,” said Taylor.

“It will probably be a feisty affair, but I’m looking forward to it. In derby games league positions go out of the window.

“We know they will be up for it. They love playing against us.

“I am surprised where they are in the table. They have probably not had the rub of the green, but their results have improved of late. They have some good players and it is a potential banana skin for us.

“But we love playing at home and we have only lost once there this season.”

Oaks, who signed Sam Snell from Tavistock in November, have further strengthened their squad with the signing of Harry Groves from Devonport Services and former Spain under-18 player Nicolas Bono Machado.

Groves, 20, has been concentrating on refereeing but has now decided to return to playing, while Machado has moved to the area and taken up rugby again after three years out of the game.

Both are back three players and could feature this weekend, but Plymstock are missing prop James MacFarlane.

Tavistock, who narrowly lost 16-14 at home to Pirates Amateurs last weekend, are set to welcome back Leion Cole, Ollie Noy-Scott, Jack Lewis and Charlie Charlton.

“We’ve had a good turnout for training this week and know it’s just fine margins that are preventing us getting wins,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“Losing bonus points won’t do it for us alone and we have got to start beating teams, not only around us but higher in the league.

“Oaks have built a winning mentality over the last few years and can see games off. It is never easy down at their place but a derby game is always a different kettle of fish.”

Also in the Cornwall/Devon League, 11th-placed Liskeard-Looe host seventh-placed Bude.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

IT IS also derby day in Devon One where Tamar Saracens host OPMs and Plymouth Argaum entertain Old Techs.

Tamar Saracens could go a long way to securing a top two finish if they could beat fourth-placed OPMs.

Sarries, sitting behind unbeaten league leaders Withycombe, are currently seven points ahead of third-placed Exeter Saracens and eight in front of OPMs.

Saracens are one of only three teams to have beaten the Old Boys this season, winning 24-3 at King George V Playing Fields, but OPMs feel they have come a long way since then and are hoping to show that at the Parkway on Saturday.

“They (Tamar Saracens) are flying at the minute,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “And it is always a tough game against them. But we are going into the game with wins on our back and a bit of confidence.”

Sarries are unbeaten since mid-November and last week beat New Cross 56-7, but they know OPMs will be up for the match.

“It is going to be a difficult game,” said Sarries coach Pete Lethbridge.

The other Plymouth derby match in Devon One sees two teams trying to move up the table.

Techs sit in eighth spot and Argaum 10th, with both having three wins and seven defeats to their name.

When they met at Weston Mill at the start of the season the game ended in a 10-10.

Techs have strengthened since then, including bringing back Billy Evans, who played for Argaum in that fixture back in September.  Their latest additions include Lewis Tunnicliffe, who has returned from Scotland, and his younger brother Nyle Tunnicliffe. The pair join their older sibling Ryan at Weston Mill. Barry Sheldon has also joined Techs from Tamar Saracens.

After a sticking patch in November and early December, Techs appear to have re-discovered their form.

They beat New Cross 50-7 just before Christmas and last week pushed unbeaten leaders Withycombe hard before conceding two late tries to lose 28-13.

“I certainly was not disappointed last week,” said coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “It was a pleasing performance against unbeaten Withycombe. They are a very good side, but we never looked out of place.

“We got it back to 14-13, but it was just the last 10 minutes when they scored two tries and converted them both.

“This week’s game should be a good one. The last time we met it ended in a draw. There was nothing in the game and I don’t expect anything different on Saturday. We are pretty close on points in the league and it will be tough up there.

“We have managed to get a few people back in recent weeks and have a bit more strength in depth. We’ve been able to get 20 out so we have people to bring on.”

Argaum lost 41-17 to OPMs last week and will be looking for a response in their first home game since December 14.

“Last week we did play really well at times but we just have to play with that tempo for 80 minutes,” said club secretary Stuart Quarterman. “Our game management also let us down a bit. We seemed to make the wrong decisions all the time.”

Argaum will not have last week’s try scorers Jack Morris and Mason Edwards available as they have gone back to university and work outside the area, but they should welcome back Tom Bradshaw and JP Browning and could hand a debut to new Royal Marine signing Philip Bayne, who is a scrum-half/winger.

In the Devon Merit Table, seventh-placed Plympton Victoria will be hoping to open up a gap between themselves and eighth-placed University of Plymouth III when they meet at King George V Playing Fields.

Plym Vic are currently two points ahead of the students in the table. When the sides met earlier in the season at St Mary’s, Plym Vic narrowly won 17-14.

Elsewhere, DHSOB will be looking for a home win over bottom side Brixham Albion in their opening match of 2020. The teams have yet to meet yet as the previous meeting was postponed.

Also in the division, fellow strugglers St Columba & Torpoint are due to visit Salcombe on Saturday.

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