IVYBRIDGE will be hoping they can finally get their first win of 2020 on Saturday when they visit Monks Lane to play struggling Newbury Blues in the South West Premier.
The Bridgers have been left frustrated in their opening two matches of the year, losing 20-16 at Launceston after having a last-gasp try disallowed and drawing 25-25 with Maidenhead last weekend.
“It has been a bit a frustrating but everyone rocked up to training this week and we had a really good session,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott.
“No-one is feeling sorry for themselves. We haven’t had the rub of the green the last couple of weeks but the main message from everyone is just to make sure we are not just relying on a score here or there. We have to try and make it more comfortable for ourselves.”
The league is very tight. Ivybridge currently sit in seventh spot but are only four points behind fourth-placed Okehampton.
“We do have a game in hand on the three teams immediately above us,” said Elliott. “The league is quite tight and we just need to start picking up wins. It would be great to get the first win of 2020.
“We have been finishing games strongly and I just keep saying the same thing – we just need to prolong our performance and not have moments where we allow the opposition to score easy tries, get easy metres or penalties. We just have to maintain our consistency throughout an entire game.
“We are never well beaten, we are always in games but we just have to be more ruthless to get a result and stay in the lead if we do get in front.”
Newbury, who used to play in the second tier of English rugby, sit in 12th spot, just two points ahead of bottom side Bracknell having played two games more.
But the Blues have shown they can match it with the best in the league when they want. They beat Barnstaple 26-17 at home, narrowly lost 27-24 to second-placed Maidenhead and by the same score to Ivybridge when they visited Cross-in-Hand earlier in the season.
“Last time we defended really well in the first half as they had a lot of ball and then we just had enough late on,” said Elliott. “But it was a tough game. They have got quite a good side even though they are near the bottom of the table. They did beat Barnstaple at home a couple of months ago.
“Probably just form wise they don’t hold it together long enough.
“I think this is our second longest trip after Maidenhead. We will have a similar side out to last weekend and everyone is ready to go and get stuck into an away game.”
SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST
Services sit level on points with Somerset side Hornets at the top of the table, but Devonport do have a game in hand after having a blank weekend last Saturday.
Bridgwater have won their last three games and are only six points behind Services.
“We do seem to be hitting all the teams who are in-form on their own patch,” said Devonport head coach Mike Lewis.
“Bridgwater is always a tough place to go. They are doing really well and they are always a team that are going to be challenging.
“When you look at that fixture you know it is going to be a tough one. They have a great set of forwards and they always put you under pressure. I think they have also got some great outside backs as well.
“These games sort the men from the boys. You have to want to win this one.”
The one boost for Devonport is that Bridgwater player-coach Wayne Sprangle is set to miss the game.
“Not only is he their coach but he is also their leader on the field who makes that extra bit of difference,” said Lewis.
Services are likely to be boosted by the return of captain Matt Gregory but influential backs Corey Jamieson and Rhys Williams are doubtful.
In Western Counties West, relegation-threatened Saltash face a massive match away at Tiverton on Saturday.
Tiverton are three places but just two points ahead of the Ashes.
After a really tough period earlier in the season, which included a 40-14 loss to Saltash at Moorlands Lane, Tiverton have picked up a bit recently. They have won two of their last three games, but did lose 24-0 at Penryn last week.
Saltash have lost their last three games to drop to the bottom of the table and so could really do with a win.
Twelve-placed Tavistock find themselves eight points from safety and with 11th-placed Liskeard-Looe visiting second-from-bottom Exeter Athletic, they know they cannot really afford to lose if they want to keep alive their hopes of staying up.
“We can’t accept anything but a win,” admitted Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill.
“It is a cup game for us.
“We are waiting on a few last minute fitness tests but we are welcoming back a few regulars.”
Tavistock are keen to bounce back form last week’s disappointing 41-5 defeat at Plymstock Albion Oaks.
At the other end of the table, third-placed Plymstock will be hoping to keep up the pressure on Truro and Paignton at the top when they visit Topsham.
Although they lost away at fourth-placed Pirates Amateurs last week the previous Saturday they beat second-placed Paignton 39-9 at Bonfire Field and also put 81 points on Lanner in their home game before that.
“They are flying at home,” said Oaks head coach Aiden Taylor.
Plymstock, though, make the trip to Exeter high on confidence after their convincing win over Tavistock last weekend.
Taylor felt that was one of his side’s best performances of the season, although he still felt they did leave ‘a lot of points’ out on the field.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
The sides may be at opposite ends of the table, with Sarries sitting in second place and Techs falling down to 10th last Saturday, but both clubs will be expecting a close game.
The teams have already met twice this season with Sarries winning 24-5 at home in the league and then triumphing 15-0 away in the Devon Junior Cup. But both matches were tight, particularly the league game where Techs played for a large part of the game with 14 men.
Sarries still have the league and Devon Junior Cup to focus on, but Techs will have their eyes on the Lockie Cup. They did reach the final last year and were winners in 2017 and 2016.
Techs will be keen to prove a point after losing 9-5 at Plymouth Argaum last weekend after producing a below par display.
The match should have been played at Bickleigh Down but was reversed after Argaum pulled out of visiting Withycombe in the first half of the season.
“We have nothing to lose,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman. “They are walking the league but we are coming off a hard earned win in difficult conditions.
“The team is buoyed by that win. It was good to ground a result out.
“I think the players do owe it to themselves to put in a good performance after not going there earlier in the season.”
Torrington are known for their inconsistency but after back-to-back wins they are up to sixth in the table.
“It will be a tough game,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “But our confidence is high. We did beat them at the beginning of the season at their place but we you cannot undestimate any team in this league.”
In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria will be hoping to play their first match of 2020.
Their last two matches had to be postponed due to a lack of a referee. The Plymouth Rugby Referees’ Society are struggling at the moment for match officials and will be running a course at the start of November at Devonport High School to try and recruit a host more.
Plym Vic’s first game in weeks could not be tougher – a trip to Kingsbridge II.
“It will probably be a bit of a magical mystery tour,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “We went up to Kingsbridge last year and got smashed off the park but then we beat them later in the season, so we don’t really what we might face.”
Meanwhile, DHSOB will be hoping to build on their 31-10 win over Brixham Albion last weekend when they travel to second-placed Tavistock II.