Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Services look to finally get off the mark in 2020

IVYBRIDGE will be hoping February brings them more luck than January did.

The Bridgers are still waiting for their first win of 2020 after controversially losing 20-16 away at Launceston, drawing 25-25 at home with Maidenhead and suffering a 20-19 defeat at Newbury.

This weekend they welcome fourth-placed Okehampton to Cross-in-Hand in the South West Premier for a Devon derby, which also doubles up for the county cup.

Okehampton were the first team to beat Ivybridge this season when they won 27-11 at Showfield after scoring two late tries when the visitors found themselves down to 14 players due to injuries

“They (Okehampton) are a pretty handy side and are quite high up in the table,” said Ivybridge coach Gareth Elliott. “I think they are one win above us, which is quite good in one sense as we can try and chase them down.

“At their place it wasn’t a good game for us with injuries, but they played well and had a strong game. We made a few mistakes that they capitalised on.

He added: “We have talked about the fact that we want to put things right this weekend as we have had a lot of close games recently that have not gone our way. It is about making sure we make it clear that we are the better team on the pitch so there’s no 50-50s that could go either way.

“It is just about getting a good performance. We know a win will come if we play to our potential.

“Even though we have had some bad performances we have still been getting things out of games. From our last three games we have picked up four points, which is the equivalent of one win and does kind of keep us in the race.  The league is still quite tight and one win would bump us up a little bit with a game in hand.

“Although it is frustrating for me and the players that we haven’t been able to get that win yet this year, there is still a load to play for.”

Ivybridge are boosted by the return of Devon forwards George Wilson and Robin Luscombe, while Luke Martell is set to keep his spot in the squad after a good performance in their last game at Newbury.

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services could hand a league debut to new signing Louis Ogilvie in their top-of-the-table home clash with Chew Valley on Saturday.

The Bristol-born winger has moved to the Rectory from South West Premier side Launceston.

He had previously played for Thornbury before moving to Plymouth to studying at Marjon Univerity.

Ogilvie impressed in a Services side that played the Royal Navy President’s XV on Wednesday night and might have done enough to take on South West One leaders Chew Valley.

The Somerset club are four points clear of second-placed Services but Devonport do have a game in hand.

Services could do with winning after losing top spot and seeing many of the teams below them close up on them after a defeat at Bridgwater and a draw at Sidmouth in their opening two games of 2020.

“Every game seems to be big at the moment,” said Devonport head coach Mike Lewis. “They keep getting bigger and bigger as the season goes on.”

Chew Valley have won their last three games to move above Services. They also beat the Devon club 26-24 in October.

“We do seem to be hitting teams in good form, which makes it tough for us,” said Lewis. “Chew have a few wins under their belt, Sidmouth had as well, while Bridgwater were doing well also.

“But we just have to think about what we are doing.”

Services have not yet played at home in 2020 and they will be looking to continue their 100 per cent record at the Rectory this season and bounce back after dropping points at Bridgwater and Sidmouth away in their last two games.

“We could have snuck a result against Sidmouth, even though the way the game went a draw was probably a fair result,” said Lewis. “Bridgwater away we weren’t at the races in the first half, but second half when we did start playing a bit we just weren’t disciplined in our structures enough, yet again it was another we could have won.

“Maybe it is just that mid-season complacency. I think most teams get it just after Christmas with players struggling to turn up for training. Maybe that’s because it is wet, cold and miserable or just the January blues.”

It will be February on Saturday and Services are not only boosted by the arrival of Ogilvie, but they also have Richard West and Matt Gregory back.

“Louis was playing at Launceston but has come across,” said Lewis. “He’s quite a tall, rangy winger who is quite physical and he organises really well from the outside. He will be another voice on the field.

“He is at university here and was looking for somewhere closer to play as he had got a bit fed up of the travelling (to Launceston). He asked if he could come across and have a game. He played on Wednesday night in a friendly against the Royal Navy President’s XV and scored with his second touch.”

Rhys Williams, though, is still missing for Devonport, while Jason Stead is also not available.

In Western Counties West, Saltash will be hoping to get out of the bottom two again when they host Wadebridge at Moorlands Lane.

The Ashes beat Tiverton 25-15 away in their last match two weeks ago to move off the bottom and up to 12th in the table. However, Tiverton moved back above them last Saturday when they beat Wivelisombe 24-17.

Saltash will be hoping home advantage will make the difference this weekend, but they will be aware that Wadebridge will offer a tough challenge. The Bridgers have won their last three league games and beat Saltash 38-16 at their place earlier in the season.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will head into their home league game with Torquay Athletic on Saturday boosted by a big midweek Lockie Cup win over Saltash II.

Oaks triumphed 62-12 at Horsham Fields on Wednesday to reach the cup semi-finals.

Dan Romang scored a hat-trick of tries, with Corey Jenkinson, Al Murray, Jack Hardman, Andy Porter and Will Varley also going over the whitewash to go with a penalty try. Hayden Coles kicked five conversions and a penalty, with prop James MacFarlane also adding a conversion.

It was the perfect way for Oaks to bounce back from their disappointing RFU Senior Vase defeat at Liskeard-Looe last Saturday.

“It was quite a one-sided game but it was good to get into a semi-final,” said Oaks coach Aiden Taylor. “It was good to get a run out and get some confidence after two defeats.

“The boys were able to enjoy themselves. I feel like we put so much pressure on ourselves to be at the top of the league and winning these games that sometimes we forget why we play rugby. But we went out and just chucked the ball around and scored some lovely tries.”

However, it is back to the pressure of the league on Saturday when they host Torquay, who have suffered a dramatic loss of form recently.

The Tics were one of the early pacesetters but have lost their last three games, including a 72-5 home defeat to Truro and a 69-19 loss against Pirates Amateurs, to drop down to eighth.

“I don’t what has happened to them but they don’t seem to be playing very well at the moment,” said Taylor. “But the problem is we don’t know what we are going to face on Saturday.

“However, if we could get a win against Torquay that would boost everyone at the club.”

Wednesday’s hat-trick hero Romang will miss Saturday’s game, while Tim Coats and Tom Richards are also still missing. However, David Byng, MacFarlane, Hardman and Alex Broughton are back from last weekend. Broughton missed most of last season after dislocating his shoulder three times.

Tavistock have another crucial home match on Saturday when they host Veor at Sandy Park.

Tavistock sit third-from-bottom, three points behind 11th-placed Liskeard-Looe, who do have two games in hand, and 12 points behind Saturday’s opponents Veor, who are 10th.

“We were poor away to Veor earlier in the season and let a good lead go so we have an idea on what we need to do to reverse our fortunes,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“It is cup rugby once again and a game we need to target.”

Tavistock are still waiting on a few last minute fitness tests, but are able to welcome back Seb Cox, Martin Budden and Duncan Law.

Saturday’s game will also see New Zealander Pjay Luatua play his last game for Tavistock before returning home.

“We hope to send him off with a win,” said Kerswill.

Elsewhere in the Cornwall/Devon League, 11th-placed Liskeard-Looe host ninth-placed Lanner at Lux Park.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

PLYMOUTH Argaum will be looking to prove a point when they visit second-placed Tamar Saracens.

Argaum have struggled against the leading sides in the league this season and were beaten 55-7 at home by Sarries earlier in the season.

Saracens, meanwhile, will be keen to pick up another five points to keep them at least 11 points ahead of third-placed OPMs,  who host the unpredictable Totnes.

Tamar Saracens warmed up for this weekend’s game by beating Totnes 61-0 last Saturday in the Devon Junior Cup.

Argaum had a week off and will be hoping for good availability for the trip to the Parkway.

Third-placed OPMs will be wary of Totnes, who have moved up fifth in the table after only losing one of their last eight league games.

“They have been very strange this season,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “And you can never underestimate them as they can turn up with some really good players.”

OPMs reached the Lockie Cup semi-final last Saturday by beating the Peninsula Medical School 14-7. They are also into the semi-finals of the Devon Junior Cup where they will face Buckfastleigh with the knowledge that they will host the county final if they win.

Also in Devon One this weekend, Old Techs face a tricky trip to Torrington.

Techs have lost their last four league games and know it will not be easy against a Torrington side who are traditionally much stronger at home.

However, Techs can take heart from the fact that they did beat Torrington 38-24 at Weston Mill in October.

In the Devon Merit Table, DHSOB will be hoping to continue their good form when they travel to leaders Salcombe.

The Old Boys are enjoying their best run of form in years, having won their last three league games. They have beaten Saltash II at home, Tavistock II away and Brixham Albion at home.

“It will be tough,” said DHSOB’s Mike Freeman. “Salcombe are top of the table and at home, but maybe we can surprise them.

“We have not played them yet this season, but I think word has got around that we have been pretty strong recently after beating Torquay and Tavistock. However, we have got a one or two missing this week.”

Elsewhere in the Merit Table, Plympton Victoria will host their old rivals OPMs II on Saturday, while St Columba & Torpoint, who surprised Torquay Athletic last weekend, host University of Plymouth III.

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