Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Tough away tests for Ivybridge, Services, Saltash, Oaks and Tavistock

IVYBRIDGE are happy to be the underdogs this weekend as they visit third-placed Weston-super-Mare on Saturday in the South West Premier.

The Bridgers are still waiting for their first win of 2020 after a frustrating start to the year.

They opened January will a 20-16 loss away at Launceston, where they had a last-gasp try disallowed, they then drew 25-25 at home with second-placed Maidenhead before suffering one point losses against both Newbury and Okehampton.

“The last few weeks have been tough,” said player-coach Jamie Tripcony. “We have made a habit of nearly winning games, but we still haven’t won in 2020 and we are looking for that win.

“We will certainly be doing all we can to try and get it on Saturday.”

He added: “It is a tough away trip to Weston-super-Mare. They are going very well in the league currently.

“We know what they are all about. We played them earlier in the season and the last few years.

“At home they are very strong, so it will certainly be tough for us.

“We are certainly the underdogs this week and that is fine by us – we’ll lick our lips and get ready for Saturday.”

Although seventh-placed Ivybridge consider themselves underdogs, Tripcony says they still put pressure on themselves.

“I think possibly external pressure will be off this week, but certainly the internal pressure will be there just the same as it is every week,” he said. “You have to apply pressure to yourselves.

“We have been playing well in patches, it’s just a lack of concentration here or there that has been letting us down.

“We can’t control the pressure other people put on us, but certainly internal pressure is there as we don’t want to let each other down any week.”

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

PROMOTION-chasing Devonport Services face a tricky trip to Cleve on Saturday in South West One.

Services got back to winning ways last weekend when they beat leaders Chew Valley 34-29 at the Rectory thanks to two tries in the final four minutes.

They are now just a point behind Chew with a game in hand, but Hornets are only one point behind on the same number of games and Lydney only another three points behind in fourth.

Cleve sit in 11th spot, but they did beat Crediton 35-20 away last Saturday and have proved tricky opponents on their own patch.

“If you look at their results, they do well against teams that they can dominate up front,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis. “They are pretty good up front with the size of their pack and front-row.”

After opening 2020 with a draw away at Sidmouth and a defeat at Bridgwater, Lewis hopes last weekend’s win over Chew Valley will have given his team confidence ahead of a crucial couple of months.

“Last week was some game,” said Lewis. “It was played in great spirits. It was a bit firery but there was great rugby played by them and us.

“It was one of those games that it was just a joy to be at. I think the supporters from both teams enjoyed it and, even though it was such a tight game, everyone stayed around and had a beer afterwards.

“When games are that tight it can get frustrating and get punchy and the other team might just go straight home, but it was actually played in really good spirits.

“It looked like we were going to finish with a loss, but the boys really dug in and we just did the simple things, which is all we have asked them to do.

“We went and scored two tries and they were from multiple phases – they weren’t just a break or anything, they were real team tries.”

Services have found themselves with a new front-row of teenager Seb Tooke, Liam Javis and Struan Main.

Lewis has praise for how youngster Tooke has fit

ted in since joining from Plymouth Albion.

“Young Seb Tooke has been doing well,” he said. “For an 18-year-old coming in against far more experienced players he is doing really well and learning his trade.”

Services are without experienced back Tom Goodman this week, as well as lock James McQuillan. Kyle Browne is also a doubt with a sore neck, but Rhys Williams could be available, while Mark Friend is set to come back into the squad.

In Western Counties West, it will be top against bottom as Saltash visit title-chasing Wellington on Saturday.

The Ashes dropped to the foot of the table last weekend after their game with Wadebridge was postponed and Honiton, who were bottom, shocked Bideford.

Four teams are just three points ahead of Saltash and three of them have played a game more than the Moorlands Lane club.

The Ashes will be the underdogs this week agains

t a Wellington side who have not lost at home since October 2018.

Wellington, though, did suffer a surprise defeat at Penryn last season, which was only their second reverse of the season.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE AND ROUND-UP

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor wants his team to go out and just enjoy their rugby when they visit runaway Cornwall/Devon League leaders Truro in the on Saturday.

Oaks sit in third spot, but they are 20 points behind their Cornish opponents, who have not lost since Plymstock beat them at Horsham Fields in mid-October.

“It is going to be a big ask,” said Taylor. “We all know it is going to be a tough game. They have only lost two games all season and haven’t lost at home and we also haven’t got our strongest squad out.

“They have got a cushion now at the top, but I think they will want to keep their unbeaten record at home and they will also be gunning for us as we beat them at our place.

“The most important thing is to try and get something out of the game, even if it is just a losing bonus point.”

He added: “We have to try and stay in the hunt (for second place).

“I still think Paignton and the Pirates are going to lose some games before the end of the season. That second spot is not set in stone. Truro are running away with the top spot but second is still up for grabs. Quite a number of teams could get it.

“We just have to go out and enjoy ourselves on Saturday and play some rugby, like we did last week.

“I think the pressure is off us. They are top of the league so we can just go out and play.

“We have got a few key players missing, but, hopefully, we can find a way to get a result.”

Tim Coats is still missing for Oaks, while Jack Hardman is also unavailable this week while prop Connor McQueen and back Ben Hadfield are both doubtful, however, Dan Romang is back for Plymstock.

Tavistock also have a tough away trip as they visit in-form Topsham.

Tavistock boosted their hopes of escaping the drop by hammering Veor 43-13 last weekend.

Topsham have been running in a lot of points recently. They scored 57 last Saturday at South Molton, put 46 on Bude the week before and 35 on Plymstock before that. They also beat high-flying Paignton 39-8 in January.

“Topsham haven’t lost at home since September which is a nice incentive for us,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“But it will be far from easy, especially as they have a large event and a number of teams at home on Saturday.

“We are playing with more confidence in attack of late and hope to get over the whitewash.”

Tavistock should have the majority of the squad that beat Veor available for this weekend, although Pjay Luatua has returned to New Zealand. Darren Guppy is also unavailable, but Richard Cann and Ant de la Cour could be back.

There are no Devon One games this weekend, but Plymouth Argaum are due to host OPMs in the Lockie Cup at Bickleigh Down, while in the Devon Merit Table, St Columba & Torpoint are due to entertain in-form DHSOB

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