Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Big home matches for Ivybridge, Services, Oaks and Tamar Saracens

IVYBRIDGE will be looking to upset Barnstaple for the second time this season when the South West Premier league leaders visit Cross-in-Hand on Saturday.

Barnstaple are flying high at the top of the table and looking like they will return to National Two South.

They are 14 points clear of second-placed Weston-super-Mare with seven games to go.

The north Devon side have only lost three times this season but Ivybridge were the first to beat them when they triumphed 15-13 at Pottington Road at the end of October.

Ivybridge could certainly do with causing a shock on Saturday after failing to win a game in 2020.

They have dropped down to eighth and are now only seven points clear of the relegation zone.

“The last couple of weeks it has gone from us been a couple of wins away from third to now a couple of losses away from 11th or something,” said head coach Gareth Elliott.

“We really want to try and take something out of this game.”

He added: “We are on a bad run and we just have to get back to focusing on our basics.

“We haven’t become a bad team all of a sudden, but we are just a bit low of confidence.

“But the lads have trained well and it is just about focusing on the right things and not looking for any miracles.

“We have to take confidence in the fact that we were successful against these guys away from home. I’m confident in us having another good performance this weekend at home.

“We know they are a good, dangerous side and we have to be ready for the challenge.”

Ivybridge are likely to have to make a number of changes to their team this week due to injuries and unavailabilities. However, they should have Jon Morgan back in their squad, while Damon Akerman is close to a first team recall after breaking his leg against Okehampton earlier in the season.

Picture by Mark Andrews

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services will not be short of motivation when they host Devon rivals Crediton in South West One on Saturday.

Second-placed Services are not only looking for vital league points and to keep their 100 per cent home record going, but they could also virtually secure a place in the Devon Senior Shield final if they win and also pay Crediton back for a shock defeat at Blagdon earlier in the season.

This weekend’s match is likely to be switched from the Rectory to Keyham due to the bad weather, but Devonport have yet to confirm that.

Crediton have had an up-and-down season following their promotion from Western Counties West.

They have had a few hammerings, like last weekend when they lost 78-0 away at Thornbury, but they have also had some good wins, including beating Services at the end of October.

“You don’t know what team they are going to put out,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis. “Look at their result last week, but before that they just lost to Cleve and have beaten teams near the top of the table, including us earlier in the season.

“You just can’t judge what they are going to be like and they always seem to play well when they come down to us.

“This is one of those games where we cannot focus on them. We just have to concentrate on ourselves.”

Although promotion is still firmly in Services’ sights they would also like to secure a place in Devon Senior Shield final and host it. To do that they have to top the internal county table, which goes on results of Devon derbies during the league season. A win on Saturday would put them in pole position to do that.

“That is a massive incentive as it is something the club needs,” said Lewis. “The only real success the club have had in the last few years was that play-off final and we had to go to Chew Valley for it.

“It would be great to have something like that at home in the last game of the season. You could get something like 500 people watching if it was a day where there were not any other games.”

Services are likely to be without winger Kyle Browne again due to a neck injury, but front-row forwards Sam Bennett and Sean Dunn could be back in contention.

Bennett has been out for 10 weeks after breaking his hand but could play for either the firsts or the seconds on Saturday.

In Western Counties West, the pressure will be on Saltash when they host seventh-placed Bideford at Moorlands Lane.

The Ashes find themselves bottom of the table, but they do have a game in hand on both Cullompton and Honiton who sit just above them.

Bideford have been a bit inconsistent this season. They beat Penryn last weekend but lost the previous Saturday to Honiton. They could also have their eyes on playing Wellington next weekend in the South West final of the RFU Intermediate Cup.

When they sides met at King George’s Field in October, Bideford won 30-14.

Saltash have not played at home since January 11 and they will be hoping to get Saturday’s match on to avoid a backlog of fixtures.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

THE big match in the Cornwall/Devon League comes at Horsham Fields where third-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks host fifth-placed Bude.

Oaks have given themselves a major hope of securing second spot after beating runaway league leaders Truro away last Saturday.

That leaves them five points behind second-placed Paignton with a game in hand.

But Oaks coach Aiden Taylor knows their impressive win over Truro will be wasted if they fail to beat in-form Bude at home this weekend.

Bude had won three of their last four games and have proved to be Plymstock’s bogey team over the last few years.

“I haven’t beaten Bude since I have been here at Oaks and they are on a bit of a roll at the moment,” said Taylor.

“They are always a hard team for us to beat, but we have to put that to the back of our minds and just try and play some rugby.”

He added: “We could build our season around that result last Saturday and really push on and challenge for that second spot, but if we lose Saturday that momentum has gone.

“At the moment I feel momentum is with us. If we could win against Bude on Saturday then I think we have to believe we can do it.”

Oaks are boosted by the return of Tim Coats and Jack Hardman this week, while youngster Pete Keanie could also make his return from injury in the club’s second team.

“Everyone appears to be coming back just in time for the business end of the season,” said Taylor.

Tavistock also have a massive game this weekend when they host Torquay Athletic at Sandy Park.

Every match is now like a cup final for Tavistock, who have not been able to get out of the relegation zone all season.

Time is running out for them so they need to pick up something against a Torquay side that have struggled since the turn of the year.

The Tics had lost four games in a row before beating bottom side South Molton 54-20 last Saturday.

“Torquay away was one of the games we chucked it away in the last 15 minutes,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill. “We feel we can put a performance in, but once again points are the main objective.

“It will be far from pretty with the impending weather, but we feel we have the personnel to suit.”

Tavistock are hoping to give George Fa’auma a winning send off before he returns to New Zealand.

Tavistock do have a few injuries but Duncan Law, Josh Langton and Andrew Schuttkacker and Tom Pearson are all set to return to the squad.

Elsewhere in the Cornwall/Devon League, Liskeard-Looe, who are five points in front of Tavistock with two games in hand, travel to North Tawton, who have proved tough to beat on their own patch since coming into the league.

DEVON ONE

‘A MASSIVE game’ is how Tamar Saracens describe Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash with Withycombe at the Parkway.

Withycombe are looking on course to secure the Devon One title, but second-placed Sarries want to make it as hard as they can for them and become the first team to beat then this season.

“It is a massive game,” admitted Sarries player Marc Cioffi.

“It would be nice to become the first team to beat them this season.

“We know we are going to be up against it, but it is nice to be the underdogs this week. I think that gives the players more motivation to get into that zone. We want to see if we can cause an upset.”

When the teams met at Raleigh Park at the end of October, Withycombe narrowly won 6-0.

Whatever happens this weekend the two clubs will meet again next Saturday in the semi-finals of the Devon Junior Cup.

Sarries are still without Josh Heath and Elliott Jones who have both had to have operations after suffering badly broken fingers last month.

Third-placed OPMs will be hoping to take advantage of the top two playing each other when they host Buckfastleigh at King George V Playing Fields.

This will also be a warm-up for the Devon Junior Cup semi-finals.

Buckfastleigh have been inconsistent this season but OPMs will certainly not be underestimating them.

“It will be good to try and get another five-point win, but we know we can’t just expect it,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt.

“They will make us work hard for it. They have been doing well again, but if we just stick to our structures and don’t try stupid stuff we should be fine.”

Plymouth Argaum have been boosted by the availability of a host of players ahead of a home match against Torrington.

Last weekend they had to pull out of a Lockie Cup match with OPMs due to a player shortage.

“I think we have 27 available this weekend,” said Argaum secretary Stuart Quarterman.

“Last week was a hastily arranged game and people were away and all teams find it more of a struggle on an international weekend.

“It is nice that we have a selection headache this week.

“Torrington surprised us away from home so the players know it will not be a walkover.

“Hopefully, our set piece is going to be effective as we have had good numbers at training.”

Argaum are boosted by the return of Karl Sullivan and Tom Shepherd.

Elsewhere in Devon One, Old Techs have a tricky trip to Totnes – weather providing.

The clubs have had some good battles over the last few years, including earlier this season when Totnes narrow won 21-15 at Weston Mill.

Totnes kindly agreed to switch that fixture due to the funeral of Old Tech player Shane Hedges so the Plymouth side are due to visit them this weekend.

Techs go into the match boosted by beating Torrington away in their last outing.

“That was a real confidence booster,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “I don’t remember going up there and winning before so we were really happy with that result.

“But it is about kicking on from that now and trying to get another win this weekend.”

Techs might not have anything to play for in the league, but they are still in two cup semi-finals and will play Ilfracombe next Saturday for a place in the Devon Junior Plate final.

“We’ve still got seven league games and two cup semi-finals so there’s still a lot of the season to go,” said Bedford-Smith.

“We want to try and wins as many games as we can and finish as high as possible.”

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