Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Sides look to pick up vital points on their travels

IVYBRIDGE head coach Gareth Elliott wants his team to play with the same intensity they showed in their last outing against leaders Barnstaple when they travel to bottom side Bracknell on Saturday in the South West Premier.

The Bridgers upset Barnstaple by winning 17-10 at Cross-in-Hand two weeks ago in wet and windy conditions.

They were without a game last weekend, but are looking forward to getting back into action on Saturday and hopefully building on their last result.

“We are looking to replicate the stuff we did against Barnstaple,” said Elliott.

“Even though that game was played in horrendous conditions we still need to do the things that served us well in that match this weekend.

“If we can get that level of intensity right and defend the way we did, then we should be there or there abouts performance wise.

“It is just about the lads getting their preparation right and turning up on the day.

“They (Bracknell) are not too bad form wise, but they are down the bottom of the table.

“We had a good win against them last time, but we just have to focus on ourselves.”

He added: “There is a lot left in the season. Historically, we do finish seasons well. If we can go on a run then we can bump ourselves up the league table and also the Devon table. It would be really nice to string a few wins together.”

Ivybridge are without young prop Harvey Dunn due to a shoulder injury, but they should have the experienced Jon Morgan available to come in. Second-row George Wilson is also available, as is winger Damon Akerman, who broke his leg against Okehampton earlier this season.  Alex Gozzard is unavailable so Devon under-20 full-back Dan Lilley is likely to move to centre.

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

DEVONPORT Services head coach Mike Lewis says Saturday’s away match with Thornbury is ‘a real 10-pointer’.

Services sit second in the South West One (West) table, just one point and one place ahead of Thornbury, who have played a game more.

Thornbury have won their last four games, while Services have stumbled a bit on their travels recently.

“We still have a game in hand over Thornbury so that gives us a bit of comfort, but this is really a 10-pointer,” said Lewis.

The pair are chasing Hornets, who sit top of the table, one point ahead of Devonport, who they meet next week.

“We have two massive away games, then we host Keynsham and then visit Lydney, who are fourth. We have three of the top teams to play away.

“If you look at the run-in, everyone has to play everyone at the top, so teams are going to slip up. If you look at Hornets’ results they look the most likely to win the league, but they might lose a game and it is up to us to win ours.”

Services beat Thornbury 27-15 at home earlier in the season.

“We played some really good rugby first half in that game,” said Lewis. “Second half we tired a bit, but overall we played really well.”

Services are far from at full strength this week. Royal Navy lock John Kerwin is unavailable, Kyle Browne is still out with a shoulder injury, while captain Matt Gregory might also be missing.

But Sam Bennett could return to the starting line-up at hooker after he made his comeback from a broken hand as a replacement against Crediton last time out.

“He made a big impact off the bench against Crediton,” said Lewis. “He played the last 25 minutes in that game, which was great.”

In Western Counties West, relegation-threatened Saltash face a tough trip to fifth-placed Chard.

The Ashes sit bottom of the table but they do have games in hand on all the teams above them.

Saltash have only played once – away at Wellington – since mid-January and so face playing every weekend now for the rest of the season, including Easter Saturday.

Their opponents on Saturday might sit in fifth spot, but they have struggled for form recently. They have only won one of their last four games – a narrow 37-31 home victory over Honiton. Last week they lost 42-7 at Penryn.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PROMOTION-chasing Plymstock Albion Oaks are desperately hoping their game away at Exeter Athletic goes ahead as planned to avoid anymore fixture congestion.

Oaks’ season has already been extended until April 25, while Exeter Athletic face playing two games in three days over the Easter weekend.

There are doubts over whether Exeter’s pitch will be playable on Saturday, but both clubs are exploring all options to make sure the fixture goes ahead as planned somewhere.

“It would be a nightmare if it didn’t go ahead as I don’t know when we would fit it in,” said Plymstock’s player-coach Aiden Taylor. “We haven’t got any free weekends and they haven’t either.”

Saturday’s match is important to both clubs. Third-placed Oaks need the win to keep the pressure on Paignton in the battle for second place, while Exeter Athletic still have an outside chance of avoiding relegation, if they can win their games in hand.

“They (Exeter) have some incentive,” said Taylor. “They weren’t that bad when they came to our place. I know we rested a few players but they played some quite good rugby and caused us a few issues.

“I am expecting them to have a good team and plenty of fight. They are fighting for their lives. This game matters to both teams.

“We just have to see what happens on Saturday and hopefully we can come out with a five point win.”

Oaks will be without Jack Hardman and the influential David Byng this weekend.

Plymstock will be hoping their Plymouth Combination rivals Liskeard-Looe can do them a favour this weekend when they host Paignton at Lux Park.

Tavistock head to runaway league leaders Truro on Saturday boosted by their win over Torquay Athletic last weekend.

That victory moved Tavistock out of the bottom three for the first time this season. Although they have played four more games than Liskeard-Looe and Exeter Athletic below them they know safety is within their grasp now, especially with only two teams likely to go down now that Lanner have folded.

Tavistock know nobody will be expecting them to return from Cornwall with anything, which they hope can play into their hands.

“Last week’s win has relieved some pressure, although we are not out of the woods yet,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill, who will start at tight-head prop on Saturday.

“We’ve got nothing to lose at Truro and we are looking forward to the challenge.

“We should have won at home, but instead ran out of steam with 10 minutes to play.”

Tavistock keep faith with the majority of last week’s team, although Seb Cox returns to the second-row and Joe Hair, Sam Eaton and Connor Packwood return to the bench.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

TAMAR Saracens will be aiming to bounce back from their league and cup double-header defeat to leaders Withycombe last weekend when they travel to the unpredictable Torrington on Saturday.

Torrington sit in sixth place and have had a very mixed season. Saracens are second and they need to win four of their last six games to totally guarantee a play-off place.

“We just have to pick ourselves up (from last week) and go again,” said Sarries head coach Pete Lethbridge.

Third-placed OPMs will also be looking for a response when they visit another unpredictable side Dartmouth on Saturday.

OPMs were beaten 19-13 away at Buckfastleigh last weekend in another league and cup double-header.

They should finish in the top four whatever happens now but they have their eyes on third place.

Dartmouth handed Torrington a walkover last week, but in their last outing they beat Old Techs 33-10.

OPMs will not be sure what to expect. When the sides met at King George V Playing Fields earlier in the season, OPMs won 31-10 but Dartmouth were short of players that day.

Plymouth Argaum will be hoping to play their first game since January 18 when they travel to Totnes on Saturday.

Totnes have had to postpone games for the last two weeks as their pitch has been waterlogged, but Argaum are hoping it will be playable as they look to end a difficult season on a high.

“We should have a reasonable squad this week,” said Argaum’s Stuart Quarterman. “We know Totnes will be a different team to when we played them last time. After we beat them at our place they went on a winning streak.”

Eighth-placed Old Techs, whose game with Totnes was postponed for a second week running last Saturday, have a tricky trip this weekend to ninth-placed Buckfastleigh.

The two clubs are separated by just one point and have had some close battles in recent seasons.

Techs did beat Buckfastleigh 26-0 at home in November but the Ramblers have improved since then and will be boosted by last week’s win over OPMs.

In the Devon Merit Table, eighth-placed Plympton Victoria will be looking to leapfrog over seventh-placed Saltash II when they sides meet at Moorlands Lane – weather permitting. If Moorlands Lane is out then they gave will be moved to the nearby Chapel pitch.

DHSOB, who have moved up to fourth with an impressive run, are due to visit OPM II.

DHSOB have not lost in the league since November 16, but they are likely to be without a number of players in the coming weeks.

Elsewhere in Division Two South & West of the Devon Merit Table, St Columba & Torpoint are due to travel to second-placed Kingsbridge II.

 

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