Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge look to bounce back against Brixham, while Services ready for vital match

Former Ivybridge player-coach Lewis Paterson has been named in Brixham’s team for Saturday’s trip to Cross-in-Hand

IVYBRIDGE will be looking to put last week’s poor showing at bottom club Bracknell behind them on Saturday when they host Devon rivals Brixham at Cross-in-Hand.

The Bridgers lost 43-18 in Berkshire last weekend, which leaves them looking over their shoulder at the teams below them, despite sitting eighth in the standings.

Brixham, who are set to include former Ivybridge players Lewis Paterson, Billy and Mitch Pinkus, Scott Puleston and Nathan Reeves in their side this Saturday, are in sixth spot and are on a six-game winning run, which has seen them win England Rugby’s level five team of the month award for February.

Ivybridge did beat league leaders Barnstaple in their last home game and head coach Gareth Elliott is looking for that type of performance again this Saturday rather than a repeat of last week’s showing.

“We just made some bad errors off set-piece defence and some missed tackles, which let them score,” said Elliott on the loss at Bracknell.

“We were quite good in our open play, attacking-wise, but our set piece – apart from scoring one try from a driving maul –  we didn’t really dominate the scrum or line-out during the game, which didn’t allow us to get a good foothold in it.

“It was a frustrating one, as it was quite an even battle apart from that.

“We should have been right up for that game, especially knowing no-one is cut adrift so you can easily get dragged down. But it just puts more importance on this game.”

He added: “I am well aware the lads want to do well this weekend. We have got a good squad out and it is important we get back to the things that served us so well against Barnstaple.

“We have played well this season and we really want to consolidate our position in this league. That is the main aim now – to consolidate and look to build for next season.”

Brixham beat Ivybridge 40-29 in November at Astley Park. There was only one score in the game going into the final few minutes after Ivybridge produced a great second half comeback but Brixham scored with the last play of the game to seal the game and deny Ivybridge a losing bonus point.

“Last time we were in decent form and they were just on the start of a run after beginning the season terribly,” said Elliott. “I think they beat Exeter Uni just before us and from then on they have been one of the form sides and pushing up the table.

“It is the other way around to before, as we are the ones who haven’t really got the form, so in that sense there is not that put pressure on us, but it is about us going out and putting in a good home performance, like we did against Barnstaple.

“We owe that to our supporters, who want to see a really good Devon derby.”

Ivybridge should be able to welcome back winger Ben Fenton. He has been out since the start of January with a hamstring injury. Jon Morgan should also be back after missing last week’s trip to Bracknell.

SOUTH WEST ONE AND WESTERN COUNTIES WEST

GAMES do not come much bigger for Devonport Services than Saturday’s trip to title rivals Hornets.

The Weston-super-Mare-based club sit top of the table, five points ahead of second-placed Services, but Devonport do have a game in hand.

Whoever wins on Saturday will be in pole position going into the final six weeks of the season.

Hornets are the form team at the moment. They have won their last five games and scored 50 points or more in four of those matches. Services, though, did edge them out 23-20 at home in November.

“It is a huge game,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis. “They (Hornets) have picked up their form quite considerably lately – they have had some great results – and you can see why they are top.

“But hopefully we have turned that corner now and we can get a few wins again under our belts.

“We’ll be playing on a 4G pitch, which suits our game, but I am sure it will suit them too.”

Although Lewis has described the game as ‘huge’ he does not feel the title race will be over in they lose in Somerset.

“They still have to play (third-placed) Thornbury, Keynsham away and (fourth-placed) Lydney to play as well. We also have Thornbury and Lydney, so we are all playing against each other in the final few weeks of the season,” said Lewis.

“I think every team at the top is going to lose a game before the end of the season.

“I think there will be an opportunity still even if you lose this one, whether it is us or them.

“If you win, what it does do is give you that bit of momentum and just changes the mental approach.”

Lewis felt his side’s pack provided the platform for their win over Hornets in November and he is hoping they can do the same away from home.

Lock John Kirwan should be in contention again after playing for the Royal Navy against Exeter Braves on Wednesday night, but Services are unsure if captain Matt Gregory will be available.

Back Kyle Browne, though, is fit again after missing the last few games with a shoulder injury.

Services’ second team will be in action at home on Friday night against Paignton in the Devon Merit Table.

It could be a make-or-break weekend for Saltash in Western Counties West.

The Moorlands Lane club could move off the bottom of the table if they could beat second-from-bottom Cullompton at home.

The Ashes do have two games in hand on the three teams immediately above them in the table, but a defeat this week would make it tough for them to escape the drop.

On their day Saltash have proved they can match most teams in the league, but their problem at the moment is the lack of game-time.

They have not played since losing to promotion-chasing Wellington on February 8 and that has been their only game in seven weeks.

The Ashes will be optimistic that they can beat Cullompton, who have not won since narrowly beating Saltash 25-23 in November. The Devon side have lost their last 10 games and look set for a second successive relegation, having come down from South West One last April.

CORNWALL/DEVON AND DEVON ONE

TAVISTOCK will be looking to cause an upset when they host fourth-placed Bude at Sandy Park.

Bude have won four of their last five games and are back in the race for promotion, with games in hand on their rivals.

Tavistock, meanwhile, are still trying to secure their safety. They are currently 17 points clear of the relegation zone, but second-from-bottom Exeter Athletic do have five games in hand on them.

Exeter play bottom side South Molton this weekend, so Tavistock could do with a win. The west Devon side have won their last three home games so they should have some belief.

“We always have close games with Bude,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill. “And it is normally only settled by a single score. But we have not beaten them for a number of seasons. History has shown we wake up a little too late against them.”

Tavistock will be hoping that is not the case this week. They are still carrying a few knocks but are set to name a similar squad to which battled hard at runaway leaders Truro last week before losing 29-7. However, they are hopeful of having centre Jack Easton back after a broken foot.

Plymstock Albion Oaks are without a game this weekend as they should have been playing Lanner, but they recently pulled out of the league, while Liskeard-Looe visit Pirates Amateurs.

In Devon One, second-placed Tamar Saracens will be keen to get back to winning ways after two successive defeats.

They have lost to leaders Withycombe and, surprisingly, to Torrington last weekend and do not want to make it three losses in a row when they host Totnes.

Sarries owe Totnes after losing to them in November.

“We have to try and pick ourselves up to face Totnes,” said Sarries head coach Pete Lethbridge.

After a terrible start to the season, Totnes now sit in fifth spot and have only lost once since mid-December – a 22-15 away defeat to third-placed OPMs.

OPMs could go a long way to guaranteeing themselves a top three finish this weekend if they could beat fourth-placed Exeter Saracens at King George V Playing Fields.

They are currently 10 points ahead of their Exeter rivals, but Saracens do have two games in hand.

OPMs could also still finish second. They are now only eight points behind Tamar Saracens.

Old Techs will be looking to build on last week’s good win at Buckfastleigh when they entertain Dartmouth.

Since losing 33-10 to Dartmouth at the end of January, Techs have beaten Torrington and Buckfastleigh and want to make it three wins in a row on Saturday.

“We have got two wins on the trot and we would like to make it three,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.

Plymouth Argaum are also at home in Devon One on Saturday. They host Buckfastleigh at Bickleigh Down, looking for their first win since January 11.

Argaum did lose 31-7 at Buckfastleigh earlier in the season and would like to get their revenge.

“They got some runaway tries on the day,” said Argaum’s secretary Stuart Quarterman about the last meeting between the sides. “So we would like to retify that.

“We have got good numbers available but it will be a different team to last week which is a bit frustrating as we played quite well against Totnes. There was some promising performances from youngsters Toby Studds and Lewis Hunt, who scored his first try for the club, and we will be looking to build on that.”

Argaum should have Isaac Honey, Ben Baggott and Karl Sullivan back but will be missing Dan Smith, Nick Hancock and Tom Shepherd.

The big match in Division Two South & West in the Devon Merit Table will be at Stonehouse Creek where DHSOB host Plympton Victoria.

DHSOB are unbeaten since mid-November in the league and have moved up to fourth in the table. However, some of their key players may be unavailable this week.

Meanwhile, Plym Vic are trying to get back to winning ways after failing to get a victory since the turn of the year.

Also in the Merit Table, St Columba & Torpoint are due to visit Plymstock Albion Oaks II, while OPM II entertain their Tavistock counterparts and Saltash II host University of Plymouth III.

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