RUGBY PREVIEWS: Devonport Services face crucial match away at Thornbury

IT COULD be a make-or-break weekend for Devonport Services in South West One.

They visit promotion-chasing rivals Thornbury on Saturday looking to bounce back from last week’s heavy defeat to leaders Hornets.

If second-placed Devonport could triumph in Gloucestershire they could move within five points of Hornets with four games to go. However, if they lose to fourth-placed Thornbury, who sit just a point behind them, and third-placed Lydney claim a victory they could drop out of the top three altogether.

“If we could win it would set us up for the rest of the season,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis. “It would give the boys that bit of confidence.

“We did take a bit of a knock last weekend, but if we can win I think it will give the boys a bit of confidence to go ‘we have still got this and got an opportunity’.

“This is our game in hand. If we win it we could be just five points behind Hornets and then they only have to slip up once and we could be right in there.”

Services were in a similar position last season with six games to go but failed to win any of them and ended up eighth.

“I keep reminding the guys what happened last year,” said Lewis. “We were sat third in the table but we lost to Launceston and the confident in the boys just dropped, as did the training numbers as there wasn’t that opportunity to get promoted.

“But people are still enjoying training and we still have good numbers.

“We are just waiting to turn that corner. Since Christmas we just haven’t been able to get that consistency in our performance, but I am confident it will click again.”

Thornbury, like Services, also lost last weekend, which has opened the door for Lydney, Sidmouth and Chew Valley to challenge for second spot.

When Devonport met Thornbury in November at Keyham they triumphed 27-15. However, Thornbury are much better at home.

“I think it is going to be close one – five points either way,” said Lewis. “It will be whoever wants it the most.”

Services picked up a number of injuries last week at Hornets, including to Luke Kenny, Mark Friend, James McQuillan and Matt Nayle-Opie. They will also be without the influential Matt Gregory and Kyle Browne again.

Devonport boss Lewis, meanwhile, coached a Devon development XV to a 39-12 victory over an Ivybridge XV at Brickfields on Wednesday night.

The Devon side included players from Services, Plymstock Albion Oaks, Tavistock and OPMs.

Plymstock player-coach Aiden Taylor was one of Devon’s try scorers, while OPMs’ Ben Hooper scored guesting for the Ivybridge side in the first half.

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

The Ashes boosted their chances of staying up by beating fellow strugglers Cullompton last weekend.

Although they stayed bottom they are only one point behind Cullompton now and only four behind Wiveliscombe, who have both played two more games than Saltash.

Fifth-placed Wadebridge, though, will be tough opponents. They have only lost once in 2020 – a one point defeat to leaders St Austell – and last Saturday beat Wiveliscombe 53-7.

When the sides met in November, Wadebridge triumphed 38-16.

In the Cornwall/Devon League, Liskeard-Looe could move above Tavistock and into 10th place if they beat second-from-bottom Exeter Athletic away on Saturday.

Liskeard could do with a win after failing to get a victory in their last three outings.

In Devon One, Old Techs will be looking to extend their winning run to four games when they travel to Totnes on Saturday.

The match has been postponed twice already and so Techs will be hoping it is played this weekend.

Both clubs have been in good form recently. Techs have beaten Dartmouth, Buckfastleigh and Torrington in their last three games, while Totnes have overcome Plymouth sides Tamar Saracens and Plymouth Argaum in their last two fixtures.

Also in Devon One, Argaum will be keen to build on last week’s 7-0 win over Buckfastleigh when they host the inconsistent Torrington at Bickleigh Down.

“If we have the right team out and the right attitude we know we can perform well,” said Argaum’s Stuart Quarterman. “We just have to concentrate on what we can do.

“Last week’s win was on the back of a really good performance at Totnes – a game we should have won.”

Argaum, though, do not quite have the same availability as last week, but they should be able to welcome back veteran former National League player Chris Perkins, who has been away on tour in Norway, and hooker Tom Mann.

In Devon Merit Table Division Two South & West, DHSOB will put their long unbeaten winning run on the line when they travel to second-placed Kingsbridge II.

DHSOB have not lost since mid-November. Last week they beat Plympton Victoria 47-20 thanks to tries by Lupeti Faha (2), Aarun Vula (2), Freddy Joseph, Graham Lean and Garces Silivarion. Toby Chapman kicked the rest of their points.

Kingsbridge II, who could still pip Salcombe for the title, are likely to be stronger than normal this weekend as their first team are without a match.

Also in the Devon Merit Table, Plym Vic make the short trip to Horsham Fields to play Plymstock Albion Oaks II.

Plym Vic could do with a win as they look to build up some form ahead of April’s Pedrick Cup final, where they will play Liskeard-Looe II.

Meanwhile, St Columba & Torpoint are set to host Saltash II on Saturday.

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