IVYBRIDGE coach Gareth Elliott said he was encouraged by his side’s performance against higher league Barnstaple on Saturday in their opening pre-season match.
The Bridgers narrowly lost 14-12 at Pottington Road as full contact rugby, including scrums and mauls, returned for the first time in 18 months.
The South West Premier outfit had gone 14-0 down in the first half but hit back with two tries from former England Counties Under-18 winger Matt Burns.
“It was a good first game really,” said Elliott. “We used a lot of players, including a lot just out of colts for their first game of senior rugby and they did fantastically well.
“We went down two tries in the first half, but then got two really good scores from Matt Burns on the wing, to get us back into it.
“It was really enjoyable just to see the guys playing again.
“There were some standout performances across the board, but it was just pleasing to get the guys get back into it against a team who are a league above us and playing away from home. It was a really good first outing.”
Ivybridge’s second team had been due to play Crediton on Saturday, but that game was postponed late on. It meant the Bridgers took more of their youngsters to Barnstaple.
“One of the most pleasing things was seeing those former colts really step up,” said Elliott. “They would have been involved against Crediton, so I was a little bit nervy about playing them because Barnstaple are a league above us, but they slotted it so well and probably learned more by playing in this game.”
Ivybridge have kept the bulk of their 2019-20 squad, but they have added Cameron Setter from Plymouth Albion and former Lewes captain and back-rower Sam Furse, while Matt Finn has returned to playing.
Elliott admits Setter’s versatility and experience will be valuable.
“He is a good player and can play in a number of positions across the backline, which is useful with the limited amount of subs we can have on a matchday,” said Elliott.
Ivybridge will continue their pre-season campaign on Friday when they travel to Devonport Services (7.30pm).
South West One side Services will be hoping to be stronger for that game than they were on Saturday when they travelled to higher league Brixham will a makeshift squad.
Services lost 52-7 to the Fisherman, with Andy Pond scoring their only try.
“We travelled up with low numbers and they had a reasonably strong side out and they went really well against us,” said Devonport head coach Mike Lewis.
“But in terms of us, we had four first-year senior players and I thought they were all fantastic.
“Our boys really dug in. We did pick up a few injuries and had to borrow a couple of players that did make it a bit disjointed, but at half-time we were only 19-7 down. Yet it was the first game back and tired legs set in and then the shape starts going, but I was really impressed with what we did.
“I do feel optimistic of the back of it. As we get a few more faces back as we progress through pre-season we should start building nicely.”
Plymouth Argaum had not played any 15-a-side games for 18 months and they took on the tough challenge of playing established Western Counties West outfit Wadebridge at Bickleigh Down on Saturday.
Argaum, who were also missing players, battled well in the first half and were only 17-0 down at the change of ends. With 22 minutes left they were only trailing 31-0, but in the final quarter the Devon One side just ran out of players and gas and Wadebridge made them pay by running in seven late tries to eventually win 74-0.
The hosts were not helped by picking up a number of injuries, including a sickening broken leg to scrum-half Toby Studds.
But overall new coach Brett Stroud was impressed with what he saw from his side.
“We needed a game after not playing for so long and there wasn’t many to take,” said Stroud.
“It was our first game back and everyone was hungry to play.
“Overall I thought it was good. It was 17-0 at half-time and I thought the boys put a really good shift in. If anyone watched that game they will probably say the score was not a reflection of it.
“It would have been nice if we had got a score, which I think we deserved, but sometimes you don’t get what you deserve.
“From what I have seen from the boys I think we will be all right for the Devon One season.
“We have a squad of 26 but we were down to 19 for this game and then Toby Studds broke his leg, which was shocking, but until then I thought we were in the mix and doing really well.
“I thought we fronted up and played really well. Our set-piece was really good and, to be fair, they didn’t break us down the middle – it was just on the outside. I thought the systems we played were simple and the boys got used to them and we got around the corner and played some rugby.
“I’m not discouraged by the scoreline at all. The only way they beat us was by going on the outside of us. As a coach, you have to say if they beat you on the outside then fair play.
“But I was just proud of the boys. They showed tenacity and really fronted up. It was just the scoreline didn’t reflect that.”
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