Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Services look for first away wins

IVYBRIDGE will be hoping to build on last week’s 34-11 home win over Okehampton when they make the short trip to Polson Bridge to play Launceston on Saturday.

The Cornish All Blacks are winless so far but have picked up four bonus points from their opening three games against early high-flying Exeter University, Exmouth and Hornets.

“We have played there (at Polson Bridge) a number of times over the past five years and it is always a tough place to go,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott.

“We are expecting a tough test, but we are buoyed by the performance last weekend and looking forward to just improving on that.”

After back-to-back away defeats, Ivybridge got their first win last Saturday in their first home match of the campaign.

“It was a very good performance and everyone stepped up,” said Elliott. “I think everyone played better than the week before.

“We have been working on bits and bobs and you can see the guys are definitely taking on the messages and improving on the things we need to get better at.

“We don’t want to be a team that only picks up results at home. We have had two away losses but we have the chance now to make that record a bit more favourable, which is a good challenge.”

Ivybridge are set to be without player-coach Charlie Briant due to a hamstring injury. Young winger Archie Bryan and second-row George Wilson are also unavailable this weekend.

The Bridgers have also lost inspirational back-row forward Adam Northcott to Plymouth Albion. He is named on the bench for Albion’s National One away game at Sale.

SOUTH WEST ONE

DEVONPORT Services face their first away trip of the 2021-22 season when they visit Bridgwater & Albion on Saturday in South West One.

Services have won their two games so far against Thornbury and St Austell, whereas Bridgwater are so far winless after defeats to Chew Valley, Crediton and Wellington.

But Devonport head coach Mike Lewis is expecting a tough game from Bridgwater, who have his former Plymouth Albion team-mate Wayne Sprangle as a player-coach.

“I think Bridgwater are just having the same problems as every other rugby club – less numbers coming to training and available for games – and some weeks it will hit teams harder than others,” said Lewis.

“But they are a great team – always have been and always will be – and they are at home, which is a big advantage, so we definitely won’t be taking them lightly just because of a couple of results they’ve had.”

Lewis is looking forward to Services’ first away game, although he is keen for the club to improve on their away record.

“It has been nice to have had a couple of home games but I think the chaps are looking forward to a bus trip together, which does bring the group closer together,” he said.

“There is always little things we can do to get better every week but often playing somewhere you are not familiar does affect that. You would think it would be a bit more exciting playing away, but often people are creatures of habit and like what’s familiar.

“But on away trips, it is these type of games, when you are playing a team that is not quite in form,  that you have to win. You certainly don’t want to be giving them their first win.”

Services suffered a big blow last week with new centre Tom Richards suffering a knee injury.

“It looks like Tom Richards has done his MCL and so could be out for six to eight weeks, which is really unfortunate as he has made an amazing difference this year already,” said Lewis.

“His attitude at training and his skill level is fantastic. He is the whole package – his enthusiasm for the game is incredible.”

Matt Neyle and Andy Pond both suffered shoulder injuries last week against Thornbury but Services are hopeful they will be fit to travel to Bridgwater.

Hooker Sam Bennett has also been given the all-clear to play after he suffered a nasty cut last week after someone stood on his hand. The injury required stitches but he should be okay for the trip to Somerset.

However, Devonport are set to rest winger Keane Whittaker after he suffered a head injury last week.

“We are going to be ultra cautious,” said Lewis, who is also without Ryan Boulton.

Royal Navy player Sam Fincham, Elliott Lupson and youngster Ollie Symonds could all come into Devonport’s first team squad for Saturday’s trip.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

ALL eyes will be on Sandy Park on Saturday where Tavistock host Plymouth Combination rivals Plymstock Albion Oaks in the Cornwall/Devon League.

Both clubs have one win, one draw and one defeat to their name from their opening three games.

Oaks enjoyed a big 51-7 home victory over Saltash last week in another derby game and will be keen to continue that impressive form.

However, they are set to be without a number of last week’s team and have traditionally found Tavistock a tricky place to visit.

“We have loads of players missing, which isn’t the best,” admitted player-coach Aiden Taylor. “But who knows what is going to happen – it is going to be like that all season, I think.”

Tavistock have also struggled to field a consistent side this season due to injuries and unavailabilities.

They are without key players like George Hillson, Ethan Lamerton, Jack Easton and Andrew Schuttkacker, but do have 40 players to select from this week with no second team game. Josh O’Neill, Joe Hair, Seb Cox, Duncan Law and Rob Grove are all set to return.

Before the match there will be a minute’s applause and silence for former Oaks and Tavistock player Carl Parsons, who sadly died last year. Saturday’s match will be the first time the two clubs have played each other since.

“It’s always a great game at home against Oaks and we look forward to welcoming them and remembering Carl Parsons with a minute’s applause and silence pre-game,” said Tavistock player-coach Hammy Kerswill. “Amberleigh (his wife) and family will be in attendance joining our sponsors from last year for whom we are putting on a meal to thank them for their support during the pandemic.”

Saltash will be looking to right a few wrongs from last week when they travel to Withycombe hoping to finally get their first win of the season.

Withycombe are also winless but do have a draw to their name after holding Oaks at Raleigh Park.

The Ashes will be hoping to have a few more players back after a number missed last Saturday’s trip to Horsham Fields.

Liskeard-Looe, who are also winless, face a tough trip to unbeaten Bude this weekend.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

OPMs will be aiming to continue their 100 per cent record in Devon One when they visit South Molton on Saturday.

The Old Boys have yet to leave Plymouth after derby wins over Old Techs and Argaum and a walkover against Salcombe last weekend.

OPMs will not be quite sure what to expect from South Molton, who have come down from the Cornwall/Devon League. The north Devon club beat Exeter Saracens away by one point in their opening game, then had a week off before losing 43-17 to New Cross last weekend.

But Saturday will be South Molton’s first league home match in 18 months and traditionally they have been a strong home side.

Tamar Saracens are expecting a tough battle at the Parkway as they entertain early leaders New Cross, who have won their opening three games.

Sarries were also without a match last weekend but did beat Exeter Saracens the week before.

“They (New Cross) have had some really good results, so hopefully we turn up on the day,” said Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge.

“We have got a couple of players missing but we have decent side out and we should have a bit of confidence after the Exeter Saracens game as it was a much better display.

“We are looking forward to this weekend and we want to keep winning at home. But you know when you play New Cross you are going to be in a game, so we have to turn up.”

Old Techs finally got off the mark last weekend by beating city rivals Plymouth Argaum 20-10 at Weston Mill.

They will be looking to build on that when they visit Salcombe, who are now coached by former Plymouth Albion flanker Eoghan Grace.

“Salcombe are one of those teams that one week can be really strong but then another have a lot missing,” said Old Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “I think half the teams in the league are like that.

“It is a while since we have played them but we know every team in this league can upset anyone on their day.

“We had a good win last week and we want to build on that and get a bit of momentum, but we are going to have to make changes to the team and we are going away from home so it is not going to be easy. We definitely won’t be going up there thinking we are just going to win.

“We do have quite a few missing again either through injuries, at weddings or self-isolating.

“Every week we seem to have people picking up quite long-term injuries. It seems to be one or two a week at the moment. I don’t know if other clubs are having the same and whether it is just because they are not used to the knocks and playing after so long out.”

Plymouth Argaum head to Totnes hoping to finally get their first win of the season.

Argaum have been frustrated in their matches against New Cross, OPMs and Old Techs so far this campaign.

Coach Brett Stroud has been impressed with some of his team’s play but feels game-management has been costing them.

“Nothing gets easier, but we just need that win,” said Stroud.

“You never get given anything in life, but I do feel we deserve a win. However, you need to play for 80 minutes.”

In the Devon Merit Table, DHSOB host old rivals Plympton Victoria at Brickfields.

DHSOB have enjoyed back-to-back games against OPM II and Tavistock II in the last two weeks, but Plym Vic have not played since September 4.

“It will be good to just have a game,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “It has been a very disjointed season already. We had two pre-season games cancelled by the opposition and Kingsbridge II cried off our last league game.”

Unfortunately, Plym Vic are struggling for numbers this week due to Covid-19.

“It is a case of trying to scrape together a team this week,” said Hunt. “We are looking forward to it as it is a bit of a derby game. It is just a shame we are not mob-handed.”

Elsewhere in the Devon Merit Table, St Columba & Torpoint are due to host Plymouth Fijians at Defiance Field.

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