IVYBRIDGE are looking forward to playing only their second home game of the season on Saturday as they welcome Old Centralians to Cross-in-Hand in the South West Premier (2.30pm).
The Bridgers won their only other home fixture, beating Devon rivals Okehampton 34-11 a fortnight ago.
But they are still winless on their travels after a frustrating 26-22 defeat at Launceston last weekend.
Ivybridge were missing a host of players last Saturday but at least returned with two bonus points.
“The guys felt they made a few errors in their kick game and got hurt by their counterattack so we have worked on that a bit in training,” said head coach Gareth Elliott.
“We did have a strong finish last week and scored with pretty much the last play of the game which meant we got two points out of it, which away from home isn’t too bad.”
Ivybridge hope to have player-coach Charlie Briant and key second-row George Wilson back this weekend, but they are set to be without winger George de Mendonca who has picked up an injury.
“George played really well and got a couple of tries last weekend but unfortunately picked up an injury at training,” said Elliott.
Ivybridge will also again be without influential back-row forward Adam Northcott.
Northcott has joined Plymouth Albion on loan until the end of October, but even though the National One club do not have a match this weekend he is not able to return to the Bridgers.
“We have loaned him for a month – well until the end of October – which means he can’t just come back this weekend,” said Elliott. “Obviously we would like to have him but it’s a good opportunity for him. It is a chance for him to show himself off at a higher level.”
Elliott said it would be up to Northcott and Albion what they want to do once the loan ends.
Old Centralians may arrive at Cross-in-Hand still winless, but they have drawn against Drybrook and Exmouth and only lost by one point to Hornets.
“I think they are a pretty good side,” said Elliott. “They have had a couple of draws, which is a bit weird this early in the season, but means they are competitive.
“We don’t know much about them, but we are back at home. We have only had one home game and had a really good performance. This is another opportunity to play in front of our supporters, which does really excite the guys. I’m looking forward to it.”
SOUTH WEST ONE
THE only two unbeaten teams left in South West One West clash at the Rectory on Saturday as Devonport Services entertain Chew Valley (3pm).
Chew have enjoyed a tremendous start to the season, averaging more than 50 points a game and sitting five points clear at the top of the table.
However, Services have played a game less, have the league’s best defence and have a formidable home record.
The season may only be a month old but already people are saying this weekend could be a key game.
“They (Chew Valley) are doing quite well, aren’t they?,” said Devonport’s head coach Mike Lewis. “They have started the season really well. I know they have played one more game, but they have scored a lot more points than us, but we have conceded less, but again we have played one less game. But it does set it up nicely.”
The last time the teams met at the Rectory it turned out to be a thriller, with Services winning 29-22 thanks to a last-gasp try by Kyle Browne.
“I was just looking back at a few videos and I watched the Chew Valley game before Covid,” said Lewis. “The pitch was a bit muddy and it was a tough game to play in but both teams played a bit of rugby.
“It was 22-22 with 12 minutes to go, with seven minutes to go it was 29-22 to them, with four minutes to go it was 29-each and with the last play of the game we scored a try.
“We do seem to be able to pull it out of the bag when we get that home support. It inspires the boys to do that little bit more.”
He added: “I think we are quite evenly matched sides – we both like to play a bit of rugby.”
The teams also met in a promotion play-off game in 2018, with Services triumphing 22-12.
Devonport are far full strength this weekend. Already missing the likes of Tom Richards, Keane Whittaker and Keir Murphy, Services have also lost fellow backs Alex Mawdsley and Matt Neyle.
Mawdsley has gone travelling and in-form winger Neyle is self-isolating after coming down with Covid.
“Last week was Alex Mawsdley’s last game for a little while as he had gone off travelling,” said Lewis.
“He has been a fantastic servant of the club for the last few years while at uni and after uni so we are sad to see him go.
“He has brought an extra dynamic to training, is a skilful player and he is a really nice chap at the same time, but he has said he will be back, although we don’t know when – he said when the money runs out.
“Matt Neyle has got covid and is going to be out for the next 10 days. It is a bit annoying as he has been phenomenal. He is a fantastic player who has grown a lot – he has turned into a good ball player instead of just an out-and-out pace man.
“It is a big miss, but other players have to make the most of the situation. It gives other people the opportunity to have a go.”
Fly-half Richard West does look like he will be fit after tweaking a calf last weekend.
It is a big month for Services with games against Chew Valley, Crediton, Wellington and Keynsham.
“It is quite a tantalising month – we will be playing some good teams,” said Lewis.
“We have a week off in the middle of the month after Crediton and I think that break will be well-deserved and much-needed. It will give boys the chance to recuperate.
“No-one has played for a long, long time and those knocks are turning into longer term injuries, so having a break will be fantastic.”
He added: “I think we are quite blessed with our home fixtures in the first half of the season. We have got a bit less travelling at the start of the season, which maybe gives us an upper hand.”
TAVISTOCK say they will be wary of a winless Saltash side when the two teams clash at Moorlands Lane on Saturday in the Cornwall/Devon League (3pm).
Tavistock have enjoyed a good start to the season. Despite a host of injuries they have only lost one game – away at Pirates Amateurs.
Last week the Moorlanders enjoyed a bonus-point 31-12 home victory over Plymstock Albion Oaks.
They are now ready for another derby game this week but are not totally sure what to expect from Saltash, who have changed their team around quite a bit in the opening few weeks of the season.
The Ashes are still looking for their first win, but came agonisingly close last week, losing 22-21 away at Withycombe after conceding a last-gasp try.
“The weather looks atrocious,” said Tavistock’s player-coach Hammy Kerswill. “But after a good win last week we are keen to keep as much consistency as possible.
“We know very little about Saltash since their fantastic run to Twickenham (in 2018), but know they will be a tough challenge, especially at home.”
Tavistock are set to make two changes to their team that beat Oaks, with Jack Osborne returning to the starting line-up at flanker and Jake Le Gassick coming in at full-back. Jamie Legg and the influential Andrew Schuttkacker return to the bench after missing last week.
Saltash look set to make four changes to their team that played at Withycombe, with Ryan Rayner, Steve Hillman and Chris Carpenter coming into the pack and Rob Down on to the wing.
Plymstock Albion Oaks face a tough test when they welcome unbeaten Topsham to Horsham Fields on Saturday.
Topsham have won four out of four so far and are averaging more than 40 points a game.
Plymstock have not had the start they would have liked with one win, one draw and two defeats to their name.
However, they have only played one home game so far and it was a memorable game, beating Saltash 51-7.
They are hoping to have a few more players back this weekend and are looking forward to only their second home fixture.
“We will have a few more boys back,” said coach Mark Lenthall. “We have only had one home game and three away so the boys will be happy to play at home. I think if we have good numbers we can cause anyone problems.”
Life does not get any easier for Liskeard-Looe, who have yet to win this season. They host a Cullompton side who look like they are really finding their form again after two successive relegations.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
LOCAL bragging rights and valuable league points will be at stake at King George V Playing Fields on Saturday as OPMs host city rivals Tamar Saracens in Devon One.
Both sides have only been beaten once this season – and have not lost yet in Plymouth.
OPMs suffered a heavy defeat at South Molton last weekend but have already beaten Old Techs and Plymouth Argaum in derby games this term and so will be looking for a unique hat-trick this weekend.
Sarries have yet to find their best form yet but their only defeat has come at leaders Exeter Athletic.
“I’m hoping as it’s a home game we might be back to full strength or close to it,” said OPMs coach Rick Orkney. “I think they might be favourites on paper, but if we can get a decent side out then I think we will give them a good run.”
Plymouth Argaum coach Brett Stroud is looking for a response from his team after last week’s 64-15 defeat at Totnes.
Argaum were struggling for players and went with a makeshift team and they paid the price for that.
Stroud does have far better availability for Saturday’s home match against league newcomers Salcombe, but he admits some of those players that played at Totnes and at New Cross in their first away game deserve to keep their place.
“Last week was frustrating,” said Stroud. “We were going to call it on the Thursday, it was that bad. We only had 11 players available then. In the end we got a team but had two centres as second-rows, which was not ideal at all, and we finished the game with 14. But fair play to the boys that went.
“I have said from the beginning that if you show commitment then it is more than likely you will start on a weekend, which does tie my hands.
“I have nearly everyone available this weekend for a home game, but I think I am going to start with most of the boys that went to Totnes. I am going to be loyal to the guys that went last week.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am all about winning, but equally I have to honour and show respect to the boys that are prepared to go away.
Salcombe will be buoyed after narrowly beating Old Techs last week.
Techs themselves had a much-changed side out last Saturday and they were not helped by captain Billy Evans suffering a nasty leg injury. Evans faces missing a large part of the season after suffering a puncture wound, a chipped bone and ligament damage.
“Our injury list just keeps getting bigger,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “Playing every week after so long out is taking its toll.
“We have a lot of long-term injuries, but we do have a few players back this week. However, it seems to be that you get three in but five out, that’s the problem.
“We were lucky to have picked up some new players in the summer. We weren’t looking far off having a second team but all these injuries have really hit our momentum.”
South Molton have had some weird results. They beat Exeter Saracens away and put 40 points on OPMs last week, but conceded more than 40 points away at New Cross.
“We haven’t played them for a while, but they are always strong up front and you know you are going to have a battle on your hands,” said Bedford-Smith.
“Every game is tough this season but every team seems to be a bit up and down.
“But even when we have lost we have picked up points, which is a good thing. However, last week was another game where we could have and should have won. We led twice and had most of the possession in the first half but just made silly errors. Fair play to them (Salcombe), their defence was very good and they got their tails up a bit in the second half.
“But the important thing is the lads are enjoying playing again.”
In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria are set to play their first home match of the season when they host Torquay Athletic II.
Plym Vic will be hoping to have better availability this week after fielding a makeshift side in last week’s 41-15 defeat to DHSOB.
DSHOB should have been playing St Columba & Torpoint away this weekend but that match has been postponed.
University of Plymouth II get their season underway with a trip to unbeaten Tavistock II.