Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Services eye away wins, plus big derby in Devon One

IVYBRIDGE are set to welcome back player-coach Charlie Briant for their tough trip to Old Redcliffians on Saturday in the South West Premier.

Briant has missed the Bridgers’ last two matches against Old Centralians and Launceston – both games they lost by just four points.

Ivybridge has so far only won one of their opening five games but they have got four bonus points.

“It has not been a great start in terms of results, but at the same time we have been pretty competitive in all our fixtures,” said head coach Gareth Elliott. “We have had a few narrow losses.

“We just need to try and start well and maintain it for 80 minutes.”

He added: “This is the last game of the six-week block before a rest week so we are looking to try and get everything we can out of it.”

Elliott knows it will not be easy away at Old Redcliffians, who were in National Two South before the covid break.

The Bristol-based club have won three of their opening five games, with their only defeats to leaders Exeter University and second-placed Hornets.

“I think they are going all right,” said Elliott. “They got relegated but they have got a decent pedigree.

“But we have a couple of back players back and we have had a good week’s training.”

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

UNBEATEN Devonport Services have boosted their squad by signing Cornwall back Lewis Webb on-loan from National One side Taunton ahead of their trip to Devon rivals Crediton on Saturday.

Webb has yet to feature for the Titans this season as they have the likes of Exeter Chiefs players Sam Maunder and Jack Walsh on-loan with them.

So the former Launceston player has decided to try and get some game-time under his belt alongside his brother Arran at Services.

“He will be with us for the next six weeks or so,” said Lewis, who knows him from Launceston.

“Because Taunton have some Chiefs loan players in at the moment, he is not getting much game-time so we just entertained the conversation. At least he will be playing some rugby and at a half decent level. It might not be the same as Taunton’s level but it’s a reasonable level and he can keep his hand in. He’s happy to have a go at it.

“He is a phenomenal player and can play nine, 10 or 12.”

Services’ back options have been hit in recent weeks. Last week they were missing the likes of Tom Richards, Tom Goodman, Keir Murphy, Matt Nayle and Keane Whittaker. Harrison Reburn is also unavailable this weekend and Richard West has also been playing with a calf injury for the last couple of weeks so Webb’s arrival could be timely.

Devonport are flying high at the moment with four wins out of four to their name, including victories over fellow pace-setters Chew Valley and St Austell.

But they have found Crediton tricky opponents over the last few years, especially away from home. They lost on their last trip to Blagdon.

“Sometimes we have been there and it just hasn’t fit,” said Lewis. “It has just been one of those places – can’t put a finger on why – but we just haven’t quite clicked when we have been there the last couple of times.

“But everyone is in a buoyant mood at the moment and there’s a good energy around the club.

“At training and games there has been a change in character. Previously sometimes the boys would get on top of each other when a referee might have made a bad decision or something, but now they are working around the problem and thinking about how they can change and adapt.

“That change in character certainly helped us out last weekend against Chew Valley.”

Lewis expects a tough forward battle this weekend.

“They (Crediton) are never light and always break the gain-line,” said the Servces coach. “It is not something we should panic about but it should be in the back of our minds. However, Chew Valley and St Austell were massive teams with big players coming to us and we still managed to put them on the back foot.”

Devonport are taking both a first and second team to Crediton on Saturday.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will be looking to secure their first away victory of the season and build on last week’s impressive win over Topsham when they travel to Torquay Athletic on Saturday.

Oaks are unbeaten at home but have lost by one point away at Pirates Amateurs, drawn with Withycombe and lost 31-12 at Tavistock on their travels.

“We just have to stick together and when we do have good availability we know we can beat teams,” said Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor. “We are dangerous when we have everyone available.

“They (Torquay) lost last week so everyone is beating each other. It is going to be one of those seasons.

“We know if we could get a win we are right back up there.”

Torquay’s defeat to the Pirates Amateurs last week was their first reverse of the season. They sit third after five games, with Oaks seventh.

“Torquay are quite a good team,” said Taylor. “And, personally, I have never won there.”

Tavistock have only lost once so far this season and they will be hoping to keep that statistic going when they travel to Devon rivals Withycombe on Saturday.

The Moorlanders’ game away at Saltash last weekend was abandoned in the first half due to a horrible leg injury to their fly-half Rhys Davies. He was airlifted to hospital where it was confirmed he had badly dislocated his ankle, broken his leg and suffered ligament damage. He is due to undergo an operation today.

“Our injury list isn’t lessening at any great speed,” said player-coach Hammy Kerswill, who is struggling himself to be fit for this weekend’s game.

Davies’ injury is a big blow, especially with fellow key backs George Hillson and Ethan Lamerton also out.

Tavistock will also be without Duncan Law this weekend. Andrew Schuttkacker is set to return to the starting line-up, while Kyle Maslen is added to the squad after impressing in the seconds with five tries. Richard Cann, Jack Easton and Aidan Mason also come back into the squad.

Tavistock will be wary of Withycombe as the east Devon club have shown a never-say-die attitude at home, coming back right at the death to earn a draw with Plymstock and snatch a win with Saltash.

Saltash, who are still looking for that first win of the season, have a really tough test on Saturday when they travel to Topsham.

The Exeter-based club have four wins out of five to their name, which their only defeat coming last weekend at Oaks.

Saltash were encouraged by their display last weekend before their game was abandoned. They were winning 5-0 and will be hoping to build on that.

Liskeard-Looe, fresh from their 20-20 draw with Cullompton last weekend, will be finally hoping they can secure their first victory of the campaign when they travel to fellow Cornish strugglers Hayle, who did get off the mark last weekend with a one-point home win over Withycombe.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

THE big game in Plymouth this weekend is at the Parkway where Tamar Saracens host old rivals Old Techs in Devon One.

The fixture is normally always competitive and both clubs were buoyed by wins last Saturday – Sarries beating OPMs and Techs triumphing over South Molton thanks to a last-gasp length-of-the-field try.

“It was a good win, but it could have gone either way and it looked like we were going to lose until right until the end,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.  “I have played in and watched a lot of games down there but that one was up there with how it finished.

“I think we have probably deserved a little bit of luck going our way with all the injuries and unavailabilities we have had. It is the worst season I have known for that, but the good thing is we have been able to put sides out.”

Techs have made 12 changes in each of their last two games so Sarries will not be totally sure what to expect.

“We know if they want to pull out a result they can,” said Sarries Pete Lethbridge. “We often seem to null and void each other out, but we are looking forward to it.

“We have a couple of people coming back from injury, which is good, but we have a few others with niggles.”

Techs’ Bedford-Smith added: “People probably will say Tamar Saracens will be favourites as they are at home, but it’s a different week and probably different teams.

“I haven’t seen them play recently. They have a new coach in Davy McGregor and so the way they play might have changed.

“But we just need to worry about our own game-plan.

“I said to the boys after last week that it was a great win but we have to now try and build on it. We have to focus on this weekend now.

“We will have changes again. We had three or four come off injured last week. It is tough every week, but we just have to try and get through it. Hopefully in the next month we will start getting people back.”

OPMs have a special day planned at King George V Playing Fields to mark the 10th anniversary of the passing of former chairman Simon Adams.

They are hosting a festival of rugby with their second team playing Tavistock II at 1pm and their first team kicking-off against Torrington at 2pm. The day will also see the culmination of the Tour de Prem 850-mile cycling challenge by Matt Price and Mark Ward and in the evening the club are holding the Ginger Prince Ball. Funds from all the events with go to Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Torrington kindly agreed to switch fixtures around so that OPMs could be at home on Saturday.

“It should be a good family day out and we are going to raise some money for motorneuone disease at the same time,” said OPMs head coach Rick Orkney.

Plymouth Argaum make the tricky trip to South Molton on Saturday boosted by their first win of the season last Saturday.

They turned on the style at Bickleigh Down in horrible weather to beat Salcombe 39-5.

However, they will know South Molton at home will be a much tougher test, especially as Argaum have struggled for availability for away games this season.

The last time the teams met was in the Cornwall/Devon League in the 2018-19 season. Argaum were struggling for players for the away trip just after Christmas that season and handed South Molton the league win before kick-off but played a friendly with a few guest players which they lost 38-5.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria are set to host Plymouth Fijians at St Mary’s.

“What you need to do is try and keep it tight against them as they like a nice sexy game,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “You want to avoid keeping it loose.”

Plymouth Fijians’ Mike Freeman said: “We are looking forward to it. Hopefully, it should be a decent match.”

DHSOB will be expecting a tough challenge when they host the University of Plymouth II on Saturday.

The Sharks were without a game last week but did beat Plym Vic 41-15 the week before and have good availability again.

They will not be totally sure what to expect from the students who will have a totally different team to the last time they played them. The university started their season in fine style last week by overcoming previously unbeaten Tavistock II 24-0.

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