IVYBRIDGE are set to welcome back influential back-row forward Adam Northcott for Saturday’s home South West Premier clash with Royal Wootton Bassett at Cross-in-Hand.
Northcott has missed Ivybridge’s last three matches – all games they have lost by just one score – after joining Plymouth Albion on a month’s loan to cover for injuries.
He only made one appearance for Albion – away at Sale FC – but Ivybridge’s head coach Gareth Elliott feels he will have benefitted from his brief National One experience.
“It has been a good experience for him,” said Elliot. “He will come back a better player and I am sure he will play well for us this week. He is champing at the bit to get back on the pitch.”
Although Ivybridge have Northcott back they will be missing their most experienced player on Saturday – Cameron Setter, who is unavailable. His place in the centre is set to be taken by youngster Archie Bryan.
Backs Tom Scoles and Matt Burns are closing in on returning from injury, but this weekend’s game is too soon for them.
Ivybridge do not really know what to expect from Royal Wootton Bassett who are new into the league. The Wiltshire club do arrive on the same number of points as Ivybridge, with the pair sitting nineth and 10th in the standings.
“This week is a good opportunity for us,” said Elliott. “If we can win we will be back in the thick of it.
“It is a really important game for us.”
After Saturday, Ivybridge face tough matches against Bournemouth and Brixham before another week off.
SOUTH WEST ONE WEST
DEVONPORT Services will be looking to bounce back from their shock defeat to Crediton in their last outing when they entertain Wellington at the Rectory on Saturday.
Services’ unbeaten start to the season was ended two weeks ago when they lost 18-17 at their Devon rivals.
However, Devonport still have their home record to protect – they have not lost at the Rectory since April 2019 – and they will not want to slip up to league newcomers Wellington.
The game is likely to have added interest as Services’ head coach Mike Lewis could find himself up against his former boss Graham Dawe.
Ex-Plymouth Albion supremo Dawe has helped Wellington secure back-to-back promotions and Lewis is hoping he will be at Saturday’s game.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure if he is the coach or 100 per cent sure he will be there, but if that is the case it would be great to see him again,” said Lewis. “It would be nice to catch up and have a beer after, but it is also nice to go up against the coach that coached you.
“But, after a week off, I think we are just looking forward to getting back on the pitch.
“I think that break last week has done us good. It was a chance for a few people to rest and get over a few niggles. We also had Tuesday off this week and I think that has also been beneficial. Guys seem to have started missing rugby already.
“We have been going hard since pre-season and it is nice to have a week off and then actually have players really fancy a game again. Hopefully, guys will be hungry for it on Saturday.”
Services have not played Wellington since January 2017 when they were both in Western Counties West. That year the Somerset club got relegated and Devonport finished third.
A lot has changed for both clubs in that time but both now find themselves sitting in the top four of South West One.
Services have seen off the other two sides in the top four at the Rectory this season – St Austell and Chew Valley – and hope to continue their impressive home record on Saturday.
“Our home record is something we have not really focused on,” said Lewis. “The chaps just like being at home. It is a nice place to play rugby. The pitch us usually pretty decent, we normally get good crowds and have a very good stadium compared to most local rugby clubs and I think that just helps.”
Services are set to welcome back key centre Tom Richards after six weeks out with a knee injury, while fellow backs Harrison Reburn, Matt Neyle and Keane Whittaker are all back and available for selection.
However, Royal Navy full-back Rhys Williams is unavailable while Cornwall back Lewis Webb has been recalled from his short loan spell by National One side Taunton.
ALL the Plymouth Combination teams in the Cornwall/Devon League are at home this weekend.
Tavistock will be looking to continue their unbeaten home record when they entertain top-four side Topsham at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Topsham have only lost once – away at Plymstock Albion Oaks.
Tavistock are still struggling with injuries and unavailabilities. Hooker Hammy Kerswill and lock Hallam Bourton joined their lengthy injury list last weekend as they edged out Saltash 10-6.
The hosts are set to hand league debuts to Russell Lumley, Mark Tween and Jason Proctor on Saturday.
Flanker Lumley and back Tween have been impressing in the second team, while Proctor, who originally hails from New Zealand, has recently joined the club after meeting some of the players in the pub.
Front-row forward Ash Martin also comes back into the first team squad for the tough match.
“It’s yet another week with several enforced changes,” said head coach Joel Caddy.
“But we are looking forward to the game and seeing what the lads can do against Topsham.
“We can’t let Topsham dictate as they are very good when allowed to play that way.
“We have shown this season that we don’t go down without a fight and it looks like it is going to be an interesting clash of styles this Saturday.”
Plymstock Albion Oaks will be aiming to continue their unbeaten home form in the league when they entertain Cornish side Veor.
After last week’s surprise Lockie Cup defeat to the Peninsula Medical School, Oaks should have a number of players back for Saturday’s match at Horsham Fields.
Although they have beaten Topsham and Saltash at home this term, Plymstock will be wary of Veor, who have proved one of the surprise packages so far this season. Last week they beat Cullompton.
Saltash will be hoping that this might be finally the weekend they get off the mark with a win.
The Ashes have been improving as the weeks have gone on. They had their chance last week to finally get that victory but narrowly lost 10-6 to Tavistock.
On Saturday they host second-placed Torquay Athletic, whose only defeat so far has come at the Pirates Amateurs.
Saltash have kept a similar side to the one that pushed Tavistock so hard last week, although they do welcome back Steve Hillman at number eight. Rob Down and Simon Nance are also set to start after coming on as replacements last Saturday.
Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe will fancy their chances of getting their first win of the season when they host Withycombe, who have yet to get a victory on their travels this term.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
TAMAR Saracens face their third Plymouth derby game in a row on Saturday when they travel to Bickleigh Down to play Plymouth Argaum.
Sarries have only lost once this season, while Argaum have only won once, but the visitors will certainly not be underestimating their hosts.
“We don’t know what to expect, to be fair,” said Tamar Saracens Pete Lethbridge. “They can be really strong or really weak, you just don’t know.
“But it is always a tough place to go. We have to turn up with the right attitude.
“No derby game is easy and so we have to make sure the boys are concentrating and playing their patterns and plays.”
He added: “We are just looking forward to it. It is just good to get back playing. It was nice to have a week off, but we had quite a bit of momentum and were starting to play some good rugby. Hopefully, we can carry that on this Saturday.
“We have got a few players back and have a full squad going up, but we but still missing a few.”
Argaum have certainly played better at home this season. They have only had two home games but beat Salcombe 39-5 and pushed OPMs hard before the Old Boys pulled away in the closing stages to win 38-20.
OPMs are also unsure what to expect when they host struggling Buckfastleigh at King George V Playing Fields on Saturday.
Buckfastleigh sit at the bottom of the table, without a win to their name, but in previous years they have been one of the teams to beat.
“They beat us the year before at their place and were reasonably good,” said OPMs head coach Rick Orkney.
“We have to prepare for them to be strong and expect a really tough game.
“You can’t be complacent as you won’t play particularly well. You can’t afford to drop down a gear or two and do silly things.
“But we are looking forward to it. We are reasonably strong. Boys are coming back all the time. We are beginning to get back to where we were and now have some genuine competition for places, which is good.”
Old Techs are also at home as they welcome a Torrington side also looking for a first win.
However, Torrington’s position may be a bit false as they have only played four games and only one at home, plus their defeats have come against the top four sides – Exeter Athletic, New Cross, OPMs and Exeter Saracens.
“We don’t know what we are going to get from Torrington,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“Because there has been such a long gap teams have changed so much.
“But it is certainly a game we will be targeting to win as we are at home. We just have to go out there and try and get some points on the board.”
Techs are still battling with injuries. Prop Harley Adams is the latest to join their list of unavailable players after he dislocated his shoulder and slipped a disc in their last match against Tamar Saracens.
“Our team is a bit up in the air with all the unavailabilities and injuries,” said Bedford-Smith. “It is still not getting any easier.
“We know it is going to get better but it is pretty tough at the moment.”
In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria are set to welcome Plymstock Albion Oaks II to St Mary’s.
“They (Oaks) have been a bit up and down like everyone else has so we haven’t got a club what we are going to be facing,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt.