IVYBRIDGE will be hoping to make it three wins out of three on Saturday when they host Devon rivals Bixham at Cross-in-Hand in the South West Premier.
The Bridgers have overcome Bournemouth away and Royal Wotton Bassett at home in their last two fixtures to move into the top half of the table.
Brixham, on the other hand, have lost their last four games after initially winning two out of their opening four fixtures.
“It would be very good to go three from three in this little block, get a Devon derby win and some extra points for the Devon Cup,” said Ivybridge’s head coach Gareth Elliott. “There’s certainly plenty of reasons to want to win this game.”
Games between Ivybridge and Brixham in recent years have been very competitive, fuelled by a number of players moving from Cross-in-Hand to Astley Park.
“They are one of our closest rivals and there is definitely a lot of feeling in this game – the guys always get excited about playing in it,” said Elliott. “These are the type of games you want to win.”
He added: “I am expecting us to play well this weekend. We are in good form, but it is always different in a derby as there is that added pressure – probably more that we put ourselves under rather than anything else.
“I think it is going to be an exciting match. Conditions look like they are going to be pretty good and we have been playing really well and the guys are just excited to try and show that again on Saturday and put on a bit of a performance for our own fans.
“But I’m sure they (Brixham) will be all guns blazing for this weekend, but we just have to look after ourselves.
“There are going to be some opportunities out there and we know we can take them if we execute our own plays.
“We know we are flowing in attack. As long as we stick to our basics then we should be able to get a foot hold in the game and make it a tough place for them to come.”
Ivybridge are likely to make only one change to their side that impressively won at Bournemouth last week, with prop Jon Morgan coming into the side after missing the trip to Dorset.
SOUTH WEST ONE (WEST)
DEVONPORT Services face their toughest away trip of the season so far as they head to fourth-placed Lydney.
The Forest of Dean side have only lost twice this season – narrowly to Chew Valley and St Austell, who sit in the top two positions.
Services, who have only lost once, lie third in the table at the moment but do have a game in hand on the two teams above them.
Lydney have played the same amount of games and are currently six points behind.
Devonport did lose 29-10 on their last trip Regentsholme and have also found it hard work to beat Lydney at home in recent meetings.
“It is never easy going up there,” said Services coach Mike Lewis. “It’s a long trip and the boys are not used to that and the fans there are right on the edge, which does add to the atmosphere, but doesn’t make it easy.
“But we have said it does not matter how we do it, but we just have to try and get that win, even if it is just by one point.
“We do want to play nice rugby and we will endeavour to do so, but we just have to play for the win. We just need to try and pick up four points away from home.”
Services are without hooker Sam Bennett again and his stand-in last week, Joe Daley, is also out after twisting his ankle in training.
However, Devonport have signed Chey Bryce from Brixham this week and he will go straight into the team to face Lydney.
“He is a fantastic signing for us,” said Lewis. “He has got the pedigree – he has played consistently at a decent level and will just add another dynamic to our side. He is also a great talker, which will help the younger lads.”
Services are able to welcome back captain Matt Gregory and will hand a debut to young winger Matt Richards.
TAVISTOCK will be looking to get back to winning ways after back-to-back defeats when they welcome Veor to Sandy Park on Saturday.
The west Devon club have been beaten by leaders Topsham and fourth-place Torquay in the last two weeks but they should be boosted by better availability this weekend for the visit of Veor.
The Cornish side have been a bit of a surprise package this season and sit in sixth spot but Tavistock will feel they have a pack that can match them.
“We are looking forward to the match. Veor will offer a different challenge,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“Our side is still to be confirmed with a few places waiting on players’ reaction to training on Thursday after coming back from injuries.
“But one who is back having been out for several weeks now is Darren Guppy.
“The next few weeks will see several lads come back, along with a few potential signings.”
One of those signings is likely to be Tom Osborne, twin brother of Jack, who has been impressing for Tavistock this season.
Plymstock Albion Oaks will be looking to continue their unbeaten home league record for when they host the inconsistent Cullompton to Horsham Fields.
Cullompton have suffered back-to-back relegations and, like Oaks, have been up and down so far this season. But they showed last week by beating previous leaders Pirates Amateurs 38-12 that on their day they are a force to be reckoned with.
However, Oaks will feel the same. They have comfortably seen off Veor, Topsham and Saltash at home this term and even showed slightly better away form last week in a 37-20 loss at Bude.
Saltash will be hoping to upset Bude at Moorlands Lane on Saturday.
The Ashes have only won once this season, but that came in their last home fixture when they hammered Torquay 43-17.
Although Bude sit second in the table their away form has been no way as good as their home form. However, Saltash are missing a host of players again this week. They have struggled all season to try and get their strongest side out. Ryan Cruickshanks, Kieran Down, Steve Hillman, James Moriaty, Lewis Wells, Ryan Rayner, Chris Carpenter, Lewis Woolaway and Ryan Simmons are among those who are not named in their team this week, but they are able to welcome back talented young forward Devon Bennett-Murray.
Second-from-bottom side Liskeard-Looe will continue their search for a win when they travel to North Tawton.
DEVON ONE & DEVON MERIT TABLE
SECOND-placed OPMs are expecting a full examination of their credentials this weekend when they host third-placed Exeter Athletic at King George V Playing.
Exeter are only below OPMs in the table because they have played a game less. OPMs have lost twice this term – at home to Tamar Saracens and away at South Molton – while Exeter have only tasted one defeat this term – a one-score reverse at leaders New Cross last week.
“It is a proper tough game this weekend,” said OPMs head coach Rick Orkney. “If we are able to get a strong team out it will be a test to see where we are.
“It has been a bit up and down this season for us so far.
“We went up to South Molton with a weakened side and they (South Molton) were very good, but it would have been interesting if we’d had a full strength side up there.
“Then we played other sides that have been struggling. Dartmouth struggled last week to even put a side out – they did really well to honour the fixture, which was great – but it wasn’t a true reflection of where both clubs are really. We didn’t play as well as we could – we did drop down a level or two.
“But his week it will hopefully be two good sides and a good game.”
He added: “I think our league position flatters us a little bit as we haven’t played a lot of the strong teams. We have played a lot of the teams in the lower half of the table first. But if we want to stay where we are we are going to have to really step up a gear or two.”
OPMs’ second team are also at home to the University of Plymouth in the Devon Merit Table and the club are hoping to make a day of it by also showing international rugby in the clubhouse afterwards.
Tamar Saracens know they will also face a tough test this weekend when they travel to fourth-placed South Molton.
The north Devon side have been a bit inconsistent this season, struggling in some games but then hammering a few other teams. They have put on 50 points against Totnes and Plymouth Argaum and scored 43 against OPMs, but did lose at Old Techs and New Cross.
Although Tamar Saracens sit down in eighth spot they have got games in hand and have only been beaten once this term, so it should be a good contest at Unicorn Park.
“We are going to have to work a little bit harder,” said Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge. “We know what they (South Molton) are like up there.
“We are taking a coach up and hopefully we will have a bit of support going up as well.
“But we will see where we are at against South Molton. A lot of them are big, old farmer boys and they are always hard to beat at their own place.”
Plymouth Argaum make a welcome return to home as they entertain winless Buckfastleigh at Bickleigh Down.
Argaum are getting a reputation as a ‘home’ team as they really struggle to get players to travel away.
“As we are going on and speaking to other manager/coaches they are very surprised about how good we are at home, even though we have let a some games slipped, but we are not so good away,” admitted coach Brett Stroud.
“It is massively frustrating. I can’t get my head around it, with where I have come from.
“The really frustrating thing for me is we have 29 players signed on and we have a team that can probably beat nearly anyone in the league – and we have proven that. But the only time we have had a full team – the side I wanted to select – was against Salcombe at home. I know Salcombe are not the best, but we run riot and were all over them.
“We haven’t really sent a message out in the league yet. I have got friends at Tamar Saracens and Old Techs and they have said that is the best Argaum side in a long while and they were really tough games. But we just need players to be there every Saturday.
“I am trying to be optimistic. The boys are enjoying training and we have a real good game-plan – we just need players on their feet. It is all about numbers and just playing for 80 minutes with a full team.
“Our goal is to finish in the top half of the league and that is doable.
“We have got a bit better availability this week at home and have a really strong bench as a couple of struggling for 2.30pm, but we can’t write off Buckfastleigh as you just don’t know in this league.”
Old Techs have been handed a league walkover this week. They were due to play Dartmouth at home but the South Hams side are unable to get a team together to make the trip to Weston Mill.
However, Dartmouth let Techs know earlier enough in the week and they have been able to arrange a home match with Launceston IIs so that they can still hold their sponsor’s and former players’ day.
Techs said they were really grateful to Launceston for filling the fixture void.
“It should be a really good test for us,” said Techs chairman Dave Evans.
Techs were one of the clubs that RFU president Jeff Blackett visited on his 150-mile charity walk this week. He also called in at Saltash, Ivybridge, Devonport Services, Devonport High School for Old Boys and Plymouth Albion.
In the Devon Merit Table, St Columba & Torpoint are hoping to finally play a game when they host Plymstock Albion Oaks II. Plympton Victoria, who do not have match, have offered to help them fulfil their fixture. The two clubs have been trying to help each other in recent weeks, while Plymouth Fijians are due to travel to Tavistock II.