RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge ready for tough student test, while Services aim to close gap

IVYBRIDGE head coach Gareth Elliott is hoping his team will rise to the challenge of visiting title-chasing Exeter University on Saturday in the South West Premier.

The student side sit in second place, level on points with leaders Hornets.

The Topsham-based club were unbeaten to last weekend but they narrowly lost away at Hornets in the top-of-the-table clash.

“They will be quite keen to bounce back,” said Ivybridge coach Elliott. “I know they have ambitions to go up through the leagues and push on.

“They are level on points with Hornets now after that loss

“But for us it’s a good chance to try and get one up on the top of the league.

“Previously, when we have played these type of games the lads have always rose to the occasion, like against Barnstaple in previous seasons.

“We have always played well against that sort of opposition as we have always seen it as a challenge. I am expecting the lads to do the same this weekend and take it as a challenge rather than a daunting experience.”

He added: “We have some bodies that are coming back which is really useful to us so I am expecting to pick a strong side to go up there and challenge them.

“We have had some joy against them in the past, especially through being physical and with our set-piece. That will be a big part of our game-plan.”

Ivybridge have won four of their last five matches to sit in seventh spot.


THIRD-placed Devonport Services will be hoping to take advantage of the two teams above them playing each other when they host bottom side Old Patesians at the Rectory on Saturday.

Services are currently four points behind second-placed St Austell, who visit leaders Chew Valley this weekend. Chew are nine points ahead of Devonport, but have played a game more.

Whatever happens at Chew, it is certainly a chance for Services to close the gap on one or both sides above them.

“It would be nice if it was non-bonus point draw between them,” said Services’ head coach Mike Lewis. “As at least then there’s a chance to catch up on both.

“We have played them both at home but we still have to play them both away and there’s still loads of points to be had all other the place.”

But Lewis is just hoping his team can pick up more points at home this week.

Services are still unbeaten at the Rectory this season – and since April 2019 – while Old Patesians are yet to win at all yet this term.

However, Lewis is not taking anything for granted, especially as Old Pats have had a change of coaching staff this week with Bath and England winger Ruaridh McConnochie coming in as skills coach with Will Safe stepping down after signing for Moseley.

“They are a good side as they wouldn’t be in this league if they weren’t,” said Lewis. “They have been in the league above as well not too long ago so they have got a good pedigree.

“We have to be wary and be on our mettle. You can’t just go into a home game and think just because the team isn’t at the top of the table that they are going to be easy to beat.

“We have to perform – and the performance is the key. You can’t just say you are going to win games of rugby – you have to go out and perform.”

Services certainly performed last week, beating North Petherton away 42-0.

“What we noticed in that game was that chaps did their jobs really well for 60 minutes before they knew they had won it,” said Lewis. “Everyone did their job and did it really well.

“They need to make sure they keep doing that now. It can’t just be one game. We have to keep doing it.

“We have a simple game-plan – it’s not complicated – but it needs to be done effectively for it to work.”

Services will have to make one change to their squad this week with Toby Moss unavailable.

Captain Matt Gregory is also a doubt after picking up a slight groin strain last week as he made his 262nd appearance for Devonport’s first team.

That makes him the most capped player for the club since their current records started in 1994.

“He has done fantastically well to get that figure,” said Lewis. “He has performed well every time he has been in the team. You know what you are going to get with Gregs. You know he is going to get across the gain-line and off the base of the scrum he is always going to make yards.”

Services are still without prop Greg Thomas and winger Matt Neyle due to hamstring injuries.


TAVISTOCK will be looking to get back to winning ways when they travel to bottom side Hayle in the Cornwall/Devon League on Saturday.

Tavistock have lost their last two games, including a 41-10 home reverse to a strong Cullompton side last weekend.

However, they will travel to Cornwall optimistic this week as Hayle have not won in their last five games and were last week beaten 49-5 by Saltash.

“It is a game that we really need to win,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.

“It would be good to have a decent December and see out what has been our own annus horribilis with injuries.”

Tavistock are set to make several changes again this week but they do welcome back Andrew Smerdon.

Saltash will be aiming for back-to-back wins for the first time this season when they make the short trip to Lux Park to take on neighbours Liskeard-Looe.

The Ashes returned to winning ways in style last week with a 49-5 home success over Hayle.

With games against fellow strugglers Liskeard-Looe and Newquay to come in the next two weeks, Saltash do have a chance to try and move up the table.

“We have made this little mini target of 15 points and I think we have to really push for it,” said head coach Steve Down. “It might be a bit arrogant, but we have to really try.”

Down admits there is ‘everything to play for’ this week against Liskeard, who are still looking for their first win of the season.

However, although the Liskeard have not actually got a win to their name yet, they have been competitive with one draw and four defeats by just one score.

Liskeard also have not really suffered any really big defeats. The most points they have conceded in a game is 41 and that was against leaders Topsham. They have got the best defensive record by far out of the bottom five teams. It has been scoring points that has been Liskeard’s points.

Saltash’s problems have been the opposite. They are the top scorers out of the bottom five sides but have been leaky in defence.

The big positive for the Ashes this year has been the number of young players they have blooded.

“It is a building year for us, without a doubt,” said Down. “I think the whole team last week was under 30.”

However, they are able to welcome back a few more established stars this week with Cornwall players Will Morton and Lewis Wells available again and scrum-half Lewis Stuart.

Plymstock Albion Oaks play the second of four successive home matches when they entertain Newquay Hornets at Horsham Fields.

Oaks have been gradually moving up the table after a patchy start and have won their last three games. They are also still unbeaten at home so will be hopeful of another victory this weekend.

“Our next three games are at home and we are hoping to get some more points,” said player-coach Aiden Tyalor.

“It is a long way for Newquay to travel and we should have some more players back this week.”

Newquay will arrive at Horsham Fields having been hammered 78-6 away at the Pirates Amateurs.

However, before that they had put a four-game winning run together, beating North Tawton, Withycombe, Liskeard-Looe and Hayle, so Oaks will know they cannot take them too lightly.


TAMAR Saracens could move into the top three of Devon One this weekend if they can beat bottom side Buckfastleigh away.

Sarries have been slowly moving up a tight Devon One table, where just four points separate third-placed OPMs and sixth-placed Old Techs.

The Ernesettle-based club were handed a walkover last week by Torrington, but Buckfastleigh have confirmed they will play them at the Cricket Ground on Saturday.

“We are looking forward to this weekend,” said Tamar Saracens’ director of rugby Pete Lethbridge. “We just want to play a game.

“It was a bit frustrating last week because we had a decent squad available and were ready to go.

“We are just looking forward to playing again.

“Who knows what type of a team they will have out but we just have to have the same attitude as we had in our last away game against Totnes.

“We just want to go out and enjoy it and play with a smile on our faces.”

OPMs currently sit in third place but they have a tough trip to leaders New Cross.

The Old Boys were without a match last week, but lost 39-17 at Exeter Saracens the previous week so will be looking to try to get back to winning ways.

However, it not be easy at a New Cross side that are rejuvenated since the covid break. Exeter Saracens are the only team to have beaten the Kingsteignton side this season, although Tamar Saracens did hold them to a draw at home.

Plymouth Argaum will put their impressive three-match winning run on the line at Exeter Saracens on Saturday.

Argaum are on their best run for years after wins over Exeter Athletic, Dartmouth and Buckfastleigh.

They have also been boosted by the return of players like Chris Perkins, Jake Turfrey and Tom Warboys in the last couple of weeks.

Head coach Brett Stroud says ‘there’s a good feel-good factor at the club again’.

But Stroud knows it will be tough away at Exeter Saracens, who have only lost once at home this season.

Old Techs are without a match in Devon One this weekend.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria will host OPMs II at St Mary’s.

Plym Vic, who beat Saltash II 38-34 in an entertaining affair last weekend, have 20 players available for this Saturday’s game.

Elsewhere, Plymouth Fijians are due to visit Plymstock Albion Oaks.

“The Fijians have been let down a bit recently and haven’t played for a month and so really want a game,” said Mike Freeman.

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