Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Services hope to make home advantage tell

IVYBRIDGE head coach Gareth Elliott has told his team to really attack Launceston on Saturday at Cross-in-Hand as they bid to end a four-game losing run.

Launceston leap-frogged above Ivybridge in the table last weekend by causing a major upset and overcoming previously unbeaten Hornets at Polson Bridge.

After going four games without a win, the Bridgers have dropped down to ninth place but they hope to begin moving back up the table – starting this week.

“We are just looking to play an attacking style of rugby,” said Elliott. “We are on our pitch and we just want to attack the game.

“We have been playing well in patches but we have not really taken charge of any games over the last couple of months, even those we have won.

“We have not really put a dominant display in and so we want to really attack the game and take as much away from it that we can.”

Ivybridge were narrowly beaten 26-22 by Launceston at Polson Bridge at the end of September.

“They are a tough side at their place and we were on the wrong side of the result when we played them there,” said Elliott.

“We finished that game well and it was another one of those that probably got away from us a little bit. So, like I said, we want the mentality this week where we are a tough side to beat and we have to be aggressive in every aspect of our game. That’s what I want to see and hopefully that will take care of the result.”

He added: “We just have to break up this poor run of form and to do that we have to play in a way where we are not worried about making mistakes and instead are just looking to attack.”

The Bridgers are missing experienced players Charlie Briant, Ben Watts and George Wilson due to a wedding, but they are able to welcome back Cam Setter from his loan spell at Plymouth Albion, Jay Toogood and Jon Morgan, while Archie Mitchell is set to be promoted from the second team.

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

SECOND-placed Devonport Services will be looking to bounce back from their defeat at Thornbury last week when they host second-from-bottom Bridgwater & Albion at the Rectory on Saturday.

Services’ 36-12 reverse last Saturday was only their third loss of the season.

“Last week was massively disappointing,” said head coach Mike Lewis. “It is not the done thing for us to go into a big game like that and have a score like that.

“It was one of those games where fortunes did not fall our way. We wouldn’t have won the game but there were a few things that probably cost us a bonus point and gave them a couple of scores. But if we are being realistic they (Thornbury) were the far superior team on the day and they deserved to win.

“But we are up at the top end of the table we have to believe in where we are.

“Hopefully, this dry patch we have at the minute will extend into the weekend and we will have a dry track to run around on.

“We essentially know what they (Bridgwater) are good at and what we are good at and we have to make sure we stick to what we are good at and believe in ourselves again because one poor result could easily escalate into two and then you start doubting yourself.”

The South West One West table is very tight with second, third and four all on the same number of points, St Austell just four points ahead and fifth-placed Lydney just two behind.

Lewis said: “You always find in our league that there will be one or two teams fly away at the top with four or five below that and I don’t think this season will be any different. I think one or two teams will accelerate away over the next six weeks or so and hopefully we are going to be one of them.”

Services are again missing a number of players.

“Every week is a difference issue and different problem, but I think that’s every rugby club at the minute,” said Lewis.

“You can’t be sure about the team until the day. Anyone could test positive today or Saturday morning and we have to re-shuffle the pack again.

“But we have a reasonable side out at the moment and we are happy with where we are at.

“All the players that are selected have played in the first team and played well.

“We are always confident in our team selections, but it is just that bit of experience when times get a little bit tough that we have been missing a bit at times.”

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

The big match in the Cornwall/Devon League is at Horsham Fields, where Plymstock Albion Oaks host Plymouth Combination rivals Tavistock.

Tavistock have been one of Oaks’ bogey teams over the years and Plymstock will be looking for revenge for a 31-12 defeat at Sandy Park in September.

In previous seasons, Tavistock have been known for their home form but this year they have claimed the same amount of wins away as they have at Sandy Park. Defensively they have also been better on their travels.

But they will know they will need to be at their best to win at Oaks, who have only lost once this season on their own patch.

“We enjoy playing Oaks at home but tend to struggle away,” admitted Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“We are confident if we look after the ball we can cause issues – our set-piece has been a consistent weapon this season – but we need to ensure we are not chasing the game and utilise the ball we get.”

Tavistock are set to welcome back Aidan Mason, Joe Dawe, Seb Cox, Richard Cann and Joe Hair, but are missing Darren Cuppy and Josh O’Neill.

Oaks have won their last two games, including beating Saltash away last weekend in a mud-bath, with hooker Aiden Taylor scoring two tries.

Saltash will be looking to bounce back when they host Withycombe at Moorlands Lane.

The Ashes will know that they missed a chance of some points last weekend and will want to make home advantage count this week against a Withycombe side that snatched a last-gasp 22-21 victory over them at their place in September.

Saltash stick with the same backline that played against Oaks last week which means promising youngster Kristian Davis keeps the number 10 shirt. Tomorrow’s match will only be his third league start and his second at fly-half.

The Ashes do make two changes in the pack with Ryan Simmons and Fin Jones coming into the starting line-up in place of Dale Thompson and Joe Ronayne.

Saltash’s second team are due to play Plymouth Fijians at Chapel Field at the same time.

Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe  have a tough home game against third-placed Bude.

DEVON ONE & DEVON MERIT TABLE

OPMs will be looking to prove a point when they host second-placed South Molton at King George V Playing Fields.

The Old Boys, who sit in fourth place, were beaten 43-5 at Unicorn Park earlier in the season.

“When we played them up there they were very good,” said head coach Rick Orkney. “We did all right in the first half and it was pretty close but they ran away with it in the second half.

“We didn’t go up there with an especially strong team. I think a lot will depend on who they bring down.”

OPMs also want to bounce back from last week’s 19-17 home loss to Salcombe.

“It was a bad day at the office,” said Orkney. “I think a lot of things went wrong and we picked up some more injuries as well.

“Our injury list is the problem – we just have so many injured.

“It is number eight where we are particularly struggling. We have lost three through injury.

“But we will be putting out a competitive side again. We have enough good bodies around to give them a good game and we will see what happens.”

OPMs, who are still without Sam Matts, are boosted by the availability of powerful centre Aaron Stapleton, who has not been around yet this season due to work commitments.

Tamar Saracens will be playing their first game since December 18 when they visit third-placed New Cross on Saturday.

Sarries’ last outing was one to forget – losing 62-0 away at leaders Exeter Saracens.

“We would like to go up (to New Cross) and right the wrongs from the Exeter Saracens game (before Christmas),” said Pete Lethbridge. “I think the guys are still licking their wounds from that. Hopefully, we can get a reaction out of them.

“It is going to be a tough trip up there, but we are just going to go up there and play our best and see what happens.”

He added: “We have got guys who are isolating and stuff but at the moment I have a squad of 18 to go and if we can get a few more to go up then that would be a bonus.”

Plymouth Argaum also return to action for the first time since before Christmas when they host Totnes at home.

Argaum were disappointed last week when Old Techs pulled out of their game on the day due to Covid issues.

“I probably had the strongest team I could have picked,” admitted Argaum coach Brett Stroud.

Stroud has got good availability again this week.

“We have got an influx of players and I have got a real selection headache now,” said Stroud.

“We are at home on Saturday and hopefully we can get a win.”

Argaum are likely to hand a debut to teenage winger Preston Wilkins.

“I think we need to get him his first senior game and this could be a good one to cut his teeth in,” said Stroud.

Argaum do have the likes of Isaac Honey, Tom Holliday and Karl Sullivan available again.

Old Techs are due to host Salcombe at Weston Mill on Saturday.

Coach Shaun Bedford-Smith was at Argaum last weekend when news of a positive Covid test among the squad came through and the player had been in close contact with other members of the side.

“I don’t think I have ever been so stressed,” admitted Shaun Bedford-Smith. “And we do it for free!

“I think as a club we have always tried to manage the Covid situation pretty well.

“If we had gone up there knowing someone had Covid and everyone got it then that would not have been right. We have a lot of self-employed people and people whose families work in the NHS.”

Bedford-Smith insisted the club would never pull-out of game lightly and they had contact league officials beforehand for advice.

This weekend they will be hoping to avoid the same fate that OPMs suffered against Salcombe last week.

“I think from the beginning of the season they are one of the most improved teams,” said Bedford-Smith.

“At the start of the season they gave a few walkovers but now they have a couple of ex-pro players turning out for them and seem to be really on the up.

“Not many teams go to OPMs and win and they are going to be full of confidence from that. I am sure they will be thinking now they can come down and beat us so we have to be really on it on Saturday. It certainly will not be an easy game.”

Techs are waiting on a couple of players testing negative before finalising their starting line-up, but Calum Mills could make his debut after signing for the club before Christmas. Jack Courtney is also back from army duties and could make his first appearance of the season. Kyle Hookway, who signed for Techs before Christmas from Services, could also make only his second appearance for the club.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria and due to travel to Torquay Athletic II. Plymouth Fijians do not have a league game but have managed to find a match against Saltash II.

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