Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge boosted by returning players, while Services prepare for big away trip

IVYBRIDGE head coach Gareth Elliott has told his team that they must improve defensively if they are to end their losing run away at Old Centralians on Saturday.

The Bridgers have lost their last five games, including going down 59-33 at home to Launceston last weekend.

“It was frustrating to watch us defensively be like that really,” said Elliott.

“We are still scoring tries, but the guys know they have to batten down the hatches.

“If sides see we are conceding that many points then they will think they are going to have a field-day against us.

“It doesn’t really matter how we are attacking, if we are not willing to defend.

“That is the only focus this week. We need to sure that up and make sure we are difficult to score against as at the moment that is not the case.

“It is just a case of being confident in our defensive system and being confident with each other and trusting each other. If we have more trust in the way we are defending, then I think we will be fine.

“We have slipped into some bad habits and we need to make sure we knock them out of ourselves this week.”

Elliott hopes they can re-find their form on the long trip to Gloucestershire where they will take on an Old Centralians side who sit just one place and two points behind them.

“I think the bus trip will be good for us and will make sure we are focussed when we get there,” said the Ivybridge boss.

“We are playing on a 4G pitch so we need to make sure we use that to our advantage as well.

“This weekend could be good for us. It is a game against a team close to us in the table and a chance to show ourselves in a better light than we did against Launceston.”

Ivybridge are set to be boosted by the return of key players Charlie Briant, Ben Watts, George Wilson and Adam Northcott.

Briant, Watts and Wilson all missed last week’s game against Launceston due to a wedding, while back-row star Northcott has been out since November with a thumb injury.

“He (Northcott) is the kind of guy you know is going to give you go-forward with his carriers and the way he breaks tackles,” said Elliott.

Northcott’s return is timely as on-loan Plymouth Albion back-rower Alex Sheridan suffered a serious injury against Launceston last week.

“He has suffered a bad leg injury and will be out for quite a while,” said Elliott. “I think he has suffered a leg break and a bit of a knee injury at the same time. We are wishing him all the best in his recovery as he has been really good for us since he came over. All the lads are wishing him the best.”

Jay Toogood also faces a length spell out after breaking ribs last week.

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

LEAGUE leaders Devonport Services face a massive away match on Saturday as they visit third-placed Chew Valley, who sit just one point behind them with a game in hand.

“We were really surprised to find ourselves top of the league last week as we weren’t expecting to be,” admitted Services head coach Mike Lewis.

“It makes this weekend a big one. If they (Chew) win it puts them at the top with a game in hand on us, but if we win it basically nullifies that game in hand.”

The top four sides in the league are separated by just one single point, while fifth-placed Lydney are seven points behind but have games in hand on all the other teams.

“Due to a few cancellations we are probably not going to know now until the last four or five weeks who are up there,” said Lewis.

The top four changed totally around last week and could do again this Saturday with not only Services playing Chew Valley, but second-placed Thornbury playing Lydey.

Services will be without key players Rhys Williams and Matt Gregory due to work.

“That’s a couple of influential players we are losing,” said Lewis.

“But it looks like Matt Neyle will be back after a hamstring injury suffered well before Christmas. We are pretty happy to see him back as he adds that little bit of spark in the back three and some experience.

“We also have Tom Richards back this week. He is so influential. When we have Westy (Richard West) at fly-half, Tom Richards and Harrison (Reburn) in that centre partnership and Dylan (Daley) playing some quick ball off nine – it is just what we want. If we have back-three boys playing off them then it just makes it easier for everyone.”

Services are a bit frustrated that Devon under-20s are not naming their squad to play Cornwall on Sunday until after a training session on Friday night – after they have had to name their teams for Saturday. Devonport have five players in county training squad.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

THERE is an intriguing clash at Sandy Park on Saturday where Tavistock host Plymouth Combination rivals Saltash.

The teams played out a tight game at Moorlands Lane earlier in the season where Tavistock narrowly won 10-6. That was Tavistock’s first league win over Saltash in a number of years.

Both clubs have got some strong forwards and some exciting backs who have shown they can score tries.

Saltash, apart from a thrashing away at Pirates Amateurs just before Christmas, have shown some good form in the last couple of months. They have won four of their last six games and last week enjoyed a bit 41-17 home win over Withycombe.

Tavistock have won only two of their last six games but have had some tough fixtures and last week came within seconds of beating Plymstock Albion Oaks away.

“The away fixture (with Saltash) was very tight,” said Tavistock spokesperson Hammy Kerswill. “And perhaps we were lucky to cling on, but defensively we put a great shift in against one of their stronger teams.

“We had a well-attended training session on Thursday and were really able to concentrate on a few things that went amiss last week.

“Conditions look good so hopefully we will get an opportunity to show what we can do with ball in hand, score some tries and hopefully get a result that stems a series of wins.”

Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy has tasked his side with trying to chase down Torquay, who are two places and 10 points ahead of them.

Tavistock have good availability this week with more than 40 players to select from for two matches.

Head coach Caddy admitted it is probably his best availability since pre-season.

“We are looking pretty good,” he said. “We have got competition across the board. The Moorlands side is pretty strong this week.

“All we need to do is play like we did last week. If we do that then they (Saltash) will have to be good to beat us.”

Jack Lewis and Joe Hair are unavailable, but Kerswill, Darren Guppy and Josh O’Neil return to the front-row, while Jake Le Gassick, Rob Hockin and Conor Packwood return to the backline and Andrew Schuttkacker is also back in the squad.

Saltash are putting three teams out this weekend, with their vets team taking on Devonport Services vets at the Rectory on Friday night and their second team are playing Plympton Victoria in a Plymouth Combination Merit Table fixture.

The Ashes are able to field an almost identical side to the one that convincingly beat Withycombe. The only personnel change sees Danny Snook come in for Joe Rider. That means youngster Andrew Walsh switches from centre to the wing with Snook taking over the number 13 shirt.

Saltash are also able to welcome back Lewis Wells, who, like Andrew Schuttkacker for Tavistock, will start on the bench.

Plymstock Albion Oaks face a tough test this weekend when they visit second-placed Topsham.

The Exeter club are unbeaten at home this season and have run in some big scores at their Bonfire Field ground.

However, Topsham were beaten away at the Pirates Amateurs last week and Oaks did beat them at Horsham Fields at the start of October.

“It is going to be a hard one for us, but if we can get the right team we know we can mix it with anyone in this league,” said Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor.

Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe also have a tough trip as they visit Cullompton.

OPMs unveiled their new kit last weekend, which has been sponsored by Sound Financial

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

IT IS another derby weekend in Devon One, where Tamar Saracens host OPMs at the Parkway.

The teams sit fifth and sixth in the division, with OPMs just three points ahead of their city rivals.

Saracens have been a bit out of form, heavily losing their last two matches away at high-flying New Cross and Exeter Saracens, but they have a good home record and a good record against OPMs.

“It is looking like we will have quite a strong squad this week, although we still have a few injuries,” said Tamar Saracens Pete Lethbridge.

“We just have to go with the flow this week and just go out and enjoy it.

“They (OPMs) had a decent result against South Molton last week as so they should be on a little bit of a high.

“We always seem to have close encounters with OPMs and we will just see what happens.”

Sarries won the corresponding game at King George V Playing Fields at the start of October 17-5.

“They narrowly beat us earlier in the season, but it was yet another game that could have gone either way,” said OPMs head coach Rick Orkney.

Plymouth Argaum will be looking to build on their big 102-0 home victory over Totnes when they travel to rejuvenated Salcombe.

Head coach Brett Stroud hopes last week’s win will inspire their players and help them improve their away form.

Argaum have won four out of six of their home games, but have only claimed one victory out of eight on the road.

They are just one place behind Salcombe in the table. The South Devon club have really picked up form and have won three of their last five matches, including wins over Old Techs and OPMs.

Old Techs are struggling for availability for their long trip to third-place South Molton, who are unbeaten at home.

Techs, though, did beat South Molton at Weston Mill.

“It is one of those weeks,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “But a lot of clubs are having these problems this season.

“We are just going to try and do what we can this week. We are pretty much without every army player, which does not help. It is frustrating as we have a big squad – and a good squad – this season, but I think we are 22 or 23 unavailable.”

The big game in Devon Merit Table Division Two South & West is at Brickfields, where DHSOB host Plymouth Fijians on the top pitch.

It will be DHSOB’s first game since before Christmas. They have named a strong squad of 22 for the match against opponents they will know well.

“It is an eagerly-anticipated clash between two teams who know each other very well,” said Mike Freeman.

“The Fijians have a close affinity with DHS Old Boys and have helped them in recent seasons. I think they are looking forward to a close encounter on Saturday.”

Plympton Victoria do not have a league game but have arranged a match with Saltash II at Moorlands Lane on Saturday.

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