IVYBRIDGE head coach Gareth Elliott is hoping his team can cause a big upset and end Old Redcliffians’ long unbeaten run at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday.
Old Reds are unbeaten since October 2. After narrowly edging out Ivybridge 43-41 at their place on October 9 they have won 12 games on the spin and are up to second in the table, just three points behind leaders Exeter University.
Since the turn of the year they have beaten fellow top five side Exeter Uni, Hornets and Exmouth, so Ivybridge know they will be in for a tough test.
But the Bridgers were boosted last weekend by getting off the mark in 2022 with a 50-24 away victory at Old Centralians.
“It was a good match to watch back,” said Elliott. “The boys played very well.
“The team just pulled together really well. We held on to the ball really well, which helped, as we had long periods of possession to put some pressure on.
“But we also defended a lot better and fought a lot more when close to our line. We had a couple of good moments and an intercept that led to a full-length try and a 14-point swing.
“We had a bit of disruption leading up into the game, as you get these days, and so ended up with three forwards on the bench and our reserve hooker ended up having to go on the wing and things like that. But everyone did what they had to do to get the good performance and the win.”
On this weekend’s match, he added: “They (Old Reds) are the form team in the league at the moment. They are second but beat Exeter University a couple of weeks.
“But we just have to see it as a one-off game because we haven’t got a match next weekend.
“We are at home and we just have to do all we can to put them under pressure.
“The guys always like playing teams that are going well. They see it as a challenge and so I am expecting them to make it really tough for them (Old Reds). We are the underdogs and we have to fight for every little thing and try and make it really difficult for them to get anything out of the game.”
Ivybridge are set to welcome Tom Scoles back after injury an Damon Akerman, who missed last week’s game, but Archie Bryan is unavailable.
The Bridgers were boosted last week by the return of forwards Adam Northcott and Jay Geraty following injury.
“It was good to have Adam Northcott back as he gave us that ball carrying threat. He is a good player to have when you haven’t got that much go-forward. He is really useful,” said Elliott.
The Ivybridge coach was also full of praise for veteran hooker Geraty, who has been a key member of the club for a decade.
“Every match matters to him,” said Elliott. “And I think it is important to play well for guys like that who have put a lot of time in, not just in training and on Saturdays, but for the whole club behind the scenes. He is on the board and volunteers a lot and helps the young lads at the club. It is important to play well for guys like that who put in a lot but maybe don’t always get the appreciation.”
Meanwhile, Ivybridge’s second team currently sit top of the Devon Merit Table Division One. They are the only unbeaten team in the league but are without a match this weekend.
SOUTH WEST ONE WEST
DEVONPORT Services will have double motivation when they host fellow Devon side Crediton at the Rectory on Saturday in South West One.
Services will be looking to bounce back from last week’s 30-14 loss at title-rivals Chew Valley that saw Devonport drop from first to fourth. They will also be looking for revenge on Crediton after losing 18-17 at Blagdon on October 9.
“It seems to be a bit of to-me-to-you with Crediton,” said Devonport coach Mike Lewis. “We lose away, but win at home. However, we have to make sure that we do win at home this time. We can’t be complacent.
“If we win this one then we just have Sidmouth to beat to secure a home Devon cup final – that’s the extra icing on the cake we are playing for this weekend.”
He added: “Hopefully we have a bit more tempo this week than we did last week.
“We played into Chew Valley’s hands a bit last week, but they were pretty decent.
“Yet we didn’t play at a high enough tempo to test them enough so we have been working on that quite considerably in training this week.”
Crediton sit eighth in the table but have only one once on their travels this term. They are also a bit out of form having lost their last six games
Lewis admits his side are still a bit frustrated by their defeat to them earlier in the season.
“We only lost by a point,” said Lewis. “And we felt we should have had eight or 10 scrummaging penalties. We know Crediton are a good side and we have never played to our full potential up there, but seeing a scrum not refereed properly is frustrating.
“However, at the same time, we have never played well up there. We have either gone up there and just done enough or lost out on a couple of decisions. But we should be looking at it in the sense that we should be finishing off games and playing in a high tempo manner.”
Services should be able to welcome back captain Matt Gregory, who missed last week’s trip to Chew Valley.
“His ball carrying options always add something,” said Lewis.
They also have youngster Matt Richards available for selection again after a hamstring injury and Toby Lean and Oli Symons are back in the mix after Devon under-20 duty last week.
But Devonport are set to be without front-row forwards Sam Bennett and Joe Daley, who are both unavailable, and speedy back Matt Neyle, due to covid issues.
“We have got a few boys back but are missing a few,” said Lewis. “It is the same every week. We never get a full team out, but I think that’s the same for most clubs this season.”
Services’ second team will also be in action on Saturday when they host their Crediton counterparts on Stonehouse Creek in the Devon Merit Table.
SALTASH will be pay tribute to one of their long-standing supporters on Saturday when they host title-chasing Topsham at Moorlands Lane.
Tom Ellis, who was one of their vice-presidents, passed away recently and the club will honour him this weekend.
“It will be an emotional day for us as we have lost another big member of the club – probably our number one fan – Tom Ellis,” said coach Steve Down. “He was a long-time supporter of the club and was one of our VPs.
“We are going to try and do a bit of a memorial day for him. We will have a minute’s silence and try and give him a good send off. It will be a really sad day.”
Saltash will be the underdogs on Saturday, despite being at home. Topsham are second in the table and have only lost three games all season – all away from home. They have scored more try-scoring bonus points than any other team in the league, but Saltash did cause them a few problems at Bonfire Field in a 47-20 defeat.
“They are a backs team,” said Down. “They were very good in the centre when we went up there.”
With both sides having dangerous backs it is likely there might be a few tries in store on Saturday.
Saltash will be hoping to start better than they did last week against Tavistock where they found themselves 26-0 down after 29 minutes before making a game of it in the second half.
Cornwall player Lewis Wells came on in that match for Saltash and scored two tries before picking up an injury. He is not available this week. Fellow forwards Liall Honey and Finlay Jones are also missing for the Ashes, who the Cornish club are unchanged in the backs.
Tavistock will be looking to repeat their first half display against Saltash when they host Withycombe at Moorlands Lane.
The only change to their starting XV sees Andrew Craddock replace the absent Aidan Mason at centre. Joe Hair and Hallam Bourton return to the bench.
“Our set piece is functioning well and our backs look dangerous so fingers crossed we can get a result,” said Tavistock player Hammy Kerswill.
“I believe they (Withycombe) are a better team at home.”
Withycombe did beat Tavistock 17-5 at their place in October.
“We were under strength and poor up at their place, but they did defend very aggressively and credit to them for that as we had no answer,” said Kerswill.
Plymstock Albion Oaks are also at home as they host Torquay Athletic at Horsham Fields.
Torquay started the season really well but lost a bit of form before Christmas.
“They do look like they have picked up a little bit of late and they only just lost to the Pirates last week,” said Plymstock’s Aiden Taylor.
“We are just trying to finish as high as we can.
“I keep telling the lads, let’s just play some rugby and enjoy it and then next year we will try and push on again.
“I have said it before, we are on a bit of a rebuild but we are not that far away. We just need to commit a bit more. If we travel to away games it would be awesome. We have only won two away games this season but only lost one at home.”
Oaks will be keen to try and continue that impressive home form on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Liskeard-Looe will be hoping to finally get their first win of the season this weekend when they entertain bottom side Hayle.
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
ANOTHER week and there’s another derby match in Devon One where Old Techs host big rivals Tamar Saracens at Weston Mill.
It will be the third time they have met this season. The first match at the start of October was abandoned just before the 60th minute mark after Techs’ teenage prop Harley Adams suffered a neck injury.
The joint league and Lockie Cup game at the Parkway was replayed in November with Sarries narrowly winning 25-22.
Another close encounter is expected between the teams again this weekend, with Techs’ home form quite impressive. Their biggest defeat at Weston Mill this term has been a three-point (10-7) loss to title-chasing New Cross.
“It will be another tough battle, we know that,” said Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge. “Techs play very similar to the way we play. It will just be the best team on the day that wins.
“We know they will have a good squad out and we can’t underestimate them.”
Techs travelled to South Molton last week with just 10 players and were heavily beaten.
Although they hope to have more players available this weekend, they admit they are struggling again.
“It’s not a home or away thing, it is just we have so many away, injured, working or have covid,” said coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“We are just struggling at the moment. We have got a lot of players but they are just not available at the moment. We picked up four more injuries last week.”
Another team that are good at home are Plymouth Argaum.
But that good home record is expected to be thoroughly put to the test by in-form South Molton, who are third in the table but have games in hand on Exeter Saracens and New Cross above them.
“With the squad we have got at the minute we potentially could be up at top of the league,” said Stroud. “And this week is a chance to prove it. If we beat South Molton at home, who I really rate – I think they are the best balanced team in the league, but if we can turn the over at home then it proves that we could do something as a club. However, everyone has to make themselves available but it has not been happening.”
Argaum are able to field a stronger squad than the one that last away at Salcombe last week.
They are unbeaten at Bickleigh Down since the end of October and have only lost twice on their own patch this term.
Torrington are in the bottom three with only two wins this season, but both those have come at home.
“They are much stronger at home,” said OPMs coach Rick Orkney, who was full of praise for Torrington for agreeing to switch fixtures around earlier in the season.
“When we had our charity day for motor neurone disease (MND) disease we had a black tie do in the evening with John Bentley as speaker and we asked them if they wouldn’t mind switching the game to our place.
“They did and not only that, they stayed and put money behind the bar for charity. They were really, really good. It was good, old fashioned rugby values.
“They were superb so we are going to go up there on a bus and stay and put a bit of money behind their bar. We are looking for to it.”
However, there will be action at King George V Playing Fields this weekend as Devon Merit Table Division Two South & West leaders Plymouth Fijians will host fellow high-flyers Tavistock there (2.30pm).
Just two points separate the two teams in the league.
“It should be a well-contested game,” said Mike Freeman.
Also at King George V Playing Fields, OPMs seconds are due to host DHSOB in the same division, while Plymstock Albion Oaks II are in action at their Torquay counterparts.