Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge and Services look for crucial away wins

IVYBRIDGE are hoping they can move up the South West Premier table this weekend when they visit bottom side Royal Wootton Bassett.

The Bridgers sit in ninth spot but are level on points with eighth-placed Brixham and are only one point behind seventh-placed Bournemouth.

Head coach Gareth Elliott was pleased with his side’s display against in-form second-placed side Old Redcliffians in their last outing. They narrowly lost 26-22 but could easily have ended the Bristol outfit’s long unbeaten run.

“The last game was definitely a good performance against arguably the best side in the league so it’s about backing that up now,” said Elliott.

“As I said at training this week, we have had these yo-yo performances where one week we are good and then the next we are not really playing for a full 80 minutes.

“But this is important match for us. If we want to push ourselves up the table then we need to beat the sides below us.

“We need to take advantage of these opportunities to pick up points. This weekend is a good way to start that and build a bit of momentum over the next few games in this mini-block.”

He added: “They (Royal Wootton Bassett) are at home and we are not expecting them to be a pushover. However, if we can’t beat teams below us then we can’t push up the table.

“We have to go there confident that we can win, but also be on the ball.”

When the sides met at Cross-in-Hand earlier in the season Ivybridge won a high-scoring affair 56-31.

The Bridgers are set to field a similar team to that which faced Old Reds two weeks ago.

“We still have a couple of guys out so there’s no real change in personnel,” said Elliott.

“The twos had a game last week and the ones have had two good weeks of training. They have trained really well.”

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

DEVONPORT Services will be aiming to keep the pressure on their title-rivals when they visit 11th-placed Wellington on Saturday.

Services dropped down to fourth last week with no match and with Chew Valley and Lydney both winning games in hand.

However, Devonport are only five points behind leaders Chew Valley, who face third-placed Lydney this weekend.

But Services will not be underestimating Wellington even though they are third from bottom. The Somerset club have only lost two of their six home matches this season and they might be in a higher position had they not played 10 away games in their opening 16 fixtures.

“We never know what to expect every week from ourselves, let alone everyone else,” said Services’ head coach Mike Lewis.

“But we don’t know we will be up against this week, so we just have to concentrate on what we do, and we are pretty good at that.”

Devonport made hard work of seeing off Crediton at home in their last outing, eventually triumphing 16-13.

“We played some pretty good rugby at times, but we were just a bit flat – we didn’t hold our depth enough and come on to the ball,” said Lewis. “We weren’t making those first couple of yards which made it a bit more difficult, so we have worked on plenty of that over the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, we can take that into this weekend and we can get across the gain-line and play some front-foot rugby.

“Everyone talks about getting on the front foot and getting over the gain-line and it is crucial.”

Services are missing centre Tom Richards and forwards James McQuillan from their last outing, but they are able to welcome back hooker Sam Bennett and speedy back Matt Neyle. Youngster James Hocking could get his first start.

Cornwall prop Greg Thomas is still out with a hamstring injury.

“In terms of players we just have so many injuries at the moment,” said Lewis.” I think across our two teams we have 20 players injured.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

FIFTH-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks will be looking to continue their good form when they travel across the Tamar to play seventh-placed Veor.

Oaks have won five of their last six games, with their only defeat in 2022 coming away at title-chasing Topsham.

The Horsham Fields side have scored 105 points in their last two matches against Withycombe and Torquay.

However, both those games were at home and they have found it much harder to win this season on their travels.

Oaks have only actually triumphed twice away from home this term and they are well aware that they will need to be on form to beat Cornish side Veor on their own patch.

“Veor is a tricky place to go,” said player-coach Aiden Taylor.

“They seem to dig out results at home, but like lots of teams in this league, they don’t seem to travel as well.”

Tavistock will be up against it on Saturday when they travel to second-placed Topsham.

Topsham are unbeaten at home this season and are averaging more than 37 points a game at Bonfire Field, while they have only conceded 86 points in seven matches at their home.

An under-strength Tavistock side were hammered 72-0 by them earlier in the season and they will want to prove that they are much better than that this weekend.

But they are not quite as strong this week as they would like to be.

“We are missing several for various reason,” said head coach Joel Caddy. “So it is hard to predict how we will go.”

Saltash will be looking to complete their first double of the season when they visit Torquay Athletic on Saturday.

The Ashes’ first win of the campaign came when they thrashed the Tics 43-17 at Moorlands Lane.

Torquay were sixth in the table until last weekend when they were docked five points for failing to travel to Liskeard-Looe.

The south Devon side have found it tough to win away but they have claimed six victories and nearly beat leaders the Pirates Amateurs in their last home game, so Saltash will know it will not be easy to return with another victory.

Meanwhile, Liskeard-Looe will be hoping to take advantage of Withycombe’s poor form when they travel to Raleigh Park.

Apart from receiving a walkover, Withycombe have lost their last five games. Liskeard have not played since January 22 after both Torquay and Hayle gave them walkovers.

DEVON ONE

THERE’S yet another Plymouth derby in Devon One where Tamar Saracens host Plymouth Argaum at the Parkway.

When the sides met at Bickleigh Down earlier in the season just one try decided the contest with Sarries edging it 17-12.

All the Plymouth derbies have been close this season and both Argaum and Sarries go into Saturday’s match on the back of narrow wins over Old Techs.

“It’s going to be another hard one on Saturday,” said Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge.

“I think all the games played against the Plymouth sides have been close. I think all the teams have similar capabilities, determination and aggression.”

He added: “We should be nearly at full strength this week as we have a few guys coming back. It is possible a few will be disappointed this week as we can only pick 20.

“And I would imagine Argaum will have a strong squad out as it’s not like a proper away game. We are expecting a tough battle.”

Lethbridge admitted it was nice to have a week off last Saturday.

“I think we needed last week’s break to recharge our batteries a bit,” he said.

“We are going into the game with a bit of confidence after beating Techs in our last outing.”

Sarries are actually unbeaten in derby games this season, but all have been tight.

Argaum got their first derby win of the season last week against Techs but will be hoping to improve on some aspects of their game from last Saturday.

But they have won three out of their four games in 2022 so will make the short trip to Ernesettle in confident mood.

For the third week running, OPMs play a side in the bottom four as they visit struggling Buckfastleigh.

The Buccs are having a season to forget and have yet to get a win.

However, they nearly all the teams in the league they are better at home.

“They are a bit like Totnes (who OPMs played last week),” said OPMs coach Rick Orkney. “But they are at home so they maybe will be stronger.

“For us it’s all to do with who we have available. We do have a massive injury list still.”

OPMs were boosted this week by having youngster Ethan Millard selected for the South West under-18 squad after impressing in Devon colours. He will feature for the regional side against London & the South East at London Irish next weekend.

OPMs also have full-back Fred Smale in the Devon under-20 squad. Smale has been averaging more than one try a game this season and has scored four times more tries than any other OPMs player.

Meanwhile, Old Techs are hoping they can finally get back to winning ways when they host Torrington as Weston Mill.

Techs have yet to win in 2022 after struggling with play availability and having tough fixtures against the likes of South Molton, Tamar Saracens and Argaum.

But they have impressed with an under-strength squad against Tamar Saracens and Argaum in recent weeks and they feel they are turning the corner with player availability.

“I can’t be disappointed with the effort of the last two weeks,” said coach Shaun Bedford-Smith, who has found himself featuring in both games.

“It is just been in the last 10 minutes where not having four or five replacements has cost us.

“It has been a struggle, but we might now be turning a corner.

“We have got seven back this weekend, although four who did play last week are unavailable.

“It has been a tough month for us and we just want a win now. I don’t care what sort of a win it is.

“But it’s not going to be easy. Torrington will come down and their forwards will battle hard and try and spoil our game.”

Techs are set to welcome back Rudi Baker, James Douglas, Conor McQueen, Johnny Young, Kyle Hookway, Brendan Bevan and Tony Lee, but are without Jack Courtney, Steve Wilkinson, Joe Bailey and Ben Lynch.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria are due to host Tavistock II

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