Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge look for Devon derby double, while Services ready for big home game

IVYBRIDGE will be aiming to do the double over their Devon rivals Brixham on Saturday when they travel to Astley Park for a joint South West Premier and Devon Cup match.

The Bridgers beat Brixham 35-30 at Cross-in-Hand in November in a match that saw the Fishermen make a late comeback to pick up two bonus point.

Ivybridge are expecting another close game this weekend, even though the sides have contrasting form.

Brixham have lost their last four league games, whereas Ivybridge have won three out of their last four, with their only defeat in that time a one-score loss to title-chasing Old Redcliffians.

“We have had some good form and what is really important for us is that we don’t rest on our laurels,” said director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.

“We realise how hard we had to work to gain that momentum. Probably the week off came at slightly the wrong time, but you can have all the form in the world going into a Devon derby but it goes out of the window.

“In a derby it’s all about the team that rocks up on the day, plays well, takes their opportunities and wants it the most.”

He added: “We are really looking forward to the game. Local Devon derbies always have an extra edge.

“We have been preparing as best we can to make sure we give ourselves the best possible chance to grind out a win, but that is easier said than done, especially away from home.

“Any kind of away game is difficult, but especially away at Brixham.

“It’s also got the extra edge of not just the league, but also the Devon Cup.

“I’m sure it will be a really intense and physical local derby.

“We just have to concentrate on ourselves. I’m sure there will be no need to get ourselves up for it as a local derby speaks for itself.”

Ivybridge are likely to make a number of changes to their team that beat Bournemouth in their last match two weeks ago.

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

DEVONPORT Services could move back into the top three in South West One West on Saturday if they can beat fellow high-flyers Lydney at the Rectory.

With the season heading into the final couple of months, five teams are still in the running for the title.

Lydney sit in third spot with Services just three points behind in fifth, but both those two clubs have played a game less than title rivals St Austell, Chew Valley and Thornbuy.

Whoever wins at the Rectory on Saturday would find themselves in a great position going into the final five matches of the campaign.

“This will set the tone for the remaining games and we are certainly looking forward to it for sure,” said Services head coach Mike Lewis.

“There’s certainly an air of anticipation around this game and trying to get a good result.

“I think everyone is really keen to play and to try and do a job on them as when we went up there we didn’t play fantastic and a few decisions didn’t go our way. It was quite frustrating and when that happens and it gives you a bit of extra emphasis to push on at home.

“I don’t think we need to say anything this weekend. We just have to turn up and do what we do.”

He added: “This is the tightest top of the table race I have been involved in. I have never been in a situation were at this point in the season five teams could still win the league and three or four could still get promoted. There are usually two teams that run away with it.”

Lewis feels that it would not be all over for which ever team loses on Saturday.

“If you look around the fixtures each team in that top group has to play another top team so there’s always going to be losses,” he said.

“Someone might go through the rest of the season winning every game but if they do that they will be lucky and another team in that top group will have lost.”

Services do have an impressive home record and are unbeaten at the Rectory in nearly three years.

They are also boosted by having Royal Navy back Rhys Williams and fly-half Richard West available again, while Matt Neyle and captain Matt Gregory are fit.

“We have got that bit of extra depth this week and you sometimes need that bit of experience to be able to see out a game,” said Lewis.  “I think we need big decision-makers and confidence players this week.”

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will be looking to do what no-one else has managed this season – the double over title-chasing Cullompton.

Oaks triumphed 27-22 at Horsham Fields when the sides met in November.

That is one of just four defeats third-placed Cullompton have suffered this season, but no-one has yet won Stafford Park this campaign, which is what fifth-placed Oaks will be trying to do on Saturday.

“It should be a good game,” said Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor.

“We know they are unbeaten at home yet this season so it is going to be a tough ask, but we are looking forward to it.

“It is one where if we pull our finger out a bit, we could give them a good game.

“We beat them at our place and felt comfortable, but it’s away and we will have to see what team we can get out and go from there.

“We are not a million miles away from them (in the league), but unfortunately we have a track record of not winning away games.”

Taylor added: “Sam Jailler, our second-row, is missing this weekend and maybe a few others, but the lads that have come into the squad never let us down and always put 110 per cent in. Whoever comes in I’m sure will have a point to prove and go really well.”

Seventh-placed Tavistock have a tough test on Saturday when they cross the Tamar to take on sixth-placed Veor away.

Tavistock did enjoy a big 41-7 home win over the Cornish club in November, but Veor are a completely different proposition on their own soil. Seven of Veor’s nine wins have come at home and in their last two weeks they have beaten Liskeard-Looe 68-12 and Plymstock Albion Oaks 22-7 at the Memorial Ground.

Tavistock did enjoy a big 57-10 victory over Torquay in their last outing, but have yet to win on the road in 2022.

Saltash are also on their travels this weekend when they visit fourth-placed Bude.

Matches between these two clubs in recent years have tended to go to the home team, but Bude did beat Saltash 36-12 at Moorlands Lane in November.

The Ashes are boosted by the return of powerful ball-carrying forwards Lewis Wells and Devon Bennett-Murray for Saturday’s trip north, but captain Phil Eatwell is missing. In Eatwell’s absence, Lewis Woolaway, who moves to number eight, will skipper the team.

Bude have only lost once at home this season, but that came in their last game at Bencoolen Meadow when the Pirates Amateurs beat them. They also lost to Plymstock away in their last outing.

Elsewhere, Liskeard-Looe are at home as they entertain the inconsistent North Tawton at Lux Park.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

TAMAR Saracens will be out to prove a point on Saturday when they host title-chasing South Molton at the Parkway in Devon One.

Sarries were heavily beaten 49-0 when they visited South Molton in November with an under-strength squad.

But the fifth-placed Plymouth side are still unbeaten at home and are keen to continue that record on Saturday.

“We are looking forward to the game,” said Sarries’ Pete Lethbridge. “I think we have about 28 players to select from this week so we are spoilt for choice. It is nice to have some options.

“When we went up there, I think we only had 16 or 17 players and had people playing out of position. It was also their president’s day so they up for it.

“But it is our ex-players and sponsors’ day on Saturday and we are hoping to make a day of it.

“We know it is going to be a challenge and we have to make sure we start fast. We have been slow to start some games but we owe them one really so need that good start.”

He added: “We are hoping that we can finish at least fourth, but we need to make sure we win all our remaining games, which are all at home now.”

OPMs are currently in fourth place. They are eight points ahead of Saracens but have played a game more.

OPMS also have a tough home game on Saturday when they host the inconsistent Exeter Athletic, who currently sit in sixth place.

The Old Boys should have actually been away but Exeter Athletic surprisingly handed them a walkover in November and so have to visit Elburton this weekend.

OPMs are not sure what to expect from their opponents, who have struggled a bit away from home, but who have been very strong at home.

“We don’t know if they are going to travel well, but we have quite a good side out,” said OPMs head coach Rick Orkney.

“We are certainly very confident of giving them a really hard, good game.”

OPMs had been hoping to hand a debut to 17-year-old Matt Smale, younger brother of their star full-back Fred, but they have not received approval yet from Devon RFU for him to play adult rugby.

Fred Smale impressed again last week for Devon U20s and Orkney described his brother as also ‘a very exciting prospect’. The club are hoping it will not be long before they can both play together in the same team.

“Fred is doing very well,” said Orkney. “He played well for Devon U20s and he is one of our most dangerous players. He has scored 20-odd tries this season so if we can put him in a bit of space then he is very effective.

“But other boys have been playing well. I think this season we have punched above our weight again a bit. We don’t have many all-stars, but we have lots and lots of good sound players and we play pretty well as a team.

“But what we haven’t done is really clicked for two halves of a game. We have shown flashes of good play and had a really good first half or good second half, but there aren’t many times where we have played really, really for the whole game. We have maybe three or four times, but we are a little bit inconsistent.

“I’m hoping that playing a slightly higher standard of opposition this week that will make us pull our socks up and raise our game for the 80 minutes.”

He added:  “I just hope we can finish on a high and get something out of the season. If we could finish fourth for example then that would be a decent season in the circumstances. We would feel we had got something out of it and then can go for it proper next season.”

Old Techs are also at home on Saturday when they host bottom side Dartmouth at Weston Mill.

But Techs will not be taking Dartmouth lightly. The only reason the South Hams club are at the foot of the standings is because they have had points deducted for giving away walkovers.

When Dartmouth have played they have proved quite competitive and only Exeter Saracens have beaten them heavily.

“When you look at the league, they have won four games,” said Old Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “So we have to be prepared.

“I think like all teams they have struggled for availability at times, but they have never been a bad side and we have always had tough battles with them and I don’t expect any different on Saturday.

“They are not to be taken lightly and our mind-set has to be right this week.”

Techs have lost fly-half Tom Ryan for the rest of the season due to naval duties, but they do welcome back fellow serviceman Dan Pullen, who has been away in Norway. They should also have Billy Evans, Will Booth, Kyle Hookway and Brett Tunnicliffe back.

Plymouth Argaum are on their travels this week as they visit struggling Buckfastleigh.

Argaum have been in good form recently and are set to travel with a full squad.

“I think it’s the first time I’ve had a full squad for an away game,” said coach Brett Stroud.

“We are quietly confident that we can finish the season pretty strongly, but we can’t look past this weekend.”

Buckfastleigh got their first win of the season last weekend when they beat Dartmouth, who kindly agreed to even the teams up as they had more players than their opponents.

In Devon Merit Table Division Two South & West, leaders Plymouth Fijians have been handed another walkover with Torquay Athletic II not able to make the trip to Plymouth.

Instead, the Fijians have arranged a match against Saltash II that will count towards the Plymouth Combination Merit Table.

Elsewhere in the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria are due to Plymstock Albion Oaks II, while DHSOB are due to host Tavistock II.

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