IVYBRIDGE could move up into the top six of the South West Premier League table on Saturday, if they can beat Cornish side Camborne at Cross-in-Hand.
The Bridgers are currently in seventh spot, just one point behind sixth-placed Launceston, who play Bournemouth this weekend.
Ivybridge have only lost one of their last five games – a 26-22 defeat away at title-chasing Old Redcliffians – but they expect a tough test against their old rivals Camborne, who they have not beaten since September 2018.
“The last time we played them we had a red card early on and so it was a difficult game,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott.
“But we have a chance at home to put in a better performance than that game and try and pick up some more points from this mini block.”
Ivybridge were frustrated last Saturday at having to settle for a 25-25 draw with Devon rivals Brixham.
“Last week was a bit frustrating as we missed a few opportunities,” said Elliott.
“It is just about using the ball we have more effectively so we can capitalise on our opportunities.
“We know it is going to be a tough game this weekend and we are going to have to be on-song with our set-piece, play in the right areas and try to put pressure on them early.
“And as I said, one thing we can really work on from last weekend is taking a couple more of our opportunities when we have the pressure on.
“When we look back at last week, we weren’t really ruthless with our opportunities. If we had been that would have allowed us that bit more breathing space.”
Ivybridge, though, were without a host of experienced players last week, including props Matt Finn and Jon Morgan, locks George Wilson and Seb Musgrave and backs Tom Scoles and Damon Akerman.
“The guys that came in did really well,” said Elliott. “We did start to struggle with our line-out as we had so many second-row/jumpers out and unfortunately Archie (Mitchell) got injured as well so it did become really difficult in that area of the game.”
Ivybridge do hope to have second-rows Wilson and Musgrave back this weekend, while Finn and Scoles should also return.
SOUTH WEST ONE WEST
THE big games just keep coming for title-chasing Devonport Services at the moment in South West One West.
After narrowly seeing off top-five rivals Lydney 14-7 at the Rectory last weekend, Services face possibly their toughest remaining challenge this season – a trip to Newent.
The Forest of Dean side are sixth in the table and they have not lost a single game at home yet this season.
Since January, they have seen off fellow title-chasers Chew Valley, St Austell and Thornbury on their own soil.
“If you were looking at like a bar-graph then this one might be a little bit higher than the rest, mainly because it is an away game and, as they say, the next game is always the most important,” said head coach Mike Lewis.
“This is probably the biggest stumbling block realistically. Newent’s pitch is on the side of a hill, it’s a small pitch and they are really passionate side who are really good at home.
“If we catch them on a good day and we are off it in the slightest it is going to be a really tricky day.
“But we are pretty confident. We are getting better each week. After Christmas we have been building for these last five or so games.”
He added: “This is a really poignant game in our season.
“But it’s not make-or-break because the teams around us are all probably going to lose a game as they have to play each other. We just have to try and make sure it’s not us losing one.”
Lewis admits this weekend it is just about trying to dig out a victory in any way they can.
“We are not looking to go big and bold,” said Lewis. “We are just looking to make sure that we do enough to try and win.
“We have to kick goals and make the right decisions to make sure we finish with more points than the other team.”
Services are expected to have a similar team to what they fielded last week, although Joe Daley is unavailable while Toby Knowles is back in the mix after missing the Lydney match.
Forwards Chey Bryce and Tyler Busfield are doubts due to injury and illness.
THERE is an old saying in sport that you can never take anything for granted, but it would be a major shock if fifth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks did not pick up five points this weekend.
Oaks are due to host bottom side Hayle on Saturday at Horsham Fields, where the home club have only lost once all season in the league.
Hayle, meanwhile, have not won a single away game this term and have handed six teams home walkovers. And in the away games they have played they have conceded an average of 56 points per game
If the Cornish club do make the trip across the Tamar then they would be massive underdogs.
Oaks, though, are just concentrating on themselves. Their goal is to try and win their remaining five games and continue their good home record.
“That fifth position is ours, unless something major goes on,” said player-coach Aiden Taylor. “But we are just hoping to continue our home record and only lose one game at home all season. That would be impressive if we could.
“Then it is a case of looking towards next season. We need to build on this.”
Tavistock will be looking for a rare win over Bude this weekend when they host the north Cornish club at Sandy Park.
The Moorlanders have a terrible record against Bude and have lost their last eight league meetings against them.
But Tavistock have shown this season, particularly at home, that when they do click they can run in tries against anyone.
They are the only team outside the top five who have claimed 10 or more try-scoring bonus points this season and have scored 96 points in their last two games.
Bude are also not as good on their travels as they are at home. Four of their five defeats have come on the road.
“We have often run Bude close at home but have struggled to get over the line,” said player Hammy Kerswill. “They have become somewhat of a bogey side.
“But the boys are raring to go and want that victory against one of the top four.
“We have the tools to do so, it’s just about being clinical on the day and ensuring our errors and penalty count is kept to a minimum.”
Tavistock are hoping to have Jack Easton, Jake Le Gassick, Josh O’Neill, Seb Cox and Aidan Mason back in the mix for this weekend.
The club are planning a big day at Sandy Park as their second team is playing OPM II at home and their colts are in action against Cullompton. It is also a VP and sponsors day.
Saltash face a tough test this weekend as they host in-form third-placed side Cullompton at Moorlands Lane.
After a mixed start to the season, Cullompton have really found their form since early November. Their only defeat in that time was away at title-chasing Pirates Amateurs, although they did beat the Penzance-based club at their place.
They put 50 points on Saltash in November, but the Ashes will be keen to prove that they are a much better team since then, especially at home.
The Ashes are able to welcome back captain Phil Eatwell and experienced full-back Ryan Cruickshanks back into the starting line-up after missing last week’s trip to Bude.
Props Ryan and Ben Simmons come into the front-row, while Cornwall winger Will Morton is named on the bench after missing most of the season.
Devon Bennett-Murray is not available, but Lewis Wells does start again in the back-row.
Elsewhere, struggling Liskeard-Looe have a difficult trip to Mennaye Field to take on title hopefuls the Pirates Amateurs.
OLD TECHS will be hoping to play their first game for a month on Saturday when they host Exeter Athletic at Weston Mill.
Since comfortably beating Torrington on 45-5 on February 12, Techs have been handed two walkovers and had a blank weekend.
They are looking forward to getting back into action this weekend and trying to prove a point to Exeter Athletic after losing 38-12 away to them with a makeshift squad.
Techs are also hosting their sponsors and old boys’ day at the club with a buffet from 1pm.
“We haven’t had a game for a month which isn’t ideal,” said coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“It can be nice to have a break, but after four weeks it feels like you are starting again. Hopefully, we won’t be too rusty.
“They (Exeter Athletic) are above us in the league and had a good win away at OPMs last week so I think they will be pretty confident after that.
“It will be a tough game, but hopefully we will give them a good game.
“When we went up to their place we only had 16 players and had people playing out of position, but this week we should have people playing in their right positions. We have got a good team out this week but we just have to make sure we are not slow out of the blocks having not played for four weeks.”
Fourth-placed OPMs also face Exeter opponents as they host title-chasing Exeter Saracens at King George V Playing Fields on Saturday.
Exeter may only be one place above OPMs in the standings but they are 12 points ahead of them and beat the Old Boys 39-17 in November.
“They have a lively set of backs and like to run the ball wide a lot,” said OPMs head coach Rick Orkney.
“We went up to their place before Christmas with a really scratch side. They looked like they were going to run away with it and put 60 points on us at one point, but in the second half I don’t think they scored.
“Who knows what they will bring down. It is an international weekend so it will be interesting to see if they are at full strength.”
Tamar Saracens will be out to prove a point when they host Totnes at the Parkway on Saturday.
Sarries’ unbeaten home record came to an end in dramatic fashion last weekend when they were beaten 45-7 by title-hopefuls South Molton.
“We just have to pick ourselves up from last week and try to perform this week,” said Pete Lethbridge.
“We have a full squad available and we want to make an amends.”
Totnes have had a tough season and have not won a game since the start of December. But earlier in the season when they had more players available they did beat Plymouth Argaum and Old Techs at their place. However, their away form is not good and their only win on their travels came on the opening day when they overcame Buckfastleigh 24-12.
Plymouth Argaum will be unsure what they might face this weekend – or even if they will get a game – as they are due to host struggling Dartmouth.
Dartmouth have really been hampered by availability issues this season and have had to concede eight matches, including against Old Techs last weekend.
However, when they have been able to get a side out they have given some sides a really tough afternoon.
But Argaum will be confident given their recent form.
The Roborough-based club’s 24-7 win at Dartmouth in November proved the turning point in Argaum’s season. It was their first away victory of the season.
Argaum have won four of their last five games and will be keen to improve that record on Saturday before tough games against Exeter Athletic, Exeter Saracens and New Cross.