IVYBRIDGE will be looking to extend their unbeaten run to five games when they travel to Drybook in the South West Premier.
The Bridgers have not lost since a narrow 26-22 defeat to title-chasing Old Redcliffians at the end of January.
But they are expecting a tough game against Drybook as the last three meetings between the clubs have all been decided by just one score.
“We had a very good performance against Camborne last time out so we are going in confident,” said Ivybridge’s head coach Gareth Elliott. “We want to back up that performance and after a week off the players should be fresh, rested and ready to go.”
He added: “It is one of our longest trips and they are always a tough side to play – all sides are around the Glos/Bristol area. It was a tough game at our place (Ivybridge won 29-26).
“From memory they have a pretty wide pitch and we have been training to play some pretty high-tempo rugby. I think if we can do that then we should be able to score some tries. Then it is just about our energy in defence – we just have to lock that side down. It will be a good challenge for us.”
Ivybridge, who sit in seventh spot – level on points with sixth-placed Launceston, have just four games left of the season. After this weekend’s trip to Drybook, they face Devon derbies against Exeter University and Exmouth before ending with a home game against Hornets.
Elliott said: “We have a couple more games against Devon teams, which are important to us, and we also possibly have the chance to finish fifth, which would match our highest finish, so there’s plenty left to play for.
“But for us it is just about savouring the games we have left. There’s only a handful of games left and suddenly it is all over again. It seems to have gone by in a flash. The lads are looking forward to the last few games – they are certainly not waiting for the season to end.”
Ivybridge are set to name virtually the same squad that comfortably beat Camborne last time out. The only player missing is Adam Northcott, who picked up a knock in that match.
SOUTH WEST ONE WEST
DEVONPORT Services will be looking to keep alive their South West One West title hopes when they entertain North Petherton at the Rectory.
Third-placed Services will be big favourites, having not lost at home in nearly three years and with North Petherton without a single away win all season. Devonport also beat them 42-0 away from home in November.
But Services head coach Mike Lewis has told his team not to take anything for granted or let the pressure of the importance of the last four games get to them.
“We just have to make sure we do the simple things right,” he said.
“Teams are going to slip up, but who is going to do it first? If someone does slip up it gives confidence to the other teams. It does add pressure and some people will thrive on that and some won’t.”
He added: “Performance matters and if everyone performs this week we should be all right.
“On a drive track we are usually really good.
“When we played them (North Petherton) up there, it was cold but it was a dry and we manage to run them around – we didn’t get into an up-front battle. We will try to do the same this weekend and hopefully we can get the same result in terms of the five points.”
All the top four teams in the division are playing teams in the bottom half of the table this week, but the fixtures get very interesting in the title race the following week with second-placed St Austell hosting leaders Chew and fourth-placed Lydney travelling to sixth-placed Newent, while Services visit bottom of the table Old Patesians.
Devonport are light on hooker options this weekend with Sam Bennett having gone away travelling, Chey Bryce injured and Liam Williams unavailable. Joe Daley is likely to be handed the number two jersey.
SALTASH will be aiming to make it three games unbeaten when they travel to bottom side Hayle on Saturday in the Cornwall/Devon League.
The Ashes have picked up form in the second half of the campaign and will make the trip west in confident mood after a big 43-19 victory over Veor last week and a draw with third-placed Cullompton the Saturday before.
Hayle have not won a game since October, but they have proved much stronger at home.
“It could be a banana skin,” admitted Saltash head coach Steve Down. “They will be a big side, but we need to play with the same ferocity (as last week) and just go for it.”
Saltash are able to field a similar team to last week. They are set to make just one change in the forwards and the backs. In the backs, exciting youngster Kristian Davis is unavailable but Saltash are able to welcome back Danny Snook, while in the pack, Colm Rich comes in for the unavailable Liall Honey.
Plymstock Albion Oaks also face a potential banana skin when they make the short trip across the Tamar to play Plymouth Combination rivals Liskeard-Looe.
Oaks may be fifth in the table and Liskeard third from bottom, but games between the two sides, particularly at Lux Park, have tended to be close over the years.
Although Liskeard have really struggled for wins this term, they have been quite competitive, picking up six losing bonus points.
Oaks have found wins on their travels had to come back – they have only two away victories this term – so they will not be taking anything for granted at Lux Park.
Sixth-placed Tavistock are expecting a tough test when they travel to third-placed Cullompton, who have not lost a single home game this season.
However, Tavistock were boosted by beating fellow top four side Bude in their last meeting.
Tavistock, though, are likely to have to make changes to their team that last played two weeks ago. Josh O’Neill, Jake Le Gassick and Rob Grove are among those missing for them, but Joe Hair is set to come into the front-row, while Conor Packwood returns to the backline.
“We still have a job to do to beat Veor to the sixth spot,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill. “Any points from this weekend would be a bonus with Cullompton not having lost at home.
“We go with nothing to lose in what is our last long away trip of the season.
“It looks set to be a cracking day for rugby in good conditions which has not been the norm of late so if we get it right and click then who knows what could happen.”
DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
TAMAR Saracens were supposed to be the only Plymouth Combination side at home in Devon One this weekend.
They were due to host third-from-bottom Torrington at the Parkway, but the struggling north Devon side have now pulled out of the fixture and handed Sarries the points.
But Sarries have been able to arrange a late game against Ivybridge III at Cross-in-Hand to replace that league fixture.
“I know we get the points, but we would have rather have played the game,” said Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge.
“But we have managed to get a replacement fixture against Ivybridge III, which is good as we needed a game. We will have a squad of 22 players going up to Cross-in-Hand and will route everyone.”
Plymouth Argaum and Old Techs both have trips to Exeter this weekend in Devon One. Argaum visit Exeter Athletic, while Techs make the trip to title-chasing Exeter Saracens.
Argaum surprised Exeter Athletic at home at the end of the November, beating them 36-10. That win turned their season and they would love to complete the double over them on Saturday.
But Argaum’s away form has been a problem this season, but they did beat Buckfastleigh 45-5 on their travels last time out.
“We have potentially one of our strongest away sides of the season,” admitted Argaum’s Stuart Quarterman. “It’s not quite as strong as it would be if we were at home but still quite strong.
“We did beat them at our place and that was a well-received win at the time.”
Argaum are set to welcome back Aaron Anderson-Smith and Jasper Stevens to the pack, while 18-year-old winger Preston Wilkins is set to start.
Calum Mills is also set to make his comeback for the club after spells at Old Techs and Plymstock Albion Oaks.
Techs will be looking to put another spanner in Exeter Saracens’ title challenge.
Techs beat Sarries 25-20 at Weston Mill in November, but the Exeter side are much stronger at home.
That defeat by Techs was actually Sarries’ last loss. Since then they have won all their games and have not lost at home side the opening day of the season.
OPMs do not have a league game this weekend, but they are due to host the University of Plymouth in the quarter-finals of the Lockie Cup at King George V Playing Fields.
In the Devon Merit Table Division Two South & West, Plympton Victoria host league leaders Plymouth Fijians at St Mary’s.
Plym Vic will be boosted by last week’s win over the University of Plymouth, but they will know the Fijians will be a different challenge.
The Fijians have already secured the title and have their eyes on the semi-finals of the David Butt Trophy on April 9.