Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Ivybridge look to cause upset, while Services face big weekend

IVYBRIDGE will be out to try and cause an upset on Saturday when they host leaders Exeter University at Cross-in-Hand in the South West Premier.

Exeter University are in a three-way battle with Old Redcliffians and Hornets for the title, with all three sides having 20 wins and three defeats to their name.

The students, though, are two points clear at the top after picking up an impressive 21 bonus points from 23 games.

Ivybridge were well beaten 46-24 at their Devon rivals at the start of December, but they are hoping they might be able to upset their visitors this weekend and also bounce back from last week’s defeat away at Drybrook.

“The Uni are renowned for having a good attacking game and they will be trying to run the ball from everywhere so we just have to be much better defensively than we were last weekend,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott.

“Like the majority of the season, we were all right with the ball in hand last week – and probably could have taken more opportunities – but we weren’t good enough without the ball.

“Also, the opportunities we didn’t take gave them the ball so we also have to make sure when we do have it that we are not just giving it away. It is about limiting their opportunities and being tough when they do have the ball.

“The set-piece is probably one of our ins into the game and hopefully we can put a little bit of pressure on them.

“They (Exeter) want to win the league and go up the tables so they will have a strong side out.

“But we have got a good side out so I think we will be a tough challenge for them.”

Adam Northcott, George Wilson and George de Mendonca should all be back after missing last week’s game at Drybook. Tom Scoles and Jamie Tripcony made their returns to action last weekend and should be involved again this Saturday.

Ivybridge do have a tough run-in to the end of the season. After this weekend they travel to Devon rivals Exmouth before hosting title-chasing Hornets in the final match.

“We have two of the top sides to play, but they are at home, and it’s the end of the season so we can just lay it all out there.”

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

THIS weekend could be a crucial one for Devonport Services’ hopes of winning the South West One West title.

Services, who sit in third place, travel to bottom side Old Patesians hoping to pick up another five-point win, but they will also have an eye on what is happening in Cornwall where leaders Chew Valley visit second-placed St Austell.

If St Austell could beat Chew on Saturday and deny their Bristol visitors any points then the title could come down to a winner-take-all showdown on the final day of the season between the Services and the Saints.

“The best result for us would be for St Austell to win and get four points and Chew to get none,” said Lewis.

But Lewis knows his team just have to focus on themselves and trying to make sure they return with a win from struggling Old Pats.

“Old Pats are a different kettle of fish at home to away,” said Lewis. “Their home results are significantly better than their away results.

“We have to make sure we are really on our game this weekend. We can’t just go up there and expect to win, expect to get five points or expect anything as if we do that we will lose the game.

“They are Old Pats who have played in higher leagues for so many years, so we have to make sure we do the right things at the right times to make sure we keep the pressure on the teams around us – as that’s what everyone else will be trying to do this weekend.”

Keeping up the pressure means trying to return from their long trip to Gloucestershire with not only the win but also a bonus point.

“I always try to just focus on our performance every week,” said Lewis. “But out of the corner of our eye is those five points, but I don’t want us to get carried away by that.

“I just want us to keep going and just doing the right things. If we do those right things then hopefully those five points will be the Brucie bonus.”

Services go into this weekend’s match on the back of their biggest win of the season last Saturday, when they beat North Petherton 83-10.

“We started in January with a plan to try and build for this stage of the season,” said Lewis.

“We re-started everything from basics all the way through, instead of just continuing and trying to progress as we were. We literally took everything apart and said ‘why are we doing this’ and I think as our result showed last weekend we are re-buying into it.”

But Services have to make changes to their squad this weekend.

Forwards Matt Scot, Liam Jarvis and Rikki Bentham are all ruled out. Scott is unavailable to travel due to work commitments, while Jarvis suffered a slight Achilles strain last weekend and prop Bentham dislocated his finger quite badly.

Centre Harrison Reburn is again missing due to illness so youngster Toby Lean should keep his place in the squad after impressing last week, while hooker Chey Bryce is back following injury.

Meanwhile, Services’ second team will play host to Plymouth Fijians at the Rectory on Saturday. The Fijians will be using the game as a warm-up for the David Butt Cup semi-final against Topsham the following week.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

TAVISTOCK have been left without a match this weekend after bottom side Hayle informed them earlier in the week that they would not be able to get a side together to travel across the Tamar.

Tavistock, whose seconds are also without a game, did try to find an alternative fixture but with no joy.

They will get the five points and with fixtures to come against Liskeard and Newquay, Tavistock are still hoping they can finish sixth.

“We are fighting for sixth spot and although Veor got three points up on us last weekend I think we might have the easier run-in,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy. “We just have to try and stay injury-free.”

Tavistock also have their eyes on the Lockie Cup. They will play OPMs in the semi-final with the winner of that playing either Saltash or Plymouth Argaum in the showpiece event later this month.

Saltash will be hoping to continue their recent good run of form when they host neighbours Liskeard-Looe a Moorlands Lane.

The Ashes are unbeaten in their last three games and have scored 105 points in their last two games against Hayle and Veor.

Another win this weekend could move them out of the bottom four for the first time this season and to within touching distance of a mid-table finish.

Liskeard might have struggled for wins this season but they are not an easy team to beat and when the sides met earlier in the season at Lux Park, Saltash had to work hard for a 21-10 victory.

Saltash are missing young back Andrew Walsh, who suffered an injury last weekend, but they are able to welcome back Cornwall winger Will Morton for Saturday’s match. Kristian Davis and Liall Honey also return after missing last week’s game, while Kieran Down will make his 150th appearances for the club.

Plymstock Albion Oaks, who are chasing fourth spot in the table, will have revenge on their mind on Saturday when they travel down to Cornwall to take on struggling Newquay.

The Hornets are the only team this season to beat Oaks at Horsham Fields in the league when they claimed a surprise 25-22 victory at the start of December.

“We do owe them one as they are the only team to have beaten us at home all season,” said Oaks’ Aiden Taylor.

Oaks are planning on making a social weekend of their trip to Newquay to prepare them for the final push.

They are currently in fifth place, but have closed the top on fourth-placed Bude to just four points in recent weeks.

But they also have their eyes on two cups.

“We have two semi-finals (RNEC Cup and Pedrick Cup) coming up in the next couple of weeks and hopefully we can get to two finals – that’s what our motivation is for the rest of the season,” said Taylor.

DEVON ONE

OPMs are planning a day of rugby at King George V Playing Fields on Saturday with three matches pencilled in.

Their firsts, seconds and colts will all be in home action as the club celebrate their VPs day.

Their first will take on third-placed New Cross at 3pm, while before that their seconds will play Plympton Victoria at 1pm. Their colts team, which is a joint side with the Sharks, will be entertaining neighbours Plymstock Albion Oaks.

“It should be a really good day for the club and we should get a lot of people there,” said head coach Rick Orkney. “I just hope we can put in a performance.

“We have dropped off a little bit since Christmas so we need to up it.

“We have had three really narrow defeats – last minute jobs, which was disappointing, and we did lose to a couple of sides who were just better than us. But we just have not quite been at our best since Christmas.

“We trained at Brickfields (on the all-weather pitch) quite a lot during mid-winter and it was good i terms of the surface and the light, but you can’t do contact and that showed in our performances so the last few weeks everything has been contact and I hope that will toughen us up a bit for this Saturday.”

New Cross’ title hopes disappeared last weekend when they were surprisingly beaten at home by Totnes.

And OPMs are one of the few teams that can do the double over them, having beaten them 31-5 away before Christmas.

“Everyone comes and goes so much this season that it is very difficult to predict games, but we will be expecting a tougher match this weekend than when we played them before,” said Orkney.

“We look okay and we will have a decent side out, although we are at full strength at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Tamar Saracens will be hoping to play their first full game for a month when they host Buckfastleigh at the Parkway.

Sarries were handed a walkover by Torrington last weekend and their last home game against Totnes on March 12 was abandoned after 35 minutes after the visitors ran out of players.

“Buckfastleigh confirmed on Tuesday, which is good,” said Tamar Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge. “And we are just gearing up to play them.

“We have a quite a strong squad out. We have 20 available and 15 unavailable, which is what it has been like all season.”

Sarries will be big favourites as Buckfastleigh are bottom of the table, with 19 defeats from 19 league games. They did beat Dartmouth but all results against the South Hams club have now been voided.

Sarries sit fourth in the table with just five defeats all season to their name.

“We just have to go out and play our patterns and go from there,” said Lethbridge.

Plymouth Argaum face a second tough trip to Exeter within the space of seven days.

After losing 50-10 away at Exeter Athletic last weekend, Argaum now face the challenge of taking on title-chasing Exeter Saracens away.

Exeter Saracens have been formidable at home this season and have put 62 points on both Old Techs and Tamar Saracens at their place since mid-December.

But Argaum are not deterred by the task ahead of them and have reported a good response from players to last week’s loss.

They will have Mason Edwards in their squad for this weekend’s trip. He will be playing in Argaum colours for the final time before moving to Australia. His appearances in recent years for the Roborough-based club have been limited as he has been working in Somerset.

Argaum also have Adam Griffiths back in the second-row but Dan Smith is still out due to concussion protocols and Jake Turfrey might be struggling to be fit due to injury.

However, Argaum should have a squad of 20 making the trip.

Old Techs are without a league game this weekend, but could have a cup game in mid-week.

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