Rugby

RUGBY PREVIEWS: Big Devon derbies for Ivybridge and Devonport Services

IVYBRIDGE will be looking to get back to winning ways when they head to Devon rivals Exmouth on Saturday in a joint South West Premier and Devon Cup match.

The Bridgers, who sit in seventh place in the league table, have lost their last two games and could still finish anywhere between fifth and ninth.

Exmouth, who have lost their last four games, are currently in fifth spot, six points ahead of Ivybridge.

The east Devon side are also in second place in the internal Devon Cup table and the only way Ivybridge can possibly deny them a spot in the final is by gaining a five-point win this weekend.

“We are ready to go,” said Ivybridge head coach Gareth Elliott.

“Neither of us has been in fantastic form and they (Exmouth) will be after the win just as much as us.

“The weather is supposed to be pretty good so it will be a fast track.

“We have always had tough games there over the last three or four seasons so I presume it will come down to a couple of moments from individuals. We will have plenty of good players out on the pitch and hopefully they can conjure some of those moments up.”

Saturday is Ivybridge’s final away match of the season. After this weekend their only remaining game is a home fixture against title-chasing Hornets.

The Bridgers certainly do not want their season to just fizzle out.

“It would be a frustrating end to the season if we didn’t come out of this block with a win,” admitted Elliott. “But this is a good opportunity to try and get one.”

He added: “We have a couple of injuries from last week – Charlie (Briant) and Sam (Brown) are both out – so we will reshuffle our backline a little bit. But we are still strong and we have a couple of youngsters getting their opportunity off the bench, which is exciting.

“I was also speaking to the colts on Thursday about next season and trying to get some more youngsters coming through the club. It is all looking pretty good that way.”

With regular centres Briant and Brown out, George de Mendonca and Matt Grieveson will fill the midfield slots, with Cameron Setter coming in at fly-half.

Influential back-row forward Adam Northcott is again missing due to an ankle injury, but the Bridgers do have fellow back-rower Sam Furse back.

Henry Partridge could get his first team chance from the bench, while Lewie Riley is also likely to be in Saturday’s match-day squad.

SOUTH WEST ONE WEST

DEVONPORT Services have two massive reasons to want a bonus-point win on Saturday when they host Sidmouth at the Rectory in their final home league game of the season.

Not only will five points keep alive their hopes of winning the South West One West title, but they also need a victory by 10 points and four tries to secure a home Devon Senior Shield final next weekend.

“This might be the only time we need to focus on getting five points,” admitted Lewis.

“Yet just winning the game could possibly get us promotion, however winning the game well with a bonus point gets us a home Devon cup final in front of a big crowd here, which is also what we really want.

“So do we play to make sure we get the four points or do we play to try and get the bonus-point win?  It is about those details right and trying to get the tactics right to make sure we are playing the right way.”

Lewis, who has already announced he will be standing down from his role as head coach due to work and family commitments, added: “I can’t make this weekend due to work so if we don’t (get a bonus point win by 10 points) then I don’t get a last home game, so I’m hoping the boys do it.

“But Sidmouth are a tough nut to crack and we only just did it at their place. We really struggled to play them up there.

“And they have not got anything to lose, as they can’t get relegated nor can they make the Devon Cup final, so that opens them up a bit.

“We are in the Devon Cup final whatever happens, which is what matters, and if we get promoted at the end of the season it would not really matter if we are at home or away in that.”

The title race is incredibly tight and Service, St Austell and Lydney will all be looking to take advantage of leaders Chew Valley not playing this weekend.

If all three chasing sides win on Saturday, then four teams would be able to win the title on the final day of the season.

Services will be without Toby Knowles due to a shoulder injury picked up last weekend, while Liam Jarvis is set to miss the rest of the season with an Achilles injury.

However, Rikki Bentham is back after missing last weekend and youngster James Hocking could start.

The likes of Matt Richards, Oli Symons, Tom West, Matt Scott, Toby Moss and James Quinell all got some game-time on Wednesday in the second team’s RNEC Cup semi-final with Old Techs after either sitting on the bench or been unavailable for the first team in recent weeks.

CORNWALL/DEVON LEAGUE

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks are determined to try and keep hold of fourth place after moving into the top last weekend.

To guarantee doing that they need to beat ninth-placed North Tawton away on Saturday and then upset leaders Pirates Amateurs at home on the final day.

And Oaks know neither game will be easy. They made hard work of seeing off North Tawton at Horsham Fields in December, before edging out a 17-15 victory.

Although North Tawton have struggled a bit for form in the second half of the season, their home form is pretty strong, with all-but two of their victories this term coming at Taw Meadow.

“They (North Tawton) are up and down a bit, but it should be a good game against them,” said Oaks’ Aiden Taylor. “When they came to our place they caused us all sorts of problems.

“They are a good side and have some cracking players.”

But it is not just the league, Oaks have their eyes on as both their first and second teams will be in cup final action next week. Their first team have reached the final of the RNEC Cup where they will take on Devonport Services II and their second team will play Plympton Victoria in the Pedrick Cup.

Oaks second team also look like they will also make the David Butt Trophy semi-final. They should have been playing Exmouth III for a place in that final on Saturday, but it looks like Exmouth are struggling to raise a side.

Saltash will be looking to continue their impressive run when they travel to Cornish rivals Newquay Hornets on Saturday.

The Ashes are now unbeaten in their last four games and have scored more than 200 points during that time.

Another win this weekend could move them out of the bottom four and possibly up to as high as ninth.

Saltash have already beaten the Hornets this season, triumphing 34-17 against Newquay at Moorlands Lane in December.

The Ashes are able to name a similar side that beat Liskeard-Looe 84-8 last weekend.

The only player missing from that game is influential full-back Ryan Cruickshanks. In his absence, and with Andrew Walsh and Greg Eatwell still missing, Danny Snook will move to full-bacl, with Will Morton switching to centre and Devan Marshall coming in on the wing.

Saltash will also take a second team down to Newquay, while their colts will play Pen/Perran in the final of the Cornwall Plate final at St Austell.

Meanwhile, Tavistock have their eyes on claiming a top six finish in the Cornwall/Devon League.

They currently sit sixth with just two games to go – away at Liskeard-Looe on Saturday and then a home match against Newquay Hornets on April 23.

Tavistock beat Liskeard 41-17 at Sandy Park earlier in the season and will head to Lux Park on Saturday confident of doing the double over their Plymouth Combination rivals, who have found wins hard to come by this season, although they have been much better at home.

“Liskeard have their VP day and with it being a fairly local derby will be gunning for that victory,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill.

“It is going to be far from an easy game. A couple of our lads watched them last week against Saltash, but have not read too much into things and are expecting a much stronger outfit on home soil.”

Tavistock are set to welcome back full-back Jake Le Gassick and back-row forward Jack Osborne but co-captain Martin Budden is unavailable.

Tavistock will also be taking a second team to Lux Park after Liskeard did the same when the teams met at Sandy Park.

With Plymouth Combination cup games it means Tavistock’s could face five matches in eight days across both their squads.

DEVON ONE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE

OLD Techs say they are a bit battered and bruised from a tough encounter against a strong Devonport Services II side in midweek in the RNEC Cup.

Techs eventually lost 30-9, but the game was still in the balance until mid-way through the second half.

The Weston Mill side now have to pick themselves up and try to get a squad out to travel to New Cross in Devon One on Saturday.

“I certainly didn’t think we let ourselves down on Wednesday,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “I was happy with how we played against a very good side. I was impressed with both teams.

“They (Services) defended really well, but I wasn’t disappointed with our performance. I thought we conducted ourselves well.

“But there are a few battered and bruised bodies and I just hope we can get enough players for Saturday.”

Techs have got a few players missing with Covid. They were left without a recognised hooker on Wednesday after Steve Wilkinson came down with it and they already had Rudi Baker out with a serious knee injury.

Meanwhile, OPMs travel to Totnes hoping to continue the form they showed last week against New Cross.

The Old Boys turned on the style last Saturday to run out 44-7 winners.

However, they are not totally sure what to expect from their opponents this weekend as Totnes have been quite inconsistent this season.  In the last two weeks, Totnes were well beaten at Torrington last Saturday but beat New Cross away the previous week.

“Their pitch is quite small and I think that is probably why they have done quite well at home,” said OPMs head coach Rick Orkney. “They are quite awkward and difficult to beat at home.”

Fifth-placed OPMs could close the gap on fourth-placed Tamar Saracens to just one point if they could get a bonus point win on Saturday.

Sarries are without a league match this weekend as they were due to be playing Dartmouth, who have dropped out of the league.

Plymouth Argaum are also without a league game but they have arranged a match with Welsh touring side Newtown at Bickleigh Down (3pm).

Elsewhere, Plymouth Fijians will be hoping to reach the final of the David Butt Trophy when they host Topsham II at Stonehouse Creek on Saturday.

The David Butt Trophy is now played for between the top Devon Merit Table Division Two sides. The winners of the South & West Division play the runners-up from the North & East Division and the runners-up in the South & West play the winners of the North East.

The Fijians easily won the South & West Division title, but will be unsure what they will be facing this weekend. Topsham were struggling to get a second team out earlier in the week but since then their first team match against Hayle has been cancelled.

“The Fijians have had a really good season,” said spokesman Mike Freeman. “And this is an opportunity for them to progress to a final so they are really keen. I think everyone is looking forward to a competitive game against hopefully a Topsham second team.”

The Fijians will be missing Lopeti Faha, who scored two tries last week against Devonport Services II, but they hope to be reasonably strong for Saturday’s fixture at the Creek.

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