DEVONPORT Services face one of the biggest league games in their history on Saturday when they travel across the Tamar to play St Austell.
Services know a five-point victory at Tregorrick Park will guarantee them either the title or runners-up spot in South West One West.
A draw would also be good enough for promotion, but a defeat could leave them praying for other results to go their way or a late extra promotion spot once the restructuring has been completed.
At the moment, the RFU’s provisional league structure will see three teams promoted, but that is still subject to change. However, Services do not want to leave anything chance.
The top of South West One West has been incredibly close all season and amazing four teams – Chew Valley, Services, Lydney and St Austell – go into the final weekend still with a chance of winning the title.
Chew Valley are currently at the top, one point ahead of second-placed Services and third-placed Lydney, but Chew have a tough trip to fifth-placed Thornbury. Lydney have on paper the easiest game, with an away game at bottom side Old Patesians, while St Austell will need to beat Services well and hope both Chew and Lydney lose without picking up any points to win the league.
“It is all or nothing this weekend,” admitted Services head coach Mike Lewis, ahead of his final game in charge.
“If we win, we get promoted and it’s a great end to the season; if we draw then that’s also a win as we get still get promoted, but if we lose, we have to pray for results around us or try and get a bonus point and be within seven.
“Those are the three scenarios just for ourselves, let alone Chew Valley and Lydney. There are just scenarios everywhere.”
“There have been a couple of occasions – Wellington away, Crediton away and Lydney away – where we should have got more points and when we went to Chew Valley and Thornbury away we should have put on better displays and not lost by the margins we did and given them five points. Yet you can always look back all season and every team will do that, but we can only control this weekend now.
“All we can do is make sure we go down with the best possible attitude and enjoy the challenge. If we win, fantastic, but if we don’t, let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
Services, who have never been higher than level six in the league structure, won the Devon Senior Shield last weekend by beating Crediton at the Rectory, but Lewis has made no secret that this weekend was the one that the club really had their eyes on.
“I think all the chaps felt it was only half-time last week, even though they were dead excited and really happy to win,” he said. “But realistically they knew it was only a job half done.
“They all know what we have wanted to achieve the last few years, which is to get promoted.
“Ever since we got into this league we have tip-toed on the edge of promotion but just not quite done it. Hopefully, this is the final push.”
But Lewis is well aware that ambitious St Austell will be wanting the win just as much as them to also get promoted to level five.
Services did get a comfortable win against them at home on the opening day, but Lewis is not reading too much into that.
“They are a different animal home and away,” said Lewis. “All the top teams have similar records at home – they have only lost one at home, Chew Valley have only lost one and Lydney have only lost one at home once and we’ve lost zero at home.”
Services will be missing Royal Navy full-back Rhys Williams, but they should have fellow back three players Matt Neyle and Toby Knowles back in contention, as well as front-row forward Joe Daley.
Saints are likely to have former Plymouth Albion favourite Matt Shepherd back after he missed their defeat away to Crediton in their last match.
Services do have around 100 members and supporters planning on heading to St Austell on the train on Saturday.
Lewis will be there for his final game, having managed to get time off work, but he is not feeling sentimental yet.
“There will be time for sentiment at 5pm, but before that there’s a big job to do,” he said.
SOUTH WEST PREMIER
IVYBRIDGE will be looking to end the season on a high and end a three-game losing run when they host third-placed Hornets at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday in the South West Premier.
Two weeks ago, the Hornets were still in contention for the title, but their narrow 20-18 defeat to local rivals Weston-super-Mare and wins for Exeter University and Old Redcliffians means they only have pride to play for this weekend.
Hornets will definitely finish third, but Ivybridge’s position is not so certain. After losing to Exmouth last time out they dropped from seventh to ninth. They go into this weekend’s final match knowing they could finish anywhere from seventh to 10th.
After an injury-hit month, Ivybridge should be nearly at full strength for their final fixture.
Number eight Adam Northcott, lock George Wilson and centres Charlie Briant and Sam Brown should all be fit after missing their last game at Exmouth.
With Briant and Brown back, Cam Setter is set to start at full-back.
Meanwhile, some of Ivybridge’s future first team players are likely to be on display at Kingsbridge on Sunday as their colts side play Barnstaple in the Devon Colts’ Cup final.
The club will be looking to add that trophy to the Devon Merit Table Division One crown that they have already won.
THERE’S a big game at Horsham Fields on Saturday where fourth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks host leaders Pirates Amateurs.
The Pirates need a win to guarantee the title ahead of Topsham, but Oaks also need a victory to secure fourth spot, which could yet be enough for promotion.
“When we played them the first game of the season at their place we only lost by a point,” said Oaks’ Aiden Taylor.
“I think we play a similar brand of rugby and it should be a good game.
“Hopefully, we can take them on.
“They will be raring for the win as they will want to finish top.
“They will be favourites to beat us, but it’s like a cup final and we just have to have that mentality.
“They are obviously a good side as they are up there for a reason. I think they have only lost two games all season and look consistent every week.
“But we are at home and we like playing at home, so let’s see what happens.”
Having won the RNEC Cup and the Pedrick Cup last week, it could be a really good ending to the season for Oaks.
“Our twos are in the final of the David Butt Trophy, which is amazing for the club,” said Taylor.
“It has been a really positive end to the season for us and hopefully we can build on that for next season.”
He added: “I think our teams are as strong as they can be at this point of the season. We have a few out injuries and a couple of boys away, but we are fairly strong and the lads that have come in the last couple of weeks have been amazing. We are five unbeaten at the moment, and we haven’t done that all season.
“And we have got a bit of confidence having won two cups last week.”
Tavistock and Saltash will need to regroup quickly from a hard-fought and tough Lockie Cup encounter on Wednesday.
Both teams had players hobble off and a number will be racing to try to be fit for this weekend.
The Sandy Park club will be hoping star scrum-half George Hillson is fit after missing the Lockie Cup final through illness, but they did pick up a number of injuries on Wednesday night.
Tavistock will be big favourites to overcome Newquay, who have not won since February, but they will also be slightly wary of the Cornish club as they have claimed a few scalps this year, including beating Oaks at Horsham Fields.
When the two teams met on the opening day, Tavistock narrowly won 21-19, but Newquay’s form has dropped off since having 30 deducted for administrative issues.
North Tawton beat Saltash 26-5 at Taw Meadow on the opening day of the campaign, but Saltash have developed as a side since then and they will be hoping to prove it on Saturday.
The Ashes are able to welcome back goalkicking fly-half Kieran Down after he missed Wednesday’s cup final, but Jay Moriarty is ruled out with injury. Liall Honey is still missing with illness, but the Ashes are able to name almost the same team that played against Tavistock in midweek.
Orkney says he just needs a break from the game, but hopes he can go out on a high.
“It will be my last game as I will be stepping down at the end of the season,” he admitted.
“I have had five years there – two with Howard Turner and three on my own – and it is such a big commitment and I just need a break.
“Like with a lot of people, work is really, really busy and I just need to step back for a year and then see how I feel that.
“But I have really enjoyed it. It has been good.”
He added: “I will still help out when I can. I will be happy to make the teas every now and again when I’m around and stuff like that.
“But I think it is quite a nice time for somebody else to come in because if the young lads stay then there is some real potential there. I think it is quite exciting times for the club so it could be a good time for someone to come in and move it forward.”
But Orkney knows that Old Techs will not want to give him an easy win in his final match.
“We know it won’t be easy,” he said. “It will be a tough day.”
Techs are keen to prove a point after losing 33-10 to OPMs away on the opening day of the season.
“They got the better of us in the first game of the season and it would be nice to even it out,” said Techs coach Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“It’s the last game of the season and having a local derby makes it a bit better. We are looking forward to it.
“They (OPMs) have some good players and are always a tough team to play against. I’m sure they will want to do the double and beat us at our place.
“They are above us in the table so we are the underdogs.
“We have been a bit up and down this season, but we need to play like we did in the (RNEC) cup semi-final.”
Techs do have a number of their military personnel back, including Tom Ryan, Tom Blythe and Ben Hill. The latter two have missed most of the season, while Ryan has missed the last couple of months.
Sarries host Exeter Athletic at the Parkway hoping to get a win that will secure them fourth spot.
They are currently just one point in front of fifth-placed OPMs.
“It has been a funny old season and I think most will be happy to see the back of it,” admitted Saracens’ Pete Lethbridge.
“But we are looking forward to this last game. We have 23 available, including 11 backs.
“We played them away in the first game and we did not play that well up there (losing 22-10). They are quite a strong side.
“But we will be looking to try and get that bonus point win to finish above OPMs.”
Argaum entertain third-placed New Cross at Bickleigh Down on Saturday in their final match.
Coach Brett Stroud was encouraged by his side’s performance last week against higher league Tavistock in the Lockie Cup semi-finals and he is hoping they can build on that and end with a win.
Argaum’s form at home has been good this season, but they won’t quite know what to expect from New Cross whose team has changed quite a bit in the last few weeks.
When New Cross have been strong they have claimed to some big wins and beat Techs 45-10 in their last game. But the weekend before they struggled with numbers to visit OPMs and lost 44-7.
Argaum should have James Dyer back for their final game, having not played at all this season. Teenage winger Preston Wilkins should also be back, but half-back Billy Stockwell is missing. Fellow back Kallan Malone is waiting on a negative Covid test to see if he can play.