REGIONAL ONE SOUTH WEST
Ivybridge are at home again on Saturday as they welcome Weston-super-Mare to Cross-in-Hand.
It will be the Bridgers’ second successive home game, having opened their season with a hard-earned 15-13 victory over Exmouth last weekend.
“It is nice to be at home for two games, but Weston-super-Mare will certainly be no mugs,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony. “We just hope we can make our home advantage count.”
Ivybridge lost twice to Weston-super-Mare last season. They went down 21-7 at the home in their second match of the campaign and then were beaten 48-27 away.
Weston did finish fourth last season but did lose 44-29 to Brixham last weekend.
But Ivybridge are not reading too much into their defeat last week.
“We are going to need to be another five or 10 per cent better looking at the form they had last year, but we are looking forward to the challenge,” said Tripcony.
Ivybridge do make a few changes to their starting line-up. Seb Musgrave comes into the second-row in place of George Wilson, while Charlie Groves comes in at full-back, with Tom Scoles moving to the wing and Cameron Dale making his debut on the other wing.
Weston also make changes to their side, with assistant coach Dan Lomax switching to fly-half, Jack Press starting at scrum-half and Archie Tilsley and Hayden Main coming into the backs and Ashley Rusell and Ben Cox coming into the pack.
Devonport Services should have been hosting Camborne in their opening home game at level five, but that match has been postponed on advice from the Royal Navy Rugby Union following the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
COUNTIES ONE AND TWO
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks play their closest rivals in the new Counties One Western West this weekend when they make the short trip to Kingsbridge.
Oaks made a winning start to life at level seven last weekend by beating Falmouth 24-13 at Horsham Fields.
But they are expecting a tougher test against Kingsbridge, who finished in the top seven of Western Counties West last season and who opened their 2022-23 campaign with a 24-19 away victory at Bude.
“They beat Bude away and we all know that is a hard place to go,” said Oaks’ player-coach Aiden Taylor.
“It will be a tough game, but we have to go again and see what happens.
“It’s not too far to travel but we picked up a couple of injuries (last week) and Corey Jamieson, our captain, is not available.”
In Counties Two Devon, Tavistock face a tricky trip to north Devon to play newly-promoted South Molton.
Tavistock made a great start to their campaign last Saturday with a 33-13 home victory over North Tawton.
South Molton were narrowly beaten 29-27 away at Brixham II, but they are well known for being far better at home.
“We have had some great games at South Molton over the last several years, none of which have been decided by much more than a score,” said Tavistock’s Hammy Kerswill. “But all of which were played in horrendous conditions.
“They have a lot of new names and pushed Brixham close last week so we are expecting a real battle, especially up front.
“Hopefully, the sun shines and we can make best use of our backline, which is going from strength-to-strength.”
Tavistock hope to have fly-half Jack Easton back for the game. Tavistock were expecting him to be out for at least a month but he has made a much quicker return from a knee injury picked up in pre-season than imagined.
Full-back Dan Redstone, who made his debut last week, is unavailable, but Ed Tait comes in at 15, while Freddie Fuller could make his league debut from the replacements’ bench. Kerswill, who picked up a nasty head injury last week, will miss the match.
In the same division, Ivybridge IIs visit their Barnstaple counterparts on Saturday. The Bridgers’ team does include experienced forwards like Ben Collins and James Sloan, while Archie Bryan starts on the wing after featuring for the first team last weekend.
Devonport Services II’s game at Honiton has been postponed.
Saltash got their 2022-23 Counties Two Cornwall campaign off to a brilliant start last week with a 66-0 home win over Camborne School of Mines.
This weekend they travel to old rivals Hayle, who lost 40-19 to Redruth IIs last Saturday.
Saltash did do the double over Hayle last season, beating them 49-5 at home in November and 62-21 away in March.
But they will not be taking anything for granted as Hayle have proved over the years that they can surprise teams, especially on their own pitch.
COUNTIES THREE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
OLD TECHS are due to finally get their 2022-23 season up-and-running on Saturday when they host Newton Abbot II at Weston Mill on Saturday.
Techs should have started their Counties Three Devon West campaign last weekend away at Totnes but that game was postponed due to unplayable pitches at both clubs.
Techs did not get the pre-season campaign they were hoping for to due to fixture postponements and the funeral of Mike Putt, but they are just hoping they can hit the ground running against a Newton Abbot team that started their season with a bang last week with a 68-0 win over Plymstock Albion Oaks II.
Newton Abbot’s second string might also be stronger than it might have been as their first team are playing on Friday night.
“They had a good result against Oaks,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “But we don’t know what everyone has got.
“I think they will be fairly strong and a decent outfit, but we don’t know about a lot of these second teams.
“But we can’t worry about the opposition, we just have to turn up and play to our patterns.
“We only had one pre-season game and we have new coaches in with Dean (Oram) and Ronnie Hannaford so it might take a bit of time to get used to the new ideas and systems, but training has been going well.”
Bedford-Smith added: “We have not set any targets for the season. We have got a new coaching set-up and it might take two or three games to settle – it might take 10. But the players have been enthusiastic and have been buying into everything. We just have to try and put that into action now.
“I am sure the coaches have an idea what they would like, but a lot of it comes down to getting a consistent squad out every week and not having to make 10 changes every game.
“I think it is going to be an interesting season with these second teams coming in and all the Plymouth teams having new coaching set-ups.”
Techs have kept basically the same squad as last season. Connor McQueen has joined Plymstock Albion Oaks, while Dave Clack has moved to Argaum, but they have boosted their squad with the arrival of Sion Norville, a Welsh-born centre/wing who is in the navy, 29 Commando front-rowers Mick Braybrook and Scott Green and youngster Neil Harnse.
The big game in the Devon West league on Saturday is a Bickleigh Down where Plymouth Argaum host city rivals Tamar Saracens.
Sarries opened their season with a 43-33 win over Topsham II last weekend, whereas Argaum narrowly lost 17-15 to Salcombe.
“Like I said last week, there’s no real form yet,” said Tamar Saracens head coach Mike Lewis. “We could have just scraped past the weakest team in the league and they might have just lost to the best team, we don’t know at this point.
“Teams change drastically every year these days, so, I know it is a cliche, but you literally have to take it one game at a time.
“If you look at this game it is a leveller – all local derbies are a leveller. It always comes down to whoever cares or wants it the most.
“There are a few derbies in this league but all the boys are looking forward to this one.”
Lewis admits he has a soft spot for Argaum’s Bickleigh Down ground.
“On its day, when it’s nice weather it is a glorious place to play rugby,” said Lewis. “It’s got great views, there’s that little bit of a walk to the pitch and it is just one of those places that on a nice day you want to play at. But on a wet, windy day, you probably can’t think of anywhere worse you would want to play!”
Lewis says Sarries have got better availability this week and he is hoping they can picked up anoher win.
Argaum’s new coach Dean Avery hopes his team can pull off a bit of an upset.
“It sounds like Sarries are the team to beat,” said Avery. “But we are at home and we just have to see what side we can get out.
“It is a derby game and form and everything goes out of the window.”
Avery is hoping his team can be a bit more disciplined this week and not give away as many penalties.
OPMs do no start their Devon East season until next weekend, but they will play Saltash II on Saturday in a final pre-season match.
Meanwhile, the Devon Merit Table South & West League gets underway on Saturday.
Plymouth Fijians won the division last year and they are hoping for another successful season.
They begin their campaign with a tough trip to Torquay II – one of the few teams that beat them last season.
“The team had a brilliant season last year in their first real campaign together,” said Mike Freeman. “They won the Devon Merit Table South & West and the Plymouth Combination Merit Table.
“They had some tremendous results but it is about trying to get that consistency and they have another year to try and grow.”
The club have now got a proper home after being granted the use of the Central Park rugby pitch. They will use the new community hub changing rooms and recreation room, which has a kitchen and bar licence.
“I think the Fijian boys are buzzing,” said Freeman. “They have a new base and are enthusiastic. It’s just about getting back into it now.
“I think it could be a slow start to the Devon Merit Table as some sides are struggling.”
The Fijians are heavily reliant on service personnel and so availability in the next couple of weeks could be reduced with military personnel likely to be needed for ceremonies around the country.
Also in the Devon Merit Table, DHSOB are due to open their season away at Tavistock II.
The Old Boys had a bit of a tough campaign last term, but did do the double over Plympton Victoria and beat OPM Jesters.
They will face a tough test against a Tavistock side, who are set to give five youngsters their league debuts.