IT’S another Devon derby for Devonport Services on Saturday as they make the short trip over Dartmoor to face old rivals Okehampton at the Showground.
Last weekend, Services enjoyed a 37-18 home win over Brixham in their first county derby of the season.
New head coach Ben Russell was over the moon with that result and performance but knows it will be tough taking on Okehampton on their own patch.
“They are tough at home,” said Russell.
“I watched them in pre-season against Plymouth and they look a good side, so I think it will be a cracker.”
He added: “I think in this league every team on their day can beat someone else. You have seen that already with the results. It is a really competitive league and there are so many local derbies.
“I think it is going to be exciting all year.
“Some people might think it will be over by Christmas time – who is going down and who’s going to win – but I don’t think it will. I think it will be non-stop for the whole season. It’s going to be good.
“I think we just have one week off before Christmas, so we just have to keep on going.”
Both Okehampton and Services, who were playing each other in Western Counties West not so long ago, have two wins out of three this season.
Services have beaten Lydney away and Brixham at home, but slipped up at Old Centralians, while Okehampton have triumphed away at neighbours Launceston and at home to Brixham, but lost away at Weston-super-Mare.
Ivybridge face a tough test on Saturday as they travel over the Tamar to take on unbeaten Camborne at the Recreation Ground.
The Bridgers have only played one away game so far this season – at Chew Valley, where they lost 48-27.
Camborne, who have brought in a host of players during the summer including former former Cornish Pirates stars Matt Evans and Nico de Battista and ex-Redruth player-coach Chris Fuca, have seen off Exmouth, Drybrook and Launceston this term.
“It doesn’t get much tougher than going away to Camborne,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.
“Traditionally Camborne is a really tough place to go and get a win. We have done it before so we can take some confidence from that.
“And last year was tight down there.
“But we’ll just focus on ourselves and make sure we are prepared as best we can.”
Ivybridge have been struggling in recent weeks to get a consistent team out due to illness and injury.
This week they should welcome back Tom Scoles and Matt Grieveson after they missed last week’s game against Lydney, but they are without experience scrum-half Ben Watts on Saturday and are still missing other players.
Giles Clarke is set to make his debut at scrum-half, while star number eight Adam Northcott is set to start at centre, while director of rugby Tripcony is named among the replacements.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will be hoping to continue their unbeaten home record when they host Bude at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
Oaks have won both their home games since their promotion, but have lost both away from home.
They travelled to Penryn last weekend with a makeshift team, yet were disappointed not to come away with anything in a 29-19 defeat.
They are boosted this week with the return of a number of players, including Lewis Paterson who could make his league debut for Oaks, but they are still missing key number eight Ryan McKibbin, while lock Owen Koehler is also unavailable on Saturday.
“We are not looking too bad this week,” said Oaks player-coach Aiden Taylor, who is likely to continue at number eight in McKibbin’s absence. “We have got one or two back.
“We don’t know much about Bude, but we have seen their results.
“We expect them to be good, but we are at home and so we have to back ourselves. If we don’t win, I think we will be upset.
“But they are our bogey team. Last year was the first time we had beaten them.”
He added: “The weather could be a factor this weekend, but can’t worry about that.
“We just have to get out there, throw the ball about and hopefully get five points. I think that’s what we are looking for this weekend.”
Bude were promoted with Oaks in the summer, but they have recently lost star players Gus Hodges and Kyle Speare to Plymouth Albion.
But they have brought in former Albion boss Graham Dawe to help with their coaching this season. He combines that role with also being head coach for Somerset club Wellington and Cornwall RFU.
COUNTIES Two Devon leaders Tavistock face another top-of-the-table clash as they visit second-placed Torquay Athletic on Saturday.
Tavistock are the only team left with a 100 per cent record after four games, but unbeaten Torquay are just one point behind, having dropped just one bonus point this term.
Tavistock ended Exmouth II’s unbeaten start last week in dramatic fashion, winning 66-7 at Sandy Park, but they know an away trip to Torquay will be a different scenario altogether.
“We lost there last year and that was one of two performances last season where I would say we were genuinely poor,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy. “It was just one of those day.”
Tavistock are forced to make a number of changes to the team that comfortably beat Exmouth II’s last weekend.
Forwards Toby Teague, Jamie Legg, Hammy Kerswill and Jack Lewis are set to miss the game, along with back Ed Tait, but Tavistock should be able to welcome back Connor Packwood, Andrew Schuttkacker and Josh O’Neill.
“It would be lovely to keep picking the same players, but every week we are finding out we have strength in depth,” said Caddy.
That depth has been added to this week with the signing of young scrum-half Charles Bowden from Ivybridge.
Bowden was part of Ivybridge’s successful colts side last season and has already played in Counties Two this term for the Bridgers’ second team.
Tavistock coach Caddy said he hopes he will put pressure on their top scorer George Hillson for the number nine shirt.
Bowden, though, was not signed in time for this weekend’s trip to Torquay, but could feature for the club’s second team who entertain Torquay II at Sandy Park in the Devon Merit Table.
Also in Counties Two Devon this weekend, Ivybridge II will host North Tawton at Cross-in-Hand, while Devonport Services II entertain Brixham II at the Rectory.
Both Ivybridge II and Services II will be looking to bounce back after away defeats last weekend.
In Counties Two Cornwall, all eyes will be on Moorlands Lane where Saltash entertain neighbours and fellow Plymouth Combination side Liskeard-Looe in their only league derby game of the season.
Saltash currently sit top of the table with a 100 per cent record after four games, while Liskeard-Looe have two wins and two defeats to their name.
The Ashes have scored more than 50 points in all four of their games this season and so will be favourites in front of their own fans on Saturday.
The last time the sides met was in April, when Saltash triumphed 84-8. However, the game at Lux Park last season was much closer and the Ashes had to dig deep to win 21-10.
Saltash have a big day planned on Saturday as their colts are celebrating their 50th anniversary.
The club are holding a reunion for all former colt players and before the main game, Saltash’s colts will play Penzance-Newlyn colts in a curtain raiser at 12noon.
Any former colts planning to attend the day are asked to contact Nick Rich via Facebook.
The club’s second team are also at home on Saturday. They are going to play Marjon at Chapel Field (3pm).
COUNTIES THREE DEVON
IN DEVON West, both Tamar Saracens and Old Techs are on their travels this weekend.
Early league leaders Tamar Saracens will visit struggling Totnes, while Techs head to another struggling side, Dartmouth.
Both are a bit unsure what to expect from their opponents, who are known for their unpredictability.
“They (Totnes) have always been a bit like that,” said Tamar Saracens head coach Mike Lewis.
“When I was at Tavistock we played them a couple of times. One time we demolished them, but the next time it was a real close game.
“It is one of those places where you either have a great day or a terrible day. There never seems to be anything in between.”
Tamar Saracens, who have won all four of their games so far, had planned to travel to Totnes on the train and have a club social, but those plans have had to change due the train strike.
They are also set to be missing a host of players, including Greg Parrott, Ryan Deacon, Jake Wakeley, Scott Sheldon, James Barlow, Arran Webb, Sini Manu and Josh Heath.
“We have about 10 injuries at the minute, which doesn’t help us,” said Lewis. “We have plenty of forwards this week but we are a bit short of backs.”
However, Sarries should have full-back Frazer Tatchell available again after successfully appealing his red card picked up against Salcombe two weeks ago.
“We appealed the ban and it got overturned,” said Lewis. “It was reduced to a yellow.”
He added: “The club has invested in this veo camera this year and it has been a fantastic investment as it allows players to see what they are doing and how they are doing it, it allows me as a coach who can’t attend all of the games to see what they are doing and it has also helped us out on this occasion as we had video evidence which showed the (incident) was not as severe as thought at the time.”
Old Techs are also set to have to make changes to their team for their trip to Dartmouth.
Techs raised plenty of eyebrows last weekend by hammering previously unbeaten Teignmouth II 66-21 at Weston Mill.
“We did play really well collectively as a team,” said Shaun Bedford-Smith on last week’s win.
“It was really good to watch, but we have to try and build on that now.
“We have got players missing this week but we have got others coming back.
“We know Dartmouth is not an easy place to go and we are expecting a tough game, as it is always tough there.
“You know any team playing at home is hard to play against. Teams now are always much stronger at home.”
Techs are set to be without forwards Jack Courtney, Scott Green and Nick Braybrook, who all picked up injuries against Teignmouth, but they should welcome back Ben Hockey, Billy Evans, Joel Dickins and Joe Bailey.
In the same division, Plymstock Albion Oaks II visit Paignton II, while Plymouth Argaum are without a game this weekend.
In Counties Three Devon East, OPMs will be looking to make it three wins out of three when they host Okehampton II at King George V Playing Fields.
OPMs have convincingly seen off Exeter Athletic and New Cross in their opening two matches, but they will not be totally sure what to expect from Okehampton II, who are new opponents for them.
Okehampton II have had a mixed start to life in league rugby, with a win and a defeat from their opening two games.
They opened the season with a 17-14 home defeat to New Cross but last week did beat Torrington 33-19 at the Showground.