DEVONPORT Services will be looking to get back to winning ways at home when they host Launceston at the Rectory on Saturday.
Services’ three-and-a-half year unbeaten home record finally came to an end last weekend when they went down 35-27 to leaders Camborne.
“We have reflected and looked at last weekend and we were massively disappointed not to win it or get anything out of it,” said Services head coach Ben Russell.
“If you looked through the video, I would say we should have won, but we didn’t, mainly because we gave away three soft tries and penalties in the wrong areas.
“But we have put that to bed now and we have trained hard and looking forward to Saturday.”
Russell is expecting another tough game as Launceston will be keen to beat their Tamar rivals.
The Cornish All Blacks narrowly won 26-22 on their last visit to the Rectory in March 2019.
The Cornish club have not had the best of starts to the season, winning just one of their five games so far, but that was against Old Centralians – the only team apart from Camborne to beat Services.
“They have lost a few close games so we know they will want to win,” said Russell.
Services are set to welcome back former Launceston prop Greg Thomas following a fractured eye socket he suffered in the opening game of the season.
Thomas is one of four players Devonport have who have turned out for Launceston in recent years, alongside fellow props Rikki Bentham and James McFarlane and centre Shaun Crawford.
Services are still without Joe Daley, but do welcome back Kieran Down after he missed last weekend’s game.
Down’s return will be most welcome with Services hit badly with injuries in their back three. Mike Howell joined the likes of Matt Neyle, Toby Knowles and Luke Stannard on the sidelines last week with a serious shoulder injury.
After this weekend, Services face too long away trips to Weston and Drybook.
“As I said at the start of the season, that is quite nice as we won’t then have another long away trip until Chew Valley in March,” he said. “It will be nice to have all those long away trips out of the away.”
But Russell would love to be making those trips on the back of a good home win.
Ivybridge are also at home this weekend when they welcome the inconsistent Old Centralians to Cross-in-Hand.
The Bridgers are desperate for a win after losing their last four league and cup games.
They started the season so well with victories over Exmouth and Weston-super-Mare but since then they have been hit by injuries and illness and have just not been able to buy a win.
They were gutted last week after losing 28-27 to a late score at Okehampton in the Devon Cup.
“That’s rugby and it is what it is I suppose,” said director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.
“I think coming off such a heavy loss (at Camborne the week before) we may be forced things and when you force things they don’t always come off.
“But we are back at home and we are looking forward to that.”
Ivybridge are boosted by the return of backs Ben Watts and Kristian Davis, as well as prop Matt Finn, but full-back Tom Scoles is missing.
Old Centralians, like Ivybridge, have two wins to their name this season. They have beaten Devonport Services and Exmouth at home, but lost to Drybrook and Launceston away.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks’ unbeaten home record is likely to be put to the test on Saturday as they welcome Western West leaders Cullompton to Horsham Fields.
Cullompton have a 100 per cent record this season with five wins out of five, but Oaks have won their three homes games this term.
“They are flying so it will be a tough one,” said Oaks’ player-coach Aiden Taylor.
“We are always confident at home and we are confident we can score some points, but we don’t know what they have this year.
“Last year we beat them at home and if they have roughly the same team then I would back us, but if you look at the league table they haven’t lost yet so they are doing something right. They must be up there for a reason. It should be an interesting one. Hopefully, we can match them.”
Oaks are set to be without key number eight Ryan McKibbin, as well as fellow forwards Sam Jailer and Kieran Jamieson.
But apart from that they should have most of their other players available and have also strengthened their second team ahead of their trip to Old Techs.
“The twos team looks like it could be the best one we put out all season,” said Taylor.
“But Tech are flying. It is a tough weekend for the club but hopefully we can get something out of the games and get some points on the board.”
SEPTEMBER’S Devon team-of-the-month Tavistock will be looking to extend their lead at the top of Counties Two Devon when they host Devonport Services II in a derby at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Tavistock are six points clear at the top of the standings after winning all their opening five games with bonus points.
But they have thrown a bit of a surprise for this weekend’s game by moving top scorer George Hillson from scrum-half, where he has scored 15 tries in five games, to fly-half.
The number nine shirt will be given to youngster Charlie Bowden, who will be making his league debut after recently joining the club from Ivybridge.
“We’ll see how George goes at 10,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy. “He will probably have even more space there, but him and Charlie will be able to inter-change.”
Tavistock are still missing regular fly-half Jack Easton, but he is set to return in the next couple of weeks to increase competition further for places in the side.
Tavistock are able to welcome back forwards Charlie Charlton and Hammy Kerswill but co-captain Martin Budden is out with a shoulder injury. Budden’s place is set to go to Ryan Bragg. Full-back Dan Redstone also returns this week.
Services II have had a mixed start to life in league rugby. They have won two of their five games, beating North Tawton and Brixham II, but lost to Exeter Saracens, South Molton and Honiton.
“We know they are not going to be any slouches,” said Caddy. “But we just have to worry about ourselves.
“Every week we just try to play to the best of our abilities and that’s all we can do.”
In the same division, Ivybridge II face a tough trip to South Molton, who have won their last two games against Withycombe and Devonport Services II.
In Counties Two Cornwall, unbeaten league leaders Saltash visit Newquay Hornets on Saturday.
The Ashes have made an impressive start to the 2022-23 season, not only winning all five of their games so far with bonus point but scoring a stunning 315 points and only conceding 32.
But they will be wary of Newquay after they ended Redruth II’s unbeaten start in their last outing.
That was the Hornets first win of the season, but part of their problem has been player availability which resulted in them giving away two walkovers.
Saltash did do the double over Newquay last season and will know they cannot afford to slip up this weekend with big games to come against Redruth II, Veor and St Ives in their following three games.
The Ashes will be hoping their neighbours Liskeard-Looe can do them a favour this weekend and beat second-placed St Ives at Lux Park.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
OLD Techs will be aiming to continue their good form when they host city rivals Plymstock Albion Oaks II at Weston Mill on Saturday in Counties Three Devon West.
Techs have scored an impressive 192 points in their last three games against Totnes, Dartmouth and Teignmouth II.
But struggling Oaks look like they have strengthened their squad since they last played and so Techs will not be taking them lightly.
“Whenever you play a Plymouth side it is a different type of a test,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “In derby games you tend to know each other and league positions go out of the window so we are expecting a tough encounter.
“As we have said, we are not getting ahead of ourselves as we have only played four games so there’s a long, long way to go in the season.
“We know we have some tough games coming up. There’s no easy game. People probably look at last week’s scoreline and maybe think it was easy but it certainly wasn’t by any means.”
Techs hope to have a few more players back this week after missing a few at Totnes last week.
Plymouth Argaum are also at home in Devon West on Saturday as they host Teignmouth II at Bickleigh Down.
Argaum have won their last three league and cup games but expect a tricky test against a Teignmouth II side with three wins out of five.
“We are not getting carried away by league positions or anything like that,” said Argaum coach Dean Avery.
“We are going into our second block of league games now and we will be setting targets for points. In this block of games we have got Teignmouth, Dartmouth, Oaks and Techs.”
Argaum hope to have Jack Morris and Billy Stockwell back after they missed last week’s cup win over Salcombe, but Dan James picked up an injury in that game that is likely to keep him out.
Devon West leaders Tamar Saracens are without a match this weekend.
In Devon East, OPMs will be looking to continue their unbeaten start to the season when they host Torrington at King George V Playing Fields.
The Old Boys have maximum points from their opening three games, having picked up bonus-point victories over Exeter Athletic, New Cross and Okehampton II.
Both they and Crediton sit on 15 points, with Cullompton II just one point behind in third place.
Torrington sit seventh in the 10-team division with just one win to their name – a 32-8 home victory over Buckfastleigh.
OPMs beat Torrington twice last year, but they had to work hard for a 21-3 victory at Elburton in January.
The Old Boys do have another big day planned on Saturday with three home fixtures.
At 1.30pm their second team will kick-off against Tavistock II in the Devon Merit Table, then at 2pm the combined colts side they make with with DHSOB Stonehouse Sharks – Albion Sharks – will kick-off against Okehampton colts before the first team match with Torrington starts at 3pm.
Elsewhere in the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria host Saltash II at St Mary’s Field hoping to build on their win over OPM Jesters last weekend.
The game should have been played at Moorlands Lane but Saltash are having some work done of their pitch and so asked if the fixture could be reversed.
“Whenever we have played Saltash II before they have also been good games,” said Plym Vic’s Chris Hunt. “I think last year we both won one game each. Hopefully it will be another good game.”