IVYBRIDGE will be hoping to build on last week’s impressive win over Okehampton when they make the short trip to Polson Bridge to take on Launceston.
The Bridgers returned to winning ways in style last Saturday with a 42-18 victory at Cross-in-Hand, which was their biggest success of the season.
It was also their fourth win in five games at home, but Ivybridge have yet to taste victory on their travels, which director of rugby Jamie Tripcony hopes will change this weekend against his former club.
“Launceston is a tough place to go – a real tough place to go,” said Tripcony. “They are a very proud rugby team who played exceptionally well at home. I can say that as I have been in that dressing room.
“But we’ll do all we can to be as prepared as we possibly can be to try and take a huge scalp at Polson.”
Ivybridge have lost by just one score on their last two trips to Polson Bridge. Their last win there came in 2016.
“I don’t think many teams win down there,” said Tripcony. “But we have been there and won so we can take confidence from that. But, as I said, it is a serious place to go and try and pick up a win.”
Ivybridge have boosted their squad this season with some new faces, like Kristian Davis and Will Peakman, and with the latest addition of youngsters coming through their colts side.
“We are pleased with the guys that have come in,” said Tripcony. “They are really buying into our systems and into the team. Hopefully, they are enjoying their rugby here as well, which is the main thing.
“And we are also lucky with the home-grown talent we can call upon here.”
Fifth-placed Ivybridge do make a couple of changes to their team that beat Okehampton so well.
Prop Wes Vermigle is out, along with fellow front-rower Matt Finn, so Owen Garner starts in the number one jersey. The other change is on the wing where Charlie Groves replaces Cameron Dale. Forwards Seb Musgrave and Henry Trudgill are back among the replacements for Ivybridge.
In the same division, third-place Devonport Services will be aiming to keep their good form going when they host Devon rivals Exmouth at the Rectory on Saturday.
Services have won six of their eight games since earning promotion and have won their two previous Devon derby matches this season against Brixham and Okehampton.
Exmouth are down in eighth position but they have won their last two games, beating Launceston and Okehampton. They also came close to beating the top two Camborne and Chew Valley so Services will be wary of them.
Exmouth have not visited the Rectory for a league game for 22 years, since the sides were in Western Counties West.
Services are likely to still be without centre Shaun Crawford, but they did boost their squad last week with the arrival of Ollie Mulberry from Plymouth Albion.
Former Saltash player Mulberry will make his first start for Services on Saturday, with Dylan Daley, who has been in impressive form this season, switching to the wing, where Devonport are struggling for options this weekend. However, Mike Hunt and Tom Richards return to the starting line-up for Services.
REGIONAL ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks go looking for their first away win since promotion to Western West when they visit fellow Devon side Bideford on Saturday.
The teams sit seventh and eighth in the division and are separated by just one point.
“They are a point above us in the league,” said Oaks’ player-coach Aiden Taylor. “They seem to lose the ones you would expect them to win but then pull out massive results out of the bag.
“I have never played against Bideford in my life so I have no idea what they are going to be like. I would imagine they will have some big forwards but you never know.”
He added: “Our away form is abysmal but we have to be positive. They are only one place above us in the league so we have to take them on.”
Bideford did lose their opening three matches, but have won their last four and beat Bude 46-14 last week.
Oaks have lost their last three, but did take encouragement from picking up two points against high-flying Topsham last weekend.
COUNTIES TWO CORNWALL
ALL eyes in Counties Two Cornwall will be on St Ives’ Recreation Ground where Saltash visit in an eagerly-awaited top-of-the-table clash.
Saltash and St Ives are both unbeaten this season and have looked like the two class sides in the division.
The Ashes have enjoyed an incredible start to the campaign and are averaging more than 67 points per game after a third of the season.
But St Ives are also scoring big. They beat Redruth II’s 62-10 last weekend and overcame Liskeard-Looe 66-0 in their game before that.
The Hakes have got a number of their squad back that got the club up to South West One, including Jamie Prisk, who went off to play for Redruth in the National League before returning as player-coach, Ed Thirlby, who had spells at Penryn and Veor, and number eight Martin Lawrence, who was at Camborne.
It should be a great battle on Saturday and could be a crucial one in the season.
Saltash are without key forward Devon Bennett-Murray but do have Matt Coker available to replace him in the second-row. That is the only change the Ashes make to their starting line-up that hammered Veor 70-10 at home last week.
In the same division, Liskeard-Looe will be hoping they can pick up their third win of the season when they travel to Camborne School of Mines.
The sides sit ninth and 10th in the division, each with two wins out of eight.
COUNTIES TWO DEVON
TAVISTOCK will be aiming to keep up the pace at the top of Counties Two Devon when they entertain fourth-placed Barnstaple II at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The league leaders are unbeaten at home this season and they are keen to keep that record going.
However, they will be wary of Barnstaple II, who have won their last three games – all away from home. The north Devon club saw off Brixham II, South Molton and North Tawton in October.
“By all accounts they like to play a fairly high-tempo game,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
Once again Tavistock have to make a number of changes to their side.
Hammy Kerswill, Dan Redstone and Jack Giddy are among those missing this week, but they are able to welcome back prop Josh O’Neill, back-row forward Toby Teague and influential centre Jake Le Gassick.
Jack Easton is also back fully fit and returns to the starting line-up at full-back, with George Hillson again handed the fly-half jersey and Charles Bowden starting at nine.
“It’s the last game against one of the big sides and we’ll see if we can take another scalp,” said Caddy.
Elsewhere in the division, Devonport Services II will be hoping to make it three wins a row when they travel to Withycombe.
Services II have beaten Exmouth II and Torquay Athletic in their last two games, but they will know it will be tough at Withycombe, who are the only team to have beaten Tavistock so far this season.
Meanwhile, Ivybridge II also have a tough game as they host third-placed Torquay Athletic at Cross-in-Hand.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
THE big game in Devon West at the weekend is at Weston Mill where Old Techs host city rivals Plymouth Argaum.
Both sides are in the top five and have five wins and just two defeats to their name this season.
Argaum’s defeats came in their first two matches against Salcombe and Tamar Saracens, while Techs lost their opener against Newton Abbot II and then narrowly lost last week away at leaders Topsham II.
“We are looking forward to just playing at home again after two tough away games,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“We were disappointed we lost last week, but the positives out-weighted the negatives. They (Topsham) said that was the hardest game they’d had all season.”
He added: “It is going to be another hard game this week. They are just two points above us and I think it will be close.
“It’s a local derby and there’s always that bit of edge in them, but hopefully it will be a good game of rugby and one we hopefully can come out on top from. But we know they will want to win as much as we do.
“We know we are going to have to work really hard if we want to get that win.”
Techs picked up a few more injuries last week at Topsham but hope to have a few back.
“Playing last week we did pick up a few injuries so there will be changes again, but I think every team is the same in this league,” said Bedford-Smith. “Very rarely does a team play at full strength at any time in the season.”
Argaum’s head coach Dean Avery would probably agree with that as he says he has 16 unavailable for selection this weekend, including Will Lloyd, Dan James, Owen Gocher, Tom Worboys, Dan Bolt and Dan Smith.
But Argaum, who were handed a walkover by Plymstock Albion Oaks II last weekend, are set to welcome back Tom Shephard, Adam Walker, Reece Gocher and former Techs player Dave Clack.
“We were a bit frustrated we didn’t play last weekend,” said Avery.
“We are a few short this week, but we have a good enough team out and they know what I would like them to do. If they do that, I can’t see any reason why we can’t get a good result.
“I think everyone is very much looking forward to going down there and playing Old Techs.
“We are on the road against a good side, which is something we have not really had yet this season.
“I have said to my players that we have two massive games coming up – Old Techs and Topsham – which could set us up for the new year.”
Avery has been setting his team mini targets during the season.
He said: “We have got two games left of our latest target. We set a target of 18 points from five games and we are currently 15 from three games so if we get three points from our next two games we’ll get that target. And I think we want to push on.”
Avery has known Techs coaches Dean Oram and James Hannaford since they were young and he is looking forward to going up against them.
Argaum have also been getting a helping hand from former Plymouth Albion and Devonport Services star Mark Slade, who has been having an input with the backs at Bickleigh Down.
“It’s nice to have him around the club,” said Avery. “He seems to be enjoying it and he’s got a lot of experience to offer.”
Meanwhile, Argaum are the latest club to launch walking rugby. Terrible weather this week did not help their launch, but they still had a decent number brave the heavy rain. They are holding the sessions on a Wednesday evening (6.30pm) at Bickleigh.
In the same division, third-placed Tamar Saracens will be hoping to play their first match for a month when they head to struggling Dartmouth.
Sarries last played on October 8 when their winning run was ended by Newton Abbot II. Since then they have had two blank weekends and a walkover.
“The boys just want a game and it looks like we will get one,” said head coach Mike Lewis.
“It’s nice to pick up the five points without getting any injuries or stuff like that, but we are here to play rugby and it’s been four weeks since we last played.”
“This week they might have the best team they have ever had out or the worst, you just don’t know, but they are at home and so you would have thought they would have a few more players available,” said Lewis.
“It is a bit of a lottery at the moment as no-one can predict any of the teams.”
Also in Devon West, Plymstock Albion Oaks II, who sit third-from-bottom, host Salcombe at Horsham Fields.
In the Devon East division, leaders OPMs will be expected to pick up a seventh straight victory when they visit bottom side Buckfastleigh.
However, despite their opponent’s struggles this term, OPMs head coach Andy Williams has warned his team about complacency.
“Despite their results, you never know,” said Williams. “You just don’t know who they will have out on the day.”
Williams has been delighted with the start his side have made to the season in Devon East. They and Cullompton II are the only remaining unbeaten sides and they are pulling away from the rest in the division.
“There are still one or two areas we still need to work on,” said Williams. “But I am really pleased the players are buying into the type of rugby I want them to play.
“They are a bit hard on themselves sometimes when they don’t quite get it right, which is good, as we want to make progress.”
In the Devon Merit Table, in-form Plympton Victoria face a tough trip to unbeaten Kingsbridge II.
Kingsbridge and Plym Vic currently sit first and second in the division.
Kingsbridge, who beat OPM Jesters 64-7 last week, have four wins out of four and Plym Vic have three wins out of four.