FOR the first time in nearly nine years Ivybridge and Devonport Services will clash in a league fixture this weekend.
The last time the clubs met in a competitive game was in January 2014 when Ivybridge triumphed 28-5 at Cross-in-Hand on their way to winning Western Counties West.
The teams meet again at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday, but now they are both two divisions higher.
Services are the newcomers to level five, but they have enjoyed a great start to the life at a higher standard, winning seven of their opening nine games to sit third in the Regional One South West standings.
But Ivybridge are only two places behind in fifth and have won four out of five of their home fixtures.
It is a match both clubs are looking forward to and, on paper, it should be a good clash, with Ivybridge having the second best home record in the league and Services having the best away record.
“It’s great to have a local derby,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony, who is set to welcome back props Matt Finn and Wes Vermigle for the big game.
“I have never been part of this occasion in terms of league rugby, although we have played pre-season games with them.
“These guys (Services) have just come up into the league but they are absolutely flying so I would say, even at home, we are complete underdogs.
“I think they have the best away record in the league currently so that is full credit to them. They have all the momentum coming into this game.
“But as we know with local derbies, form sometimes goes out of the window
“I think we will be looking forward to being the underdogs for the day and trying to cause an upset.”
Services head coach Ben Russell said: “We are ready for the weekend – it should be a good one.
“The last league meeting between the clubs was in Western Counties West and that was years ago. So I think there will be a good crowd, which will be nice.
“We have a few boys missing, but that’s like any weekend.”
He added: “They (Ivybridge) are very good on their own patch. They are used to the pitch and a bit like us, they have got quite a young side.
“They seem to always go for 80 minutes and stay in games. I think other than the Camborne away game, they had stayed in every game they have played. They have picked up bonus points often when they have lost.
“I think it’s going to be a proper local derby ding-dong game. The cliché is whoever plays the best on the day will win the game.”
Services will be without Royal Navy player Rhys Williams and still without the likes of James Hocking, Shaun Crawford and Toby Knowles, but they do hope to have Tom Davies back from Plymouth Albion.
“We do have a couple missing,” said Russell. “Rhys Williams is back out with the navy and Shaun Crawford is probably another couple of weeks away. He’s hoping Chew Valley at home but it probably might be Camborne away.
“We are still missing James Hocking in the back-row which is big as he has been outstanding.”
Harrison Reburn, who has not played yet this season, has returned to training for Services and he will play for their second team in their home Counties Two Devon match under floodlight against Ivybridge tonight (7.15pm), along with back-row forward Mark Friend, who is also returning from injury.
“It is quite nice that both our teams are playing each other on the same weekend,” said Russell. “It is nice to have a Friday night-Saturday thing.
“I think all 36 players for both games are going to be up for it as it’s a big local derby.”
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will be hoping to end a four-game losing run when they host the Pirates Amateurs at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
Oaks did make a really encouraging start to life at level seven, winning three out of their opening five fixtures.
But they now have not won since October 1 and they will be expecting a tough test against the Pirates, who sit third in the table.
The Pirates did convincingly win at Horsham Fields at the end of last season to secure the Cornwall/Devon League title.
However, the west Cornwall club have not quite been so strong on their travels this year. Only two of their six victories have come away from Mennaye Field, while Oaks are the fourth best scorers at home, where all their three victories have come.
Oaks are set to welcome back Lewis Paterson, who missed last week’s defeat to Bideford, while they also include Tom Goodman and Kyle Brown in their backline.
COUNTIES Two Devon leaders Tavistock will be looking to bag yet another home victory as they entertain Exeter Saracens at Sandy Park.
Tavistock are unbeaten at home, winning all six of their previous matches at Sandy Park, where they are averaging 46 points a game.
However, they will not be taking Exeter Saracens lightly, despite them sitting fourth-from-bottom.
Sarries, who were promoted from Devon One, have only won four games so far but three of those have come on their travels, including victories at second-placed Honiton and Devonport Services II.
Tavistock will be wary, especially as they are missing a host of key players.
They are going to have to make nine changes to their team that Barnstaple II last week.
Among those unavailable this week are top scorer and captain George Hillson, powerful centre Jake Le Gassick, full-back Dan Redstone and forwards Andrew Schuttacker, Seb Cox, Josh O’Neill. However, they do have Jack Osborne back from navy duties this weekend and he will go into the back-row, with Toby Teague having to switch to prop, while hooker Hammy Kerswill is back.
“Every week this season we have had to field several different players, but this is probably the worst week yet,” admitted Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“I think across out two teams we have 40-odd players unavailable.
“But I said to the lads, even taking out those that are missing, we have still named a decent side and one that is capable of winning.”
In Counties Two Cornwall, leaders Saltash, who should have been hosting Bodmin at Moorlands Lane, have been handed a walkover.
It is the second successive week of frustration for the Ashes after last weekend’s top-of-the-table clash with St Ives was postponed because the appointed referee was ill and no alternative could be found.
That big match will take place now next weekend at St Ives, but the Ashes will now be going into it having not played for two weeks.
Elsewhere in Counties Two Cornwall, Liskeard-Looe will entertain Hayle at Lux Park.
COUNTIES THREE AND DEVON MERIT TABLE
TAMAR Saracens will be hoping to go back to the top of Counties Three Devon West on Saturday when they host struggling Plymstock Albion Oaks II at the Parkway.
Sarries currently sit second, level on points with leaders Topsham II.
But Topsham II have a tough game at Plymouth Argaum on Saturday, while Sarries will be big favourites against Oaks II, whose only ‘win’ this season came courtesy of a walkover.
However, Sarries head coach Mike Lewis says his team are not expecting an easy game against Oaks II.
“If you look at every game we have played this year we haven’t really walked away with much,” said Lewis.
“We are not quite walking away with games, but at the same time we have been playing some good rugby and so we are hoping to continue that going into this weekend.
“But with this wet weather the pitch is so sodden that it can be a bit of a leveller.”
Lewis felt his team lost momentum after going a month without a fixture due to two blank weekends and then a walkover.
“Everybody wants to have a break every so often to refresh the body and the legs but once you have two or three weeks off in the middle of the season it is a difficult thing to get on top of afterwards just to try and keep that momentum,” said Lewis.
“If you lose that match fitness, you just lose that edge and that extra bit that you really want and which you normally have after playing a few weeks.
“We didn’t quite have that momentum last week (against Dartmouth), but hopefully we can build that this week going into the Tavvy cup game the week after.”
Sarries would certainly love Argaum to do them a favour on Saturday by beating Topsham II.
Argaum are in good form and have not lost since September 10 and have moved up to third, just four points behind Topsham II and Sarries.
Argaum battled hard last week to edge out Old Techs 11-7 in local derby and they do hope to have a few more players available for this weekend’s big home game.
“We are definitely moving in the right direction,” said Argaum’s head coach Dean Avery.
“We have hit our target for this block – we now have 19 points out of 20 and we were hoping we can improve on that this week.”
Avery, though, knows his team will have to be at their best to beat Tospham II, who have not lost since the opening day of the season when they went down 43-33 to title-rivals Tamar Saracens.
Old Techs will be keen to bounce back from last weekend’s tight derby day defeat when they visit Salcombe, who moved above them last week and into fifth.
It will be a tough away game for Techs as Salcombe have only lost twice this season and are unbeaten at home.
In Devon East, leaders OPMs have a massive match as they visit third-placed Crediton II.
OPMs have not lost yet in the league, winning all seven of their opening games, but Crediton II have only lost once and did convincingly beat the Old Boys in a pre-season friendly.
The league might only be a third of the way through but already it looks like a three-horse race in Devon East between OPM, Crediton II and Cullompton II.
OPM Jesters are at home in the Devon Merit Table when they host Plymouth Fijians at King George V Playing Fields.
The Jesters have yet to win a game this season and they will be expecting a tough test against the Fijians, who beat Tavistock II in the only other match they have played so far this season.
Also in the Merit Table, an under-strength Tavistock II will travel to leaders Kingsbridge while Saltash II play the University of Plymouth