REGIONAL ONE SOUTH WEST
IVYBRIDGE will be aiming to extend their mini winning run to four games on Saturday when they host second-placed Chew Valley at Cross-in-Hand in their final home fixture of 2022.
The sixth-placed Bridgers have beaten Weston-super-Mare, Drybook and Devonport Services in their last three matches to move to within three points of fourth spot.
Chew sit second in the table but, having lost just one of their opening 10 matches, the Somerset club have lost their last two games to Devon sides Exmouth and Services.
Ivybridge know Chew will be determined to try and get back to winning ways and avoid an unwanted Devon hat-trick.
“We are looking forward to having a go at a top two team,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.
“It will be a difficult game, but we have got a lot of confidence from three wins on the bounce – two of which were away from home – so we are building some momentum nicely.
“Hopefully we can keep some consistency with our performance and availability.”
Sam Brown and Seb Musgrave both had to go off with injuries last weekend and are not fit enough to feature this Saturday.
Ben Scott comes in at full-back with Jacob Gaskin coming into the pack. There is also a first start for on-loan prop James McFarlane, who replaces the unavailable Matt Finn.
Fourth-placed Devonport Services will be looking for revenge when Old Centralians visit the Rectory on Saturday.
Old Centralians are one of just three teams to beat Services this season – the others being Camborne and Ivybridge.
The Gloucester club were the first team to beat Devonport when they triumphed 28-15 on September 17.
“It was just one of those games,” said Services head coach Ben Russell. “It was only our second game of the season. We had picked up a result at Lydney and then gone to Old Centralians and we should have won.
“We came back in the second half after been 14-3 down and started to play some rugby but then we went away from our game-plan and how we wanted to play and let them win it.”
Services have only lost four matches but two of them have come against leaders Camborne in almost similar circumstances. They ended up going down 32-19 last Saturday having only been six points behind going into the closing stages.
Russell is hoping his team can bounce back this weekend in their final home match of the year.
“We owe ourselves after last weekend,” he said. “Camborne in the end deserved to win, but it was déjà vu again for us. It’s about managing scenarios in a game and we weren’t very good at it last week.
“This is our last home game and then we have Brixham away and then it’s Christmas.
“I want to – and I think the boys want to also – try and get two good results in the next two weekends and potentially finish the year in third spot or at least make sure we are fourth.”
Services have backs Kieran Down and Rhys Williams and captain Matt Gregory back in contention after not been available for last weekend’s match at Camborne, but scrum-half Oli Mulberry is set to be ruled out with injury.
Back-row forward Harrison Cooper-Meadows, who made his debut at Camborne, is set to make his first home appearance on Saturday, while fellow back-rower Liam Jarvis will need a fitness test on a back injury.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks face another massive match in Western West on Saturday when they travel to Paignton.
Oaks ended a six-game losing run last weekend when they beat Kingsbridge 26-17 at Horsham Fields.
That lifted them out of the bottom two, but they could find themselves back down there if they don’t beat Paignton on Saturday.
The south Devon side currently sit second-from-bottom but are just two points behind Oaks, who are though only four points off seventh spot.
It is a big weekend for all the sides in the bottom half of the table as so much could change around.
Oaks did beat Paignton 45-20 at Horsham Fields in September, but Plymstock have yet to win on their travels, while three out of four of Paignton’s victory have come on their own soil.
COUNTIES TWO Devon leaders Tavistock will have to make a number of changes to their team for Saturday’s trip to bottom side Brixham II.
Tavistock are without a host of players for the trip to south Devon, including top scorer George Hillson, fellow half-back Charles Bowden, Ethan Lamerton, Dan Redstone, Toby Teague, Andrew Craddock, Andrew Schuttkacker and Jack Giddy.
Jack Easton is set to be handed the number nine jersey, with Andy Yates starting at 10.
“We have got a lot of lads missing, but it is just how it is,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“We never seem to be able to pick the same team.”
Caddy, though, hopes his team will still have enough to overcome Brixham II, who they beat 79-0 in September.
“I would like to think so,” said Caddy. “I think they are also struggling a bit for players this week but we can just do what we can do.”
Tavistock, though, have been boosted by the return of second-row Charlie Brown after a spell at Regional One South West side Launceston. Centre/winger Jack Rock has also joined them from Launceston.
In the same division, Ivybridge II will be looking to keep up their recent good form when they make the trip to Exeter Saracens.
The Bridgers have won their last three games to move up to fifth.
Devonport Services II, meanwhile, make the trip to struggling North Tawton. Services were boosted last week by beating Honiton at home, but they are not going to be as strong for the trip to mid-Devon.
In Counties Two Cornwall, title-chasing Saltash are on their travels for a fourth week in a row with a trip to Helston.
The Ashes have certainly clocked up the miles in the last month with visits to St Ives, St Austell and Hayle before Saturday’s visit to Helston.
By the end of this weekend they will have covered more than 450 miles in just four weeks.
Second-placed Saltash will be looking to keep up the pressure on title-rivals St Ives, who have been handed another walkover this weekend by Hayle. It is the third walkover St Ives have been handed this season and means they will stay ahead of Saltash whatever they do at Helston.
The Ashes did beat Helston 62-15 at Moorlands Lane back in September, but Helston tend to be stronger at home, although they have lost their last two fixtures there, narrowly going down 25-24 to Redruth II and 7-0 to Liskeard-Looe.
Saltash are set to hand a debut to James Sutton in the second-row, while Sam Snell is included in the team after rejoining the club from Okehampton. He has also had spells with Plymstock Albion Oaks and Tavistock since last playing for Saltash. Will Morton is back for the Ashes, but Lewis Wells is missing.
Eighth-placed Liskeard-Looe will be hoping to move up the table this weekend when they lost Newquay Hornets at Lux Park.
A win could move the Lions up two places in the standings but a loss could drop them down two.
COUNTIES THREE DEVON
IN-FORM Plymouth Argaum, fresh from beating Tamar Saracens 33-0 last weekend, had been planning a big day at Bickleigh down on Saturday.
They were set to field two teams on the same day for the first time in years, with their first team looking to move to the top of the Devon West divison.
Their firsts, who had well and truly opened up the title race last weekend by beating leaders Tamar Saracens, were due to play Totnes at home in the league, with their re-formed second team playing the recently-formed Plymouth Renegades.
But those plans have been disrupted with Totnes pulling out of the league game and handing Argaum the points.
It means they do go top of the table, at least for 36 hours, but they would have preferred a game, especially as they are not back at home in the league until January 21.
“We are all frustrated,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery.
“But our second team are still playing against the Renegades and we will ensure it is a fair game played with the Christmas spirit.”
Argaum did have 45 players available this weekend. Numbers have been increasing all season at the Roborough-based club, who are unbeaten since September 10.
Avery had said when he took over that his goal was to be able to get a second team out and so he is delighted that ambition is set to happen this weekend.
Meanwhile, fellow title-chasers Tamar Saracens will have a point to prove when they travel to fifth-placed Salcombe.
Sarries are keen to bounce back from last week’s defeat, but they know it will not be easy against Salcombe, who they narrowly overcame 12-0 at home at the start of the campaign.
Head coach Mike Lewis admits his side will not forget about last weekend’s loss in a hurry, but he says there was a really good response from the players at training on Tuesday.
“I don’t think they will get over this one for a while,” he admitted. “Sunday and Monday was pretty glum – lots of people had their head in the sand a bit.
“But we had the best numbers at training on Tuesday as we have had for weeks. Everyone has pulled together really well. We were either going to get five at training or 25 and we got the latter, which shows everyone does care and wants to dig in.
“We made training as fun as possible to just try and get it out of their heads and remind them why we are playing rugby.”
Sarries were hit by injuries to backs Greg Parrott and Scotty Sheldon last weekend and were also short of front-row options.
It was looking like they might be struggling this week but their physio team has worked hard and they do have 22 players to pick from for the trip to Salcombe.
“Salcombe away is a very tough place to go,” said Lewis. “And we have quite a few injury doubts, but I think we have got 22 to pick from.”
Old Techs, who have been struggling with injuries, are without a match this weekend, while struggling Plymstock Albion Oaks II host Teignmouth II at Horsham Fields.
In Devon East, title-chasing OPMs will be hoping to finally return to action with a trip to third-placed Okehampton II.
OPMs have not played since November 12 due to a blank weekend and they two walkovers, with New Cross and Cullompton II pulling out of matches against them in the last couple of weeks.
It is probably not ideal preparation for a tricky trip to Okehampton, who are on a three-game winning run.
OPMs will be expecting a tough afternoon at the Showground. When the sides met earlier in the season, the Old Boys triumphed 26-17 at King George V Playing Fields.
OPMs’ second team, the Jesters, are in action at home when they host neighbours Plympton Victoria at King George V Playing Fields in the Devon Merit Table.
Plym Vic will be looking to complete the league double over their rivals, having beaten a strong Jesters side 15-12 at the start of October.