FOURTH-placed Devonport Services will be aiming for back-to-back home wins when they entertain bottom side Drybrook at the Rectory on Saturday in Regional One South West.
Injury-hit Services got back to winning ways last weekend after a three-game losing run when they edged out Weston-super-Mare 24-22 at the Rectory.
And they will be keen to make home advantage tell again against a Drybook side who have yet to win on the road this season. However, the Gloucestershire side did give Service a good game at their place at the end of October before Devonport won 31-20.
“We went up there and it was a tough place to go,” said Services head coach Ben Russell. “We got a win up there, but it was a dog-fight.
“They are in a relegation battle and they need to pick up some wins. They have had a lot of games cancelled, so they will probably have the pick of their best players.
“We are likely to be about the same as last week, but after Drybrook and the week off we should get people back.”
He added: “We just have to keep on building. We had a blip, but we just have to keep building and make sure we are playing in the right areas. Hopefully, our performance gets better as after that we have Exmouth and Ivybridge.”
Fifth-placed Ivybridge are on the road this week, but it is only a short trip – over Dartmoor to Devon rivals Okehampton.
It should be a good game, as Okehampton are on a three-game winning run, while Ivybridge have won their last three away matches.
The Bridgers did beat Okehampton 42-18 at home at the end of October, but they have lost on their last three trips to the Showground, including a narrow 28-27 Devon Cup defeat earlier this season.
“They (Okehampton) are going quite well currently,” said Ivybridge’s director of rugby Jamie Tripcony.
“It will be a tough one, but every game is this league is tough – that’s what makes it so interesting and probably good for the neutral.”
Ivybridge keep the same pack which were unlucky to lose 25-24 to third-placed Brixham last weekend. It means Harry Arkley keeps his place after making his full debut last week, with available again Sam Furse starting on the bench.
The only change to last weekend’s starting XV is on the wing where Harrison Legge comes in for the unavailable Tom Scoles.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
LIFE does not get any easier for Plymstock Albion Oaks in Western West as they make the tough trip to second-placed Topsham II this weekend.
Oaks have lost their last three games and are in a battle to stay up in tight league, where just two points separate seventh from 10th.
Topsham, though, are pushing at the other end. They are just four points behind leaders Cullompton, who are the only team to win at Bonfire Field this season, and are 14 points clear of third-placed Pirates Amateurs.
Oaks’ away record maybe poor, but they did push Topsham hard at Horsham Fields at the end of October, narrowly losting 31-24.
Plymstock do feel that they are not that far from been a top half team, but it has been player availability that has let them down recently.
TAVISTOCK can take another step towards the Counties Two Devon title if they can overcome Ivybridge II at Cross-in-Hand.
Tavvy are 16 points clear of second-placed Torquay Athletic, who have played a game less but who face third-placed Withycombe this weekend.
With neither Torquay nor Withycombe both able to pick up full points it is a chance for Tavistock to open up even more ground and after this weekend, the leaders will just have five games left.
“The lads know how big the game is in respects of where we are in the season,” admitted Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“But we just have to do what we can do and hope that it is good enough.
“They (Ivybridge II) were decent when we played against them before so it should be a good game. They certainly won’t be any slouches.
“I’m sure they will be gunning for us, but we just have to worry about ourselves.
“We are getting to that part of the season where lads realise there’s some major games coming up and so they know if they want to be part of it then they have to perform.”
Tavistock are missing Andrew Schuttkacker and Seb Cox, but they do have Jack Lewis and Andy Yates available again.
In the same division, Devonport Services II are on the road to Exmouth II.
It could be another crucial weekend in Counties Two Cornwall where Saltash will visit third-placed Veor.
Saltash’s title hopes suffered a set-back last weekend when they were held to a 23-23 away at Redruth II, who were boosted by some first team squad players with their National League match at Newport (Salop) postponed.
The Ashes will no doubt be hoping Redruth II field a similar team against their title-rivals St Ives this weekend, while they will be keen to prove a point at Veor.
Veor are unbeaten at home and have won their last four matches, but Saltash will take confidence having beaten them 70-10 at Moorlands Lane in October.
The Ashes, though, will know that it will be a totally different test down in Camborne.
In the same division, Liskeard-Looe face a tough weekend with a trip to second-placed St Austell II.
PLYMOUTH Argaum and Tamar Saracens will be expected to keep up the pressure at the top of Counties Three Devon West this weekend with home matches against struggling sides.
New leaders Argaum host second-from-bottom Plymstock Albion Oaks II, while third-placed Tamar Saracens entertain third-from-bottom Teignmouth II at the Parkway.
Both will also be hoping that their city rivals Old Techs can do them a favour and beat second-placed Topsham II at Weston Mill.
Devon West is certainly proving quite a thrilling league, with just two points separately the top three and only nine points between the top five.
“There’s a few big games still to be played and it is going to be an interesting run-in,” said Tamar Saracens’ head coach Mike Lewis. “I think our players are quite excited by it, but there’s no pressure or expectation from the club.”
Saracens are just hoping they get a game on Saturday, having not had one for two weeks.
Teignmouth II did hand them a walkover back in October but they have given Sarries the impression they will travel this weekend.
“There were pretty confident on Tuesday and Wednesday that they would have a team to travel,” said Lewis.
Sarries should have an unchanged pack, providing prop Tom Hicklin overcomes illness, while in the backs they should have both Scotty Sheldon and Lewis Swatton available, as well as Callum Perkins after he recently re-signed for the club.
Argaum are also hoping Oaks II make the trip to Bickleigh Down after pulling out of making the trip earlier in the season.
Argaum are the form team in Devon West having not lost since the second week of the season.
“Hopefully, they (Oaks II) are going to come to us,” said head coach Dean Avery.
“We certainly want to play and a there’s quite a few of our players who have some history with Oaks.”
He added: “We are top of the league now and played the same number of games as Tamar Saracens, but we do have a tough run-in, but we are building momentum.”
Argaum got two teams out last weekend and Avery said they had about 45 players available.
“It is really building as a club,” he said.
They have just added another new face by signing back James Green, while welcoming back an old face to the club – Bob Holder, who has become treasurer.
It is not the first time Holder has done the job, but the last time was nearly half-a-century ago. He was previously treasurer of the Roborough-based club between 1973-75.
Meanwhile, sixth-placed Old Techs have the chance to do their city rivals a favour this weekend with a game against Topsham II.
Techs pushed Topsham hard away at the end of Ocober before losing 15-3 at Bonfire Field.
Techs’ biggest problem might be a lack of game-time, having only played one game in two months. They were handed a walkover last week by Paignton II and the league have also handed them the walkover against Oaks II after the previous weekend’s postponement.
In Devon East, league leaders OPMs face a long trip to third-placed Tiverton II.
The Old Boys did beat Tiverton 62-0 at King George V Playing Fields at the end of October but since then the east Devon side have not lost a single game.
OPMs did not have a game last week, which gave some players the chance to recover from some knocks picked up in a friendly against Saltash the weekend before.
The Elburton-based club know they need to win this weekend but also want to make sure they have everyone fit for when they play title rivals Credition II on February 18 at King George V Playing Fields.