RUGBY PREVIEWS: Services look to end away campaign on a high as Tavistock bid for title

FOURTH-placed Devonport Services end their away campaign in Regional One South West on Saturday when they travel to second-placed Chew Valley.

It will be the first time Services have left Devon or Cornwall since the end of October.

A win would be enough for them to guarantee a top four finish in their first season at level five.

“We still want to try and cement fourth place so want to go there and try and get something out of it,” said Services head coach Ben Russell.

“We’ll certainly go up there and give it a good go.

“Looking at the game down here, we were two quite evenly matched sides.

“They are a good side at home and I hear their pitch is very small so it is going to be a physical game, but we just have to front up.”

Services are no strangers to Chew Valley as they both came up from South West One last season.

Devonport have lost on their last two trips to the Somerset club but they did win a promotion play-off game there in April 2018.

“Most of the boys know what it is all about and what to expect up there,” added Russell.

Devonport are missing a few players. Captain Matt Gregory is unable to travel due to work commitments while back Tom Davies has been recalled by Plymouth Albion, while fellow back Matt Neyle is out with a fractured hand he suffered in their last match against Ivybridge.

Russell admitted Neyle’s injury is a shame as he was in good form.

“He has done really well,” said Russell. “When he’s been fit and not injured this year, he’s been flying. For me, he has come on loads and been one of our best players week-in, week-out.”

Meanwhile, Ivybridge end their home league campaign when they host bottom side Drybrook at Cross-in-Hand.

The Bridgers are still on course for their highest ever league finish, but they know that Exmouth, Lydney and Launceston are breathing down their necks so really could do with a win this weekend.

Drybrook might be bottom of the table, but their recently form has been good. They have won two of their last three games and picked up losing bonus points away at Services and Okehampton.

Ivybridge had to dig deep to beat them in Gloucestershire in November, narrowly triumphing 16-12.

The Bridgers are able to name the same starting XV that played against Devonport Services in their last match a fortnight ago.

The only change to their squad is on the bench, where Ben Mallett comes in for Cameron Dale.


PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks play their final home league match in Western West on Saturday when they host Wiveliscombe in a vital fixture.

A win would give Oaks a great chance of staying in the division, with a trip to winless bottom side Falmouth to come in their final match.

But a defeat this on Saturday, would leave them sweating a bit with Bude and Paignton still within touching distance.

Oaks will have taken confidence from beating the Pirates Amateurs 25-18 away and Bideford 60-19 at home in their last two fixtures.

Wiveliscombe have proved a bit inconsistent this season but when they do hit form they have claimed some big wins.

They did beat Oaks 45-15 at home earlier in the season and beat Penryn 41-26 in their last league away game.


TAVISTOCK will clinch the Counties Two Devon title with a win or a draw against Honiton on Saturday in their final home league match of the season.

Tavistock are currently 13 points ahead of second-placed Torquay Athletic and both clubs have three games to play.

As long as Tavistock do not lose this weekend then Torquay would not be able to overtake them as not only are they 13 points behind but they also have three less wins.

“We are not going after a draw,” admitted Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.

“The win is what we want and we would like to do it in a bit of style. It’s not really in our make-up to just grind out wins, althouth we have do that at times this season.

“But the lads are all up for this weekend. Training was pretty full-on as everyone wants to play.

“We just have to make sure we don’t get carried away. If we play like we have been doing all season, then I’m pretty confident, but you never know.

“We just have to concentrate and go through all our processes.

“If we win then we will have gone through the whole season unbeaten at home, which would be a pretty decent record to get.

“But if the last game against Honiton is anything to go by then it is going to be a good old game as they also like to throw the ball around.”

He added: “We have got a VP and sponsors day and there should be a hell of a crowd up there. The Moorlanders are also at home against Torquay II.”

Tavistock are able to name a pretty strong squad with all their main key players available.

In the same division, eighth-placed Devonport Services II have a tough home game against third-placed Barnstaple II.

Services II have won their last three games, but their Barnstaple counterparts are the league’s in-form side with six wins on the trot.

“It is a tough one and we are missing a few players,” said Services head coach Ben Russell. “But I’m just happy the twos have done well and stayed up. In the end we will probably finish just below mid-table, which is pretty good for the first year.”

Meanwhile, Ivybridge II, who sit in sixth spot, play their final away league game when they travel to fifth-placed Withycombe.

In Counties Two Cornwall, second-placed Saltash have a big game at home to third-placed St Austell.

Just two points separate the sides and so Saltash will need to win the match to guarantee a top-two finish.

St Austell II are on a great run of form and have won their last nine matches since losing 16-10 at home to Saltash in November. However, the Saints do have a tough finish as after playing Saltash this weekend, they then have to host leaders St Ives next Saturday.

Saltash will be happy to have a home league game after only having one since October and having three fixtures postponed last weekend.


PLYMOUTH Argaum find themselves just two points away from securing the Counties Three Devon West title after Paignton II handed them a home walkover this weekend.

But their city rivals Tamar Saracens, who sit in second place, are hoping they can put the pressure on Argaum to have to win or draw away at Salcombe on the final day of the campaign.

Sarries could go top of the table – at least for a few hours – if they could pick up bonus points wins in Friday night fixtures against Old Techs and Topsham II.

This Friday, thanks to their sponsors, Sarries have hired out Plymouth Albion’s Brickfields ground to play their big rivals Old Techs under floodlights (7.30pm).

“I think it is well worthwhile doing,” said Tamar Saracens head coach Mike Lewis. “Techs have bought into it, we have bought into it and Albion have been very accommodating.

“The players from both sides are really excited. It’s not often at this level you get to play at a 6,000 capacity stadium or whatever it is.

“A few of the players might have played there before but for most it will be something they remember for a very long time.”

But Lewis knows that playing at Brickfields and in front of a decent-sized crowd, will put the pressure on.

“It’s the same for both teams,” he said. “Playing at Albion everyone will be quite excited and will want to impress and will maybe try too hard, but I think that would happen anyway in a local derby.

“We are playing some good rugby at the moment but Techs are such a resilant team so it should be a really good local ding-dong.”

Lewis admits his team would like to make sure Argaum have to work for the title in their final match.

“We have talked about trying to get to next Friday top of the table,” admitted Lewis. “If we were to win this game by five points and next Friday’s by five points then we would be top of the table and they would have to go to Salcombe for the league. It would be good if we could apply that pressure towards them.”

Old Techs are also looking forward to playing at Brickfields under the floodlights.

“Who at our level gets to play at Albion under the lights?,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.

“It’s free entry as well so hopefully people will come along and watch.

“It is a brilliant opportunity for both sets of players, so well done Tamar Saracens for getting it organised and getting funding for it.

“Hopefully, we can put on a performance and that the game can be a good showcase for our league.”

He added: “We have got a couple back, but we are still missing a few and still have the army lads away.

“But playing at Albion we almost have too many available. It’s a bit playing in the Lockie Cup and we are going to actually have to select a side.

“I think everyone is looking forward to it.”

Elsewhere in that division, second-from-bottom Plymstock Albion Oaks II will be hopeful of a rare win when they travel to bottom side Totnes.

In Counties Three Devon East, OPMs have been handed a massive boost to their title hopes with fouth-placed Cullompton II handing them a home walkover.

They could actually be crowned champions on Saturday, if second-placed Crediton II slip up at home to Sidmouth II.

But even in Crediton II do win, then OPMs will know they only need a draw or two bonus points in their final match away to Exeter Athletic.

However, OPMs will be unhappy that once again they have been handed a home walkover.

Just like Saltash in Counties Two Cornwall, OPMs have only had one home league game since October.

This weekend is their fifth walkover in six home games. The only team to have made the trip to King George V Playing Fields since October was title-chasing Crediton II.

OPMs II, however, should be in action in the Devon Merit Table as they are due to visit leaders Kingsbridge II.

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