RUGBY PREVIEWS: Services look to finish fourth, while OPMs, Argaum and Sarries battle for titles

DEVONPORT Services want to end an impressive first season in Regional One South West with a home win and a top four finish.

Services know if they beat Lydney at the Rectory on Saturday they will definitely finish fourth behind Camborne, Chew Valley and Brixham.

However, if they were to slip up then Ivybridge or Exmouth, who play each other this weekend, or Launceston could still overtake them.

“We just have to try and make sure we win at home to get fourth. If we do that, we will be happy,” said Services head coach Ben Russell.

Most people would say that whether they finished fourth, fifth or six it would still be an impressive first season at level five.

Russell said: “It would, but deep down if we didn’t finish fourth then I would be gutted because we were third for a lot of the year.

“We did have a blip around January time, but we have come back and won some good games.

“It’s in our own hands – we win, we finish fourth.”

He added: “I watched the video from the first game of the year against Lydney and we have come on so much as a team since then.”

Services do have some key players missing this weekend, including captain Matt Gregory and player-coach Richard West. Jonah Moore and Matt Richards, who both played last week, are also missing, along with the likes of Matt Neyle, Tom Davies, Oli Mullberry and Rhys Williams, but Tom Richards should be back.

Devonport are set to hand debuts to youngsters George Pooley and Billy Orchard in the backs after they impressed for the second team last weekend.

Fifth-place Ivybridge could still finish fourth, if they were to beat sixth-placed Exmouth away and Services slip up.

However, if Ivybridge lose they could finish anywhere between sixth and eighth, depending on other results.

Their previous best league finish is sixth, although they would have finished fifth in 2017-18 had they not had five points deducted.

But they know if they can beat in-form Exmouth at the Imperial Ground then a top five finish will be theirs this season.

“It is in our hands,” said director of rugby Jamie Tripcony. “But Exmouth have had a real change in form and they put 60 points on a team last week, so away from home, this is no easy fixture.

“But we have to prepare as well as we can to ensure we are on top form.”

Ivybridge are not helped by missing some key players for the trip up to Exmouth.

In the front-row James McFarlane an Ben Collins are both unavailable, so Owen Garner and Jake Winter come in, while in the backs Kristian Davis and Tom Scoles are missing from last week’s team so Adam Lilley and Giles Clarke come in the team. Sam Wilmington gets a chance on the bench, alongside George Montgomery and Jamie Tripcony.


PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks will be looking to end their first year in Western West with a fourth straight victory when they travel to winless bottom side Falmouth.

Ninth-place Oaks have beaten Wiveliscombe, Pirates Amateurs and Bideford in their last three games.

If they do pick up another bonus-point win this weekend then they will finish the campaign with 50 points.

That should be enough for safety, although 10th-placed Bude could still overtake them if they pick up six points from their final two games.

Both Oaks and Bude will be safe if only two go down, but neither side will want to take anything for granted.

“We’ll see what happens this week and whatever happens with the league is out of our control,” said Oaks team manager Mark Lenthall

“The league we are in is probably one of the most competitive there is.

“We have beaten the Pirates, at home we put five tries on Cullompton and ran Topsham close and beaten most of the other teams and yet we are still fourth-from-bottom. Our league is really, really competitive.

“We have just been taking it one game at a time and we have been enjoying our rugby and playing some good rugby.”

Oaks, though, know they cannot take Falmouth lightly just because they have not won a game yet. Falmouth have been more competitive at home and they only lost 14-6 to Penryn in their last game at the Recreation Ground.


COUNTIES Two Devon champions Tavistock will be looking to claim a rare win away at relegation-threatened North Tawton on Saturday.

Tavvy wrapped up the title last weekend with a 67-29 home victory over Honiton at Sandy Park.

However, head coach Joel Caddy does not want his team to take their foot of the pedal in their final two league games.

But they do have to make a host of changes to their team for the trip to North Tawton, where they have lost on their last four trips.

“I think we have about 30-odd players unavailable for various reasons this weekend, whether that be Six Nations, work, illness or just unavailable, so we have an awful lot of changes.

“It would be just nice to have a month where I could pick the same team.”

Tight-head prop Joe Burbage will be the only player in the pack to start in the same position as he did last weekend. Mark Wheatley is set to come into the team for his first appearances of the season after only returning to rugby after having a run out on Boxing Day.

North Tawton, who edged out Tavistock 8-0 at home last seaon in a night game, need the win to have any hope of avoiding relegation.

“They are going to be champing for the win,” said Caddy.

Also in that division, a young and makeshift Devonport Services II will travel to Exeter Saracens, while Ivybridge II host Exmouth II at Cross-in-Hand.

In Counties Two Cornwall, Saltash will be aiming to end on a high when they visit struggling Camborne School of Mines.

The Ashes will finish as runners-up in the league whatever happens this weekend.

Saltash did beat Camborne SoM 66-0 at Moorlands Lane on the opening day of the season, but the West Cornwall side have had some good results, although strangely most of their wins have come away from home.

Fin Jones gets a first team start on Saturday for Saltash, with Phil Eatwell not available. Axel Nicks also comes in at hooker in just two changes to the team that started against St Austell II last weekend.


OPMs, Plymouth Argaum and Tamar Saracens all go into the final weekend of the league season in with a chance of winning a Counties Three title.

OPMs will secure the Devon East crown, if they win or draw away at Exeter Athletic on Saturday.

Plymouth Argaum could be crowned Devon West champions tonight, if second-placed Tamar Saracens do not beat third-placed Topsham II away.

If Sarries do win but without a bonus point, then Argaum would need one bonus point away at Salcombe on Saturday for the title. If Sarries get bonus-point win, then Argaum would need two points at Salcombe.

Argaum just want to win whatever and say they actually hope Sarries do claim victory on the Friday night so that they do have something to play for at Salcombe.

“We are hoping that it’s not done and dusted on Friday night and that we have to go up to Salcombe to try and deservedly get promoted,” insisted Argaum head coach Dean Avery.

“We want Saturday to be memorable for all the players and for it to be memorable we really need to win it then and not on Friday night.

“I think the way the players are looking at it we are going up there either for a result or a victory lap.

“Whichever way, we will hopefully put a bit of money behind Salcombe’s bar as we have a bus going up, which the club have kindly put on.”

He added: “The hangover is still lingering from the Newton Abbot game and losing our unbeaten streak so we are looking at getting back to winning ways and hopefully we can be celebrating winning the game and winning the league.

“It is a big game for us. We lost to them in the first game of the season by a couple of points, but we did beat them at home in the Devon cup and we have come on a lot since our first game.

“It has been a good season and hopefully we get what we deserve.”

Avery had 28 players to pick from this weekend, but he is missing Reece Gocher, Tom Worboys, Chris Perkins, Will Lloyd and Lewis Hunt.

Tamar Saracens would love to put the pressure on Argaum by beating Topsham II at Bonfire Field in their second successive Friday night game, having beaten Old Techs last Friday at Brickfields.

“We know what we have to do,” said Sarries’ head coach Mike Lewis.

“I think it is going to be a really good game. I think they’ll be quite excited about having a game under the light.

“Even though we had one last week, the boys are still excited about this one.

“Playing under lights just adds to the occasion of the final league game of the season. There’s a fair amount on it for us and for Argaum on Saturday. I think it just sets it up nicely.

“It is up to us to try and make the first move.”

Both clubs go into the final weekend with 16 wins and just three defeats, but Argaum have picked up three extra bonus points.

“We probably should have picked up a few more bonus points,” said Lewis. “But I don’t think we could have asked for more than to be second and have the chance to be top in the final week of the season.

“The boys have really pulled together and have worked hard to get to where we are. Whatever happens this weekend we are dead happy with how it has gone so far and we are pretty proud of the boys and what they have achieved.”

Sarries will be without full-back Frazer Tatchell on Friday as it is his wedding day on Saturday.

Old Techs should have been hosting Totnes at home in their final league match of the season, but their opponents have handed them a walkover.

Techs are frustrated as they wanted a home game to end their league season and they were also keen to pay tribute to Mike Oxland, who sadly passed away on Thursday.

Old Techs chairman David Evans said: “Oxo was a proper “rugby man” who will be known to many from his Civil Service and Plymouth Barbarian days and a true Old Technician serving on the committee and representing us at the Plymouth Combination committee meetings for many years.

“You could always see him on the touchline on a Saturday cheering on Old Techs and the occasional moan at a referee.

“He will be sadly missed by his Old Technician family and by the broader rugby community.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Mike’s family at this very sad time.”

The whole Plymouth Combination rugby community have been saddened by his death. He would always go and watch other teams play if Techs were not in action and could always been found helping out at the Combination cup finals.

“He really loved his rugby and he was just such a lovely bloke,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.

“It would have been really nice to have had a home game this weekend.”

Bedford-Smith said his team had been looking forward to playing Totnes after tough games against Sarries, Salcombe and Argaum.

“It is frustrating as we’ve had three walkovers against teams below us in the league,” he said.

“Players want to be playing and trying get the buzz of getting a win. It has been really frustrated for the boys.”

The walkover does mean that Techs will finish sixth in the table.

Elsewhere in that division, Plymstock Albion Oaks II will host Newton Abbot II at Horsham Fields.

Meanwhile, OPMs just need a win or a draw away at Exeter Athletic to secure the Devon East title.

They might not even that if second-placed Crediton II slip up at home to Sidmouth II.

OPMs did hammer Exeter Athletic 68-7 on the opening day of the season but their opponents have improved since then and are sixth in the table.

OPMs would love a promotion and a return back to level eight following an eight-year absence.

In the Devon Merit Table, Plympton Victoria will end their league season with an away trip to Torquay Athletic II.

Plym Vic go into the game sitting in fourth spot, but they could claim third place if they secure a bonus point win at Torquay and Tavistock II do not pick up any points at home to leaders Kingsbridge II.

It would be a big ask, but whether they finish third or fourth, it has been a pretty good season for Plym Vic who will have won at least half their games this term.

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