Oaks optimistic ahead of Western West season, while Tavistock relishing new challenge

PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks’ first and second teams both found playing at new levels tough in 2022-23.

But after battling through last term and finishing on a high, there is a real sense of optimism around Horsham Fields going into the new season.

The club have boosted their squad with a host of summer signings, including experienced players like Matt Finn, Tom Richards and Sini Manu.

And they have enjoyed a positive pre-season with good performances against Brixham and Devonport Service sides.

Lewis Paterson is head coach this year and he certainly has high hopes for the club.

“Last year I came in and it was just about setting some foundations to try and get us where we want to go,” said Paterson.

“The players have bought into that. We’ve added a few players like Matt Finn, Chey Bryce and Sini Manu and they have all been up training and helping with the coaching. We’ve had the colts also training with us and done some coaching with the under-16s so there is a really good ethos going around the club.

“We really want to bring on the juniors at the club.

“Last year was tough but we finished strongly and we have taken that into this season and had two good pre-season games against Brixham and Devonport. We won one and were also pretty close against Brixham.

“We want to have a really good season. I think we are already ahead of where we want to be.”

Although Oaks spent part of last season battling at the bottom, they did show on their day that they could challenge most teams in the league. However, player availability cost them more wins as they finished ninth in their first campaign in Western West, winning their final four fixtures.

“I think for us, if we can get into the top four that would be really positive for us,” said Paterson.

“Personally, I want to win the league, but that’s my tenacity as a coach. I always want to win.

“But as a club if we can sit in that top four and then build on that and maintain players and have colts coming through, then that would great.”

He added: “Last season work commitments were an issue with some, including myself. But we have built a culture and more people want to be part of it and so are making themselves available and coming to training.

“We had 30-odd players against Devonport who had all trained pre-season. The depth is great now and that’s what we want.”

Oaks’ second team found life tough in Counties Three Devon, but they are hoping to be far more competitive this term.

“The goal for the second team was just to get a consistent team out and have more players, but I think we have surpassed that goal already. We will wait to see how the season unfolds but people are making themselves available.

“We were able to play two teams against Devonport and Brixham and everyone enjoyed it and have actually surprised themselves at how good they can be. It was a good marker.”

Oaks’ first team kick-off their campaign with a home match against Paignton, who were fortunate not to be relegated last season after finishing second from bottom.

Oaks did do the double over them last term and will be hoping to secure another win over them to get off to a good start.

Their second also play Paignton at home in a double header at Horsham Fields.

TAVISTOCK are the newboys in Western West this year after impressively winning the Counties Two Devon title last season.

They have kept most of their title-winning squad, including influential scrum-half George Hillson, although last season’s joint captain Martin Budden has been forced to retire due to injury, while Jake Le Gassick is also likely to miss a lot of the campaign due to a work course.

However, Tavistock have added a few new faces and have a few more youngsters have come through their colts set-up.

They have also entered their second team into Counties Three Devon West and so they are excited about the 2023-24 campaign.

“It is exciting times for both teams,” said head coach Joel Caddy.

“The lads all know there is pressure on all positions now. No-one’s position is set in stone.

“Next week we are hoping to get three senior teams out so even the Moorlanders (second team) will be feeling the heat.

“It is good that the Moorlanders have got guarantee fixtures every week.”

Caddy is confident his team can hold their own in the higher league, but he is not making any predictions.

“Until we’ve had a month than we won’t know where the land lies,” said Caddy.

“We just have to take month by month.

“Obviously, the first goal is to stay in the league and if we find ourselves mid-table or above in our first season then I would be pretty happy.

“There are some pretty decent sides in this league. Tiverton and Oaks look like they have signed a lot of players and Kingsbridge finished third last year and so they are probably favourites, but who knows?

“We just have to see how the first month goes. We are not going to go anywhere thinking we are going to lose, but I’m sure there will probably be games we lose.”

Tavistock will begin their Western West campaign with an away trip to Falmouth, who finished bottom of the table last season without claiming a single win, while their second team will kick-off life in league rugby with a home match against last season’s Counties Three Devon West runners-up Tamar Saracens.

“We just don’t really know what we are going to come up against,” said Caddy on his side’s trip to Falmouth.

“In the first half of the season everything for us is going to be the unknown, but equally no-one really knows us either. It’s going to be interesting.

“The Moorlanders have Tamar Saracens first game and they will have nothing to lose.”

Tavistock are missing a number of players in the opening few weeks of the season, including forwards Charlie Brown, Jack Osborne and Josh O’Neill.

Youngster Tylo Coupland will make his first team debut in the second-row against Falmouth, while Calum Baker could make his debut from the bench.

In their second team, there could be debuts for Jai Popplewell, Rhys Hooper, Jacob Mitchell and Cohen Hart against Tamar Saracens.

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