RUGBY: Services eye Okehampton win as Ivybridge face long away trek

DEVONPORT Services will be looking to build on their opening day bonus-point win over Matson when they make the trip over Dartmoor to play old rivals Okehampton.

The two clubs had contrasting fortunes on the opening day of the season.

Whereas Services claimed a full five points with a 39-31 home victory over Matson, Okehampton were crushed 80-6 at home to Chew Valley.

Services coach Ben Russell, though, has warned his team not to read too much into Okehampton’s heavy loss.

“They had half their team missing,” said Russell.

“But they are good at home and they do try to move the ball around a bit with some good backs.

“They came good at the end of last season and stayed up.

“Our boys will know that if we don’t turn up they will turn us over.

“We just have front up and defend everything they throw at us and go from there.”

Services did win 21-7 at the Showground last season but Okehampton got their revenge with a 24-20 victory at the Rectory in January.

Russell admits that defeat is still fresh in his team’s memory.

“We won up there but they came to us and beat us at our place,” he said. “We had some boys missing, but we were in control of the game, yet one lapse of concentration cost us.”

Services are also missing players this week. Captain Matt Gregory is still missing as he recovers from an operation in the summer. The club do hope he will be fit in a couple of weeks.

They also have vice-captain Shaun Crawford and forwards James Hocking and Oli Symons unavailable this weekend and Joe Daley and Luke Stannard injured.

Stannard suffered a bad hamstring injury last week against Matson and is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Daley dislocated his knee but the club are optimistic he might be only out for a few weeks.

“We are missing a few boys this week,” said Russell.  “But we have strength in depth and boys will get their chance to step up and try and grab the shirt.”

James McFarlane and Aiden Taylor are expected to come into the front-row in the absence of Symons and Daley.

After their frustrating start to the season, Ivybridge face their joint longest away trip of the campaign with a game against Lydney.

The Bridgers lost 24-10 at home to Launceston last Saturday.

They were missing the likes of Charlie Briant, Ben Watts and Matt Grieveson, but they were still disappointed to lose to a Launceston side who had a man sent off in the first half.

New head coach Davy McGregor is hoping for a reaction this Saturday, although he knows it will not be easy in the Forest of Dean.

“There are no easy games,” he said. “You just have to take it as it comes.

“As I said to the boys we just have to start building more of a culture no matter where we go or whether we are at home, if we can be responsible for ourselves – that’s all we can ask for.”

He added: “There is experience to come back in which will give some headaches.”

McGregor hopes a long trip can be a good team builder.

“It’s a bus trip for the boys to do a bit of bonding,” he said.

“The good thing is with the weather in September you can move the ball quite quickly.”

McGregor is familiar with the Forest of Dean having had a spell with Cinderford. He understands the area’s passion for their rugby.

“For me the people up there are great,” he said. “They are really passionate but really welcoming at the same time.

“But we can only be responsible for how we act.”


PLYMSTOCK Albion Oaks are hoping to make home advantage count for the second week running when they host newly-promoted St Ives at Horsham Fields.

Oaks opened their Western West campaign with a 31-12 victory over Paignton last weekend.

They would love to make it two wins out of two, but head coach Lewis Paterson knows St Ives will offer a threat after they beat the Pirates Amateurs last Saturday and edged out Saltash for the Counties Two Cornwall title last season.

“St Ives will be a big challenge,” said Lewis.

“I played with (St Ives coach) Mal Roberts years ago when he was with Launceston and they’ve got the likes of Todd Prisk and Jimmy Stevens, the former Leicester hooker, so they are going to be a challenge and they might be one of the ones to look at this season.

“But we’ve got a really good squad and hopefully we will have a couple more boys back.

“When you have two home games on the bounce you have to try and make it count.”

Tavistock will also be hoping to make home advantage tell when they host one of the title favourites Kingsbridge at Sandy Park.

It will be their first home match since their promotion and they will be looking to right a few wrongs from last week when they lost 18-14 at Falmouth.

Tavistock had plenty of chances to win last Saturday’s match but just did not take them.

“We are looking to improve on some things from last week,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.

“Looking at training this week, the boys have stepped up.

“Playing Kingsbridge is going to be a hell of a challenge and will be a big step up from last week.

“They are pretty slick once they get into the swing of things.

“It will be a bit of a reunion as I will have coached a fair few of their lads at some point.

“We just have to see what happens. I think we are relishing the challenge and it’s a good chance to see where the boys are at.”

Tavistock, who are still missing the likes of forwards Charlie Brown, Jack Osborne and Josh O’Neill, are set to make just one change to their starting line-up, with veteran Andy Yates coming in at fly-half for the unavailable Al Spencer.

They do make two changes on the bench with Rich Cann and Freddie Fuller coming in for the unavailable Charles Bowden and Andrew Schuttkacker.


AFTER shocking Barnstaple II’s last weekend, Plymouth Argaum face a tricky trip to South Molton on Saturday.

Newly-promoted Argaum made a dream start to life back in level eight last week by claiming a 29-24 bonus-point victory over last season’s third-placed finishers Barnstaple II.

South Molton were also opening day winners, edging out OPMs 26-20 at King George V Playing Fields.

“Talking to a few of the Barnstaple guys they said South Molton have a big pack with a lot of farmers,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery.

“It’s a long way for us to go but it will give me a taste of who wants to do well this year and who is willing to travel and put that shirt on.

“If the players want to be successful and finish in the top end then they need to be going away to places like South Molton and trying to get result. It is down to the players.”

Avery is hoping to have Tom Mann, Owen Gocher and Luc Phillips back for this weekend’s game.

Fellow newcomers OPMs are also on their travels on Saturday.

They face a tough test away at Withycombe, who finished fourth last term and who opened their season last week with a 36-10 victory at North Tawton.

OPMs were frustrated to only pick up a bonus point against South Molton at home, having taken an early 13-0 lead.

The Old Boys do not have the greatest record against Withycombe, only winning one of their last nine league meetings.

The last time the two clubs played each other was in December 2019 when Withycombe won 26-14 at King George V Playing Fields.

Devonport Services II will be looking to make it two wins out of two when they host North Tawton at the Rectory.

Services II enjoyed a good 31-24 victory at Honiton last Saturday, but they are not likely to be quite as strong this weekend due to injuries and unavailabilities in the first team squad.

Also in Counties Two Devon, Ivybridge II will host Barnstaple II at Cross-in-Hand.

Ivybridge II should be a lot stronger than they were last week as they lost 53-10 at Torquay Athletic.

In Counties Two Cornwall, Saltash will be hoping to finally get their season off to a proper start when they travel to Bodmin.

They should have kicked off their campaign last weekend with a home game against St Just but their opponents handed them a walkover.

Although they got the five points, Saltash were disappointed to miss out on an opening day home game.

Bodmin, who were beaten by Old Techs in pre-season, had a tough start last weekend with a 55-10 loss at Veor. However, they are traditionally much stronger at home.

The Ashes are missing a lot of players at the moment, including Will Morton, Lewis Wells, Sam Snook and James Moriaty, and their team on Saturday will have somewhat of an unfamiliar look about it.

Mike Grieves, Liall Honey, Frank Cozens, Ollie Crawford, Billy Dover and Tom Hollyman are among those that get starts.

Saltash: Ryan Cruickshanks, Tom Hollyman, Greg Eatwell, Danny Snook, Ollie Crawford, Billy Dover, Jack Pritchard, Mike Grieves, Rob Walsh, Liall Honey, Matt Coker, Frank Cozens, Lewis Woolaway, Phil Eatwell, Steve Hillman. Reps: Dale Thompson, Charlie Knight, Ryan Wilson.


FOR the first time in eight-and-a-half years, Tamar Saracens and Plympton Victoria will meet in a league game on Saturday.

Both clubs have been through quite a bit in that time, but both are looking forward to meeting again.

Sarries, who finished as runners-up in the league last season, will be big favourites after opening their season last weekend with a 50-12 victory away at fellow league newcomers Tavistock II.

Plym Vic, meanwhile, had a tough opening start against former Counties Two Devon side Brixham II, losing 56-17.

Following the Brixham game up with a trip to Tamar Saracens isn’t the easiest of starts back in league rugby for Plym Vic, but they are up for the challenge

“We have to play the ‘bigger/better teams’ at some point so we might as well get them out of the way early,” said chairman Chris Hunt.

Tamar Saracens head coach Mike Lewis knows his team cannot underestimate them.

“Plym Vic are a good side,” he said. “Over the last three or four years in the Plymouth cups they have done well and now they are in the league they have a point to prove.

“I know they are getting good numbers at training, which is good to see.

“We certainly can’t be complacent on Saturday. We have to make sure we stick to our patterns and make sure we do things properly.”

Lewis was delighted with his team’s big win at Tavistock, especially as the club had not played any pre-season matches.

“To have such a great scoreline in your first game is what you hope for,” he said.

“The aim of all pre-season is to play some fantastic rugby and score a few tries.

“But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds on the scoresheet. Tavistock had a really resilient defence. We only unlocked them due to some great play. Our backline worked really hard on trying to keep that overlap on the outside and they did that fantastically well.

“We kept making the right decisions whereas last season we sometimes made the wrong one, but nine times out of 10 last Saturday we made the right decision.”

He added: “This weekend we have 26 or 27 available, which I think is the most we have had available since I have been coaching here.

“We had 25 available as well last week so everyone is keen to play and everyone is training as well.”

Old Techs were left frustrated last weekend when Kingsbridge II pulled out of visiting them for the opening weekend of the Counties Two Devon South/West season.

They were given the points but Techs had wanted to play and the club say having games called off then makes it harder to get players to commit to future weeks.

This weekend they will travel to Paignton II, who drew last week with Oaks II.

“It was disappointing last week,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “But there’s not much you can do about it. However, it does make it harder the following week to get players.

“A lot of players last week moved stuff around to be able to play.

“We have got a lot unavailable this week and it is going to be a tough game going up there.

“We had a tough game up there last year. We started off well but then got drawn into a bit of a battle and only just managed to cling on.”

Techs have lost Sam Courtney, who has joined Ivybridge, and Harley Adams, who has moved to Saltash, but they have recently signed Zimbabwe back Tichaona Malvin Donono, as well as forwards Ollie Davey and Jamie Petrie.

Plymstock Albion Oaks II are also on the road as they face a tough trip to Dartmouth, who were handed a walkover by Totnes last weekend.

Tavistock II make the trip to Kingsbridge II, who are still struggling for numbers, especially in the front-row.

In Counties Three Cornwall, Saltash II entertain Bude II at Moorlands Lane. The young Ashes will be looking to claim their first points in league rugby.

Leave a Reply