DEVONPORT Services head coach Ben Russell is hoping for a reaction from his side after their heavy defeat to Barnstaple last weekend when they host big rivals Brixham at the Rectory on Saturday.
Services’ 100 per cent start to the season was ended dramatically at Pottington Road as they were beaten 41-16.
They now have a massive home game to try and bounce back.
Saturday’s match will be a repeat of the Devon Senior Cup final at the end of last season, where Services beat Brixham 33-27 to lift the trophy for the first time.
“The cup final, we probably won it because we had a better bench.
“They beat us away, but we beat them at home. It’s actually even-stevens – two and two – between us since I’ve been here.
“They’ve been good battles and I’m sure they are going to bring it as they are going to be hurting (from that cup final). They will probably still be angry, but we just got pumped away at Barnstaple so I’m hoping for a reaction from the boys.”
Both Services and Brixham have only lost once this season.
“They (Brixham) didn’t start the season that well against St Austell, but they have come good in the last couple of games. They beat Chew last week, which was a great result for them.
“It is a bit of a funny league this year as all the teams have lost at least one, apart from Launceston. However, it will only be about game seven or eight you will see the league beginning to take shape.”
After last week’s big defeat at Barnstaple, Russell is set to make changes. He said that players know that will such a competitive squad that they have to keep performing consistently to keep their shirt.
“There’s going to be a few changes,” he admitted. “I just think we need a bit of a revamp this week. The second half last week was just not good enough – boys went missing.
“A few boys might be in the twos and a few boys might be coming up or coming back into the side.
“It is just about consistency. We have certain boys who perform week-in, week-out and we are just trying to drive for that consistency.
“The boys know how it is and what can happen if they don’t perform.”
Services are set to welcome back full-back Harrison Coonick, who missed last week’s game at Barnstaple due to illness. Andy Pond could also be back after missing a couple of weeks with concussion.
Any players that do drop out of the first team into the seconds face having to make a second trip to Barnstaple within seven days as their second team are away at Pottington Road.
Ivybridge will be desperate to get their first win of the season when they host newly-promoted St Austell at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday.
The Bridgers find themselves second-from-bottom in the Regional One South West table after four games, but they know they could have won all of them and have picked up four bonus points.
They were particularly frustrated last weekend to lose 34-30 away at Okehampton after having a late chance to win the match.
“I didn’t say too much after the game as it’s hard to say too much,” said head coach Davy McGregor on last week’s loss. “But if we can be that devastated over a game of rugby it does mean we care.
“We are back at home. We are doing a lot of stuff off the field which is being presented really well and everyone is getting behind the culture shift off the pitch we just need to embrace it on the pitch.
“There’s no panic but I just think we need to understand as a group that it is in us to win, but it is also in us to lose.”
McGregor feels his team just need a win to build up some confidence.
“A few weeks ago against Lydney we were taking home five points right up until the last minute of the game where we get a yellow card, a penalty against us and scrum and a try and then he kicked the conversion from the touchline. If we had walked away from Lydney with five points the season’s in a very different position.
“We are not a million miles away. We have lost within seven for the last three games. The boys just have to keep faith. We just have to keep working hard.”
Ivybridge are without a number of forwards, including Will Peakman, Sam Courtney, Marcus Prout, George Montgomey and Jed Soper, while Kristian Davis is missing from the backs.
Coming in the team are Jack Skinner, Alex Garner and Matt Grieveson, while Lewis Swatton, Dan Gloyns and Adam Lilley come onto the bench.
St Austell are also without some key players, including player-coach Matt Shepherd.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
EARLY season leaders Plymouth Albion Oaks will have their eyes on another five points when they host winless Wiveliscombe at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
Oaks are the only team left with a 100 per cent record in the division, with four bonus-point wins out of four at the start of the season.
They were delighted last weekend to finally end their losing run at Bude.
“We went down there with just the mind-set to get the monkey off our back and go there and grind the win out and they did,” said head coach Lewis Paterson.
“We have got 20 points out of 20 in the first block of four games, which is really good.”
Paterson keeps insisting they are just taking it one game at a time but they know they will be favourites this weekend against a side still looking to get off the mark.
After missing last Saturday’s match at Bude, Paterson comes back into the side at fly-half with Tom Richards unavailable. Alex Thomas and Harvey Courtis are also missing, but Pete Keanie is back, while Mitieli Caqara moves up to the first team squad after impressing for the seconds against Old Techs last weekend. Jamie Shone is also back on the bench.
Tavistock are missing a number of players for their long trip to Penzance to take on the Pirates Amateurs at Mennaye Field.
Former colts Cohen Hart and Vaughan Glover are set to make their debuts in west Cornwall, while Charles Bowden comes in at fly-half.
“We have unbelievable numbers not available this weekend, which is a slightly frustrating,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“But a few lads get a chance this weekend to stake a claim for a shirt.
“Some of the colts have come in and not looked out of place and long-term that is that is pretty good for the club. We are not afraid to give youngsters a crack.”
Tavistock sit third in the table, with two wins and a draw from their opening three games.
The Pirates are fifth with two wins to their name, but they do have a good record at home against Tavistock, winning the last five meetings at Mennaye Field.
“It is a long journey down there, but it is quite a nice time of the season to do it,” said Caddy.
“It would be good if we could finish the first month on a high.”
AFTER securing their first win since promotion last weekend, OPMs face possibly their toughest test of the season when they welcome unbeaten league leader Torquay Athletic to King George V Playing Fields.
The Old Boys go into the game boosted by beating Exmouth II 30-20 away last Saturday.
But Torquay, who finished as runners-up last season behind Tavistock, are likely to be another step up.
The Tics have a 100 per cent record so far and are averaging 47 points per game and have only conceded 37 points all season.
“Torquay is going to be a very difficult game,” admitted OPMs captain Billy Garratt. “They have been very dominant this season, but KGV is not an easy place to come.
“We just have to keep the energy and go-forward and, hopefully, we can beat Torquay.”
Second-placed Devonport Services II will be hoping OPMs can upset Torquay on Saturday.
Services II face the long trip to Barnstaple II on Saturday looking to maintain their winning start to the season.
They have picked up 19 points out of 20 so far this term, but Barnstaple II have won their last two matches and have not lost at home in 2023.
“Barnstaple II away will be a tough one,” said Services head coach Ben Russell. “But we should have a pretty strong side out.”
After their defeat to Services II last weekend, Plymouth Argaum will be looking to bounce back against Exmouth II at home.
Argaum are missing the likes of Dan Smith, Al Sullivan, Aaron Anderson-Smith, Al Percival, Reece Gocher, Tom Worboys and Owen Gocher, but they do welcome back Darren Ewers and Luc Phillips this weekend.
“We are at home and if we can build on last week and get selection right, I have no doubt we can get a result,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery.
“If you look at the league we have had a very tough start, playing four of the top five. We have got six points and we haven’t been miles away, so I’m not overly concerned.
“Obviously we want to be winning games, but there are plenty of positives there.
“We don’t turn into a bad team over the space of four or five months, we have just been so unlucky with injuries.
“I have full confidence in the players that they are going to get results.”
Ivybridge II face a difficult trip to Honiton on Saturday.
With the likes of Jack Skinner, Alex Garner, Lewis Swatton and Dan Gloyns moving up the first team this week, Ivybridge’s resources are set to be tested.
In Counties Two Cornwall, early leaders Saltash face a tricky trip to last season’s Counties Three champions Perranporth, who have made an impressive start to life in the higher division.
Perrranporth have won three of their opening four games, with their only defeat coming against a strong Redruth II outfit.
Perranporth are the second top scorers in the league behind Saltash and have put on more than 60 points against Bodmin and St Just in their last two matches.
Saltash will know going away to the Droop will not be easy. It will be their first league visit there since 2007 when they narrowly won 18-10.
The Ashes do welcome back Jay Moriarty for the trip, while Ryan Rayner is also back in the starting line-up after starting on the bench last weekend against Camborne School of Mines, who they beat 97-0.
Scrum-half Jack Pritchard will be playing his 50th game for the club.
In the same division, Liskeard-Looe will host Newquay Hornets at Lux Park.
THE big clash in Counties Three Devon South & West will come at Astley Park where Tamar Saracens will take fellow unbeaten side Brixham II.
The teams sit first and second in the early league standings with maximum points.
“I think it will be a tough one up there,” said Tamar Saracens head coach Mike Lewis.
“Their results show how good they have been going – they have beaten most teams convincingly.
“But you don’t really know what they are like until you have played team.
“Only once you have played every team once can you then get a gauge for the league.
“I think Saturday will be a good old test for both teams.
“The weather looks quite good so we should be able to play a bit of rugby.”
Sarries are missing Dane Waryck, Chris McDonald and Callum Perkin, but they are able to welcome back Josh Perkin and Reece Boase after injury.
Old Techs will be hoping to end a three-game losing streak when they host struggling Totnes at Weston Mill.
“So you always have to turn up and prepare like you are playing the top of the league.
“We certainly don’t expect Totnes to just roll over.”
He added: “Winning is a habit and so is losing and we just need to get back into that winning habit.
“Last week (against Oaks II) our scrums and line-out worked really well, which was a positive, but we didn’t really get anything from that advantage and all the ball we had.”
Techs do have a number of players on the sidelines with long-term injuries like Will Booth, Tom Blythe and Nathan Webb, who broke his thumb last week against Oaks, while serviceman Ben Hill has gone away with work.
However, Techs do hope to have Matt Simmonds, Al Murray an Ollie Davies available this weekend and have signed a new player, Jim Catmur, this week. Catmur has been out of the game for years but is keen to get back into it.
“For me, if we help get people back into the game that is a big part of it,” said Bedford-Smith. “Of course you want to win, but you want people playing rugby.
“We have a lot of players in their first season of proper rugby and it is about building and blooding these inexperienced lads.”
Plym Vic have had a really tough start to their return to league rugby and have already faced Brixham II and Tamar Saracens.
However, their difficult start has not impacted on their numbers and they have named a full squad of 20 to face Dartmouth, with a number of players returning.
Elsewhere in the division, Plymstock Albion Oaks II make the trip to Sandy Park to face Tavistock II.
Tavistock II, still looking for their first win since coming into the league, are not as strong as they hope to be but they expect that to change soon.
“The Moorlanders are not far off winning a game, they have just been a bit light in the pack,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy.
“But some older heads are coming back now and mixing them with the colts will make the team stronger.”
Props Josh O’Neill and Darren Guppy are set to return for Tavistock II. Oaks II are set to travel with a strong squad and were boosted by beating Techs last week.
In Counties Three Cornwall, Saltash II host Falmouth II at Moorlands Lane.