IVYBRIDGE and Devonport Services both face tough away trips this weekend in Regional One South West.
The Bridgers, after finally getting off the mark two weeks ago against St Austell, travel to Barnstaple, while third-placed Services head to leaders Chew Valley.
Ivybridge head coach Davy McGregor feels the pressure is off his side this weekend as no-one will be expecting them to beat former National League side Barnstaple, who have only lost once this season and who have already beaten Services and Brixham at Pottington Road.
“I think we are in a fortunate position as there isn’t any pressure on us as we are not expected to go up there and win,” said McGregor. “Barnstaple are not going to expect us to beat them.
“It was a shame we didn’t have a game last week after the St Austell match, but we now have 42 players fit and available to be able to pick two strong squads.”
He added: “No game is easy in this league so it’s not like you prepare any different.
“What I have said to the lads this week is our goal is to try and score four tries. If we come home with 28 points then we are doing something right and if you score that many point you are likely to be in with a chance of winning. That’s the sort of goals we have for away games.
“The way we attacked against St Austell shows the boys are starting to buy into the system. It is a very simple system, but it is one that takes a buy-in from everyone.”
Ivybridge might not have had a first or second team league game last weekend but on Wednesday their development side played the Royal Navy U23 side at a wet Cross-in-Hand.
The Royal Navy team had led 13-3 at half-time with two tries on the left by winger Ben Callard and a penalty. Ivybridge’s first-half points came from a penalty by Lewis Swatton.
The hosts cut the gap to three points right at the start of the second half with a converted try from close range by Mark Hardie.
Swatton then kicked a penalty on 63 minutes to equalise but with three minutes the Navy had gone back in front with a third try by Callard. Swatton kicked a late penalty but they could not sneak the win.
George Montgomery and Dan Lilley made their comebacks in the game, but on-loan Plymouth Albion player Taine Morgan suffered a serious foot injury.
McGregor said afterwards: “We had four lads that had never played senior rugby and I think an under-23 fixture was an opportunity for those boys to play against lads that are at a similar developmental stage physically.
“It is also good to allow boys to play a game that doesn’t really mean anything so they can play with a little bit more freedom.
“Our average age was 23 and under but due to a few injuries the previous weekend we did have a couple of older lads, but for us it was a development squad. The big thing for us is we had a few lads who came back a bit nervous but are now ready to play again.”
Third-placed Devonport Services are expecting a tough test at leaders Chew Valley on Saturday.
Both clubs have only lost once this season, but Chew have averaged nearly 50 points a game and have only dropped three points from their opening five games.
“If you want to be near the top end then you have to at some point beat one of the top sides at their place,” said Services head coach Ben Russell.
“The thing about this league is that it is competitive and you have to always battle and always turn up.
“We didn’t turn up in the second half at Barnstaple and we came away without even a bonus point.”
He added: “We went to Chew last year and we should have won game. I think we were 32-17 up at one point, but we just made wrong decisions at the wrong times and missed some one-on-one tackles and they won it 34-32. Hopefully, we have learned a bit from that.
“At the moment they are the side to beat. They lost to Brixham away (39-36), but they had a red card and a yellow card. Looking at results so far they are looking like one of the favourites for the league.
“It is a small pitch and we just have to front up, play in the right areas, defend well and take our chances if we get them.”
Services are missing a few key backs this weekend. In-form full-back Harrison Coonick and scrum-half Dylan Daley are both ruled out with concussion after taking knocks against Brixham two weeks ago. Fly-half players Kieran Down and Richard West are also both away, which means Shaun Crawford is likely to start in the number 10 shirt, having finished there against Brixham.
Services are hopeful that forwards Liam Jarvis and James Hocking are fit after picking up niggles against Brixham.
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
THE big game in Western West is at Sandy Park where fifth-placed Tavistock host neighbours and early league leaders Plymstock Albion Oaks.
Tavistock have won both their home games since promotion, beating Kingsbridge and St Ives, while Oaks have won all five of their opening fixtures with bonus points. However, Sandy Park has not been a happy hunting ground for them in recent years and they have not won there since October 2016.
“Tavistock will be a tough team and place to go,” said Oaks coach Lewis Paterson. “So we need to be on our game.
“We have prepared well this week and are just looking to pick up a win.”
Paterson is hoping his team can play better than their last outing against Wiviliscombe. Although they won 31-19, Oaks felt there was a lot of improvement to be made.
“It is a big game this weekend and we have a lot to put right after the last match we played,” said Paterson. “I’m not taking anything away from a strong Wiviliscombe team, but we were poor and put a lot of pressure on ourselves.”
Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy said: “Plymstock are where we were last year. They have got off to a great start and everyone else is chasing them.
“This is our chance to try and throw a spanner in their works.
“They are obviously a decent side as you don’t go five from five if you are not.
“In theory this will be our biggest test to date. We will find out where we are but you could argue that Plymstock will do as well.
“We are looking forward to it. It should be a fair old game of rugby.
“Plymstock like to throw it around so it should be entertaining afternoon.”
Tavistock are set to be missing back-row forward Jamie Legg, who is set to become a father. His place will go to Andrew Schuttkacker, who will be playing his 250th game for the club.
Dan Yeatman comes into the second-row, with Jack Easton starting at fly-half.
PLYMOUTH Argaum will be hoping to right a few wrongs from last weekend’s Devon Junior Bowl final defeat when they travel to Counties Two Devon leaders Torquay Athletic.
Argaum made too many errors in their 31-24 loss away at Dartmouth last week and head coach Dean Avery is hoping his team can do the basics right at Torquay’s Recreation Ground.
“We have a tough week at Torquay, but we just have to pull the boys up,” said Avery, who is hoping to have Dan Smith back after missing the last few games.
“If we look after the ball there’s no reason why we can’t go up there and get a result.”
After some tough opening fixtures, Argaum know after this weekend they have a run of games against teams also currently sitting in the bottom half of the league.
This weekend will be their sixth game and all the teams they will have played are in the top six.
OPMs have had a similar run of fixtures, but this weekend they face their first lower half side when they travel to Exeter Saracens.
Exeter Saracens have won their last three games against North Tawton, Honiton and Ivybridge II, but they have been beaten by Torquay and Exmouth II.
The Old Boys will have an idea of what to expect in Exeter, having also been in the same league as them in the 2021-22 season.
However, OPMs’ recent record at Exhibition Fields is not the best and they have lost on their last four league visits.
There is a big game in the division at the Rectory where second-placed Devonport Services II take on fourth-placed South Molton.
Both clubs have only lost once this season, but Services II have scored nearly 100 points more than South Molton in their five games.
Services II will have to make a number of changes to their team that played Barnstaple II in their last outing with Matt Neyle set to return to the first team and Kieran Down and Richard West away.
Ivybridge II expected to be as strong as they have been all season when they host Withycombe at Cross-in-Hand.
The Bridgers have been struggling with injuries and unavailabilities and had to pull out of their last fixture. Handing Honiton a walkover meant they dropped to the foot of the table.
In Counties Two Cornwall, leaders Saltash have a big home match against St Austell II at Moorlands Lane.
St Austell’s only defeats this season have come at the hands of second-placed Redruth II.
The Ashes did have two good games against St Austell II last season, winning the home game 34-17 and the away match 16-10.
Saltash are boosted by the return of Devon Bennett-Murray, who will start on the bench, but they are missing experienced wingers Will Morton and Jay Moriarty.
DEVON South & West leaders Tamar Saracens insist they will not be taking anything for granted when they travel to winless bottom side Totnes on Saturday.
Sarries are unbeaten at the top, with five bonus-point wins out of five, whereas Totnes sit on minus five points and have conceded an average of 80 points a game.
“If you look at their league position and their results then you would expect us to win, but they contacted us on Tuesday to say they already had a team so that suggests they might have got a few players back and might be stronger,” said Tamar Saracens head coach Mike Lewis.
“Hopefully, we turn up with our heads on and ready to play.
“We are looking for those five points every week to stay one step ahead. And Totnes is one where you think you should get it, but it’s away and it’s their pitch, which they are used to. It’s always a bit tricky going away.
“We are going to be make sure we are switched on and we are dotting all the i’s and crossing all the T’s to make sure it goes properly.”
Sarries are set to be missing Frazer Tatchell after he picked up a red card in their last match at Brixham II, while Royal Navy second-row Chris McDonald is now away for a while with work.
Old Techs are hoping to build on their big win over Totnes last time out when they host Tavistock II, who got off the mark last Saturday by beating Paignton II.
“They got their first win last week against Paignton so that will have given them a boost,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“I think they are starting to get a few players back and that’s filtering down to their second team.
“We’re looking forward to the game. Hopefully, the weather will hold up.”
Techs are set to welcome back Will Booth after he picked up a hamstring injury in pre-season and Brett Tunnicliffe and Lewis Harvey are also set to return, but Jenson Baker, Joe Bailey, Ben Hill and Josh O’Hare are unavailable, while Nathan Webb is out for a while after breaking his thumb an Tom Blythe has had an operation on his hand.
Tavistock II have named a strong side, with the experienced Andy Yates and second-row Tylo Coupland among those to have played in the first team this season.
There is also a Plymouth Combination derby at Horsham Fields where Plymstock Albion Oaks II host Plympton Victoria.
Plym Vic are still waiting for their first win back in the league but they will have taken confidence from their performance against unbeaten Dartmouth in their last outing.
They have also pushed Oaks II hard in recent meetings.
In Counties Three Cornwall, Saltash II face a tough trip to unbeaten league leaders Hayle on Saturday.