AFTER a tough Devon derby last weekend against Barnstaple, Ivybridge face another on Saturday when they welcome county rivals Brixham to Cross-in-Hand in Regional One South West.
The Bridgers will have a point to prove this week after losing 55-7 at Barnstaple last Saturday.
“Barnstaple are a different animal to most of the teams we are going to play,” said Ivybridge head coach Davy McGregor.
“We also had several injuries last week but it was good to give another 18-year-old a shot.”
After six games, Ivybridge sit third-from-bottom in the table and only have one win to their name, although they have picked up five bonus points.
“The biggest pressure for us is our own pressure at this moment in time,” said McGregor.
“We are in a position we would not want to be in early on in the season, but we are in it.
“But we had a really good session on Wednesday and eight new lads turned up. It shows people still want to be part of the club.
“I think that fixture last Wednesday (against the Royal Navy U23s) was really positive and it got people talking. We have had two or three military guys get in touch as they really liked the pace we brought to the game and want to be part of that.”
He added: “Being at home it is a different ball game in this league. We are a different animal at home, but I think all the lads need to realise that it is not just going to happen for them.
“Ivybridge for a long time were just able to do enough to stay up but the league is getting much more competitive now. I have said to the lads that they need to show up to stay up.
“We have six back from last week and that’s massive. I have made some big calls. Some lads have being doing quite well but for this game we need, I’m not going to say our best as I don’t think we have found our best yet, but we need our most consistent 18 players.”
Charlie Briant, Kristian Davis, Sam Furse, Jamie Tripcony, Tom Scoles and Giles Clarke are among the players set to return, while Adam Northcott is set to start at hooker.
Games between Ivybridge and Brixham over the years have been quite competitive.
Of the 20 league meetings to date, Brixham have won 10 and Ivybridge eight, with two games ending in draws. The last meeting in January was equally tight, with Brixham just winning 25-24.
It is normally a game both clubs look forward to.
“What I have noticed is that there has been a bit more bite to training this week, which is great,” said McGregor, who played for Brixham in the 2019-20season.
“For me Brixham were a very, very welcoming club, as were Exmouth when I was there,” said McGregor.
“There’s no rivalry for me. I was just happy that clubs were giving me some game-time when I was coming back from injury.”
Devonport Services are also back at home this week when they host bottom side Weston-super-Mare at the Rectory.
Services are also keen to get back to winning ways after an agonising 12-11 loss away at leaders Chew Valley last Saturday.
Head coach Ben Russell felt his team deserved to win that encounter in Somerset but he does hope it has boosted his team’s confidence.
“I have just told the boys to start believing in themselves as we have gone to one of the teams picked out to be one of the favourites and just narrowly lost a game we should have won,” said Russell.
However, Russell has warned his team not to underestimate Weston, who only have one win to their name so far this season, which came last weekend.
“They beat Matson,” said Russell. “Obviously they started the season badly but they scored 33 points last week so it is not going to be a walkover.
“We have to carry on the performance from Chew and if we get the chance put the foot on the throat and then keep squeezing.”
Russell is keen for his team to show the same intensity as they showed against the top team when playing the bottom side.
“It is like when we played Albion in pre-season our intensity was unreal but in a few games it dropped as it’s not Albion.”
Russell will be missing Saturday’s match and he is hoping for a better outcome than the last game he missed.
“The last time I went away they lost by 50 points at Brixham,” he said.
Services should have a number of players back this week to create a few selection dilemmas.
REGIONAL ONE WESTERN WEST
TAVISTOCK will be looking for their first away in Western West when they travel to bottom side Wiveliscombe.
Tavistock sit in fourth place and are unbeaten at home after seeing off the top three sides Plymstock Albion Oaks, Kingsbridge and St Ives at Sandy Park.
But they have just not been able to get over the line on their travels. They drew at Paignton and lost by just one score at both Pirates Amateurs and Falmouth.
“We have picked points up every time we have gone away,” said Tavistock head coach Joel Caddy. “And that’s probably why we are where we are.
“We have got a few missing this week in the pack so we are going to have several young lads in there. They have all played before but maybe they will have to step up and play an even bigger part t his week.
“I think Wiveliscombe are a fairly big side and so we need to try and avoid an arm-wrestle with them.
“It really is into the unknown this week as Tavistock have never been there before. By all accounts they are supposed to be a pretty friendly and social bunch up there and we’ll find out tomorrow.
“We’ll just have to see what happens, but I’m quietly confident.”
Andrew Schuttkacker, Seb Cox, Dan Yeatman and Al Spicer are among those missing for Tavistock, but they do welcome back Jamie Legg.
In the same division, leaders Plymstock Albion Oaks will be looking to bounce back from last week’s 27-26 defeat at Tavistock when they host the unpredictable Tiverton at Horsham Fields.
“That (Tavistock) game could have gone either way and we could have won,” said Oaks head coach Lewis Paterson. “We just have to keep that momentum going into home and if we just put a couple of wrongs right then we should get another win.”
Oaks have only played Tiverton twice in league meetings and have narrowly lost both of them.
They were beaten 34-32 by them in January and went 24-21 away last October.
Tiverton have won three and lost three of their opening six games. They have overcome Pirates Amateurs, Paignton and Falmouth, but they have lost all their away matches, going down at St Ives, Kingsbridge and Penryn.
Most teams in Western West are finding away wins hard to come by.
“When you are away from home it is always going to be tough in this league,” said Paterson. “We beat Pirates with the last play of the game and almost beat Tavistock with the last play of the game.”
Having lost their 100 per cent record last week, Oaks will be determined not to lose their unbeaten home record.
PLYMOUTH Argaum will be looking for a big reaction to their 101-0 defeat to leaders Torquay Athletic last weekend.
Argaum host Exeter Saracens at Bickleigh Down this Saturday, who are on a bit of a roll after beating OPMs 51-12 last week which was their third straight win in a row.
“Exeter Saracens beat OPMs by 50 points so it will be tough, but we are at home and we should have a few boys back,” said Argaum head coach Dean Avery.
“We now have a run of games up until Christmas were hopefully we can start getting some points and start building again.”
Argaum are boosted by the return of Dan Smith, Al Sullivan, Reece Gocher, Tom Mann, Adam Fitzpatrick, John-Paul Browing, Jake Turfrey, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Owen Gocher and Al Percival.
Argaum, who have only won one game since their promotion, have not played any of the other teams in the bottom five.
OPMs are in a similar position, but they finally play one of their bottom five rivals this weekend when they host Honiton at King George V Playing Fields.
“We have Honiton at home, but it would be handy if we could have the same starting pack each week,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt.
“Consistency on who is playing where has been a bit mix-and-match so far.”
Honiton were one of the leading teams last season but so far this term they only have two wins to their name, one of which was a walkover against Ivybridge II. But they will travel to Plymouth boosted by a 46-13 home victory over struggling North Tawton last weekend.
The last time the teams met was nearly nine years ago when Honiton edged out OPMs 7-6 at King George V Playing Fields.
In the same division, second-placed Devonport Services II will be expecting a tough test when they travel to fourth-placed Withycombe.
Withycombe have won four of their six games and their only defeats were a 31-27 loss to Barnstaple II and a 24-17 reverse at South Molton.
Services II, who have only lost one game – 29-24 away at Barnstaple II – should have a few players back from last week’s narrow win over South Molton.
Ivybridge II will be hopeful of moving off the foot of the table this week when they travel to fellow strugglers North Tawton, who have yet to win a game.
The Bridgers are only below this weekend’s opponents as they had to hand Honiton a walkover at the end of last month.
In Counties Two Cornwall, unbeaten leaders Saltash face a tricky trip to fourth-placed Helston.
Helston have only lost once so far this term and are unbeaten on their own soil.
However, Helston do not score loads of point, unlike Saltash who are averaging more than 60 a game so far.
Saltash keep virtually the same side as which beat St Austell II 76-16 last week, with just one change in the pack and one in the backs.
In the forwards, Devon Bennett-Murray will make his first start of the season at number eight in place of Ryan Rayner, while in the backs Greg Eatwell comes in for Jason Carroll. Frank Cozens an Charlie Knight are added to the bench.
COUNTIES THREE Devon South & West leaders Tamar Saracens are not quite sure what to expect from Kingsbridge II when the teams clash at the Parkway on Saturday.
“They gave that walkover first game, but then they had two great results, then they lost to Salcombe 47-33 but then got hammered the next week to Torquay so I’m not really sure what side they will have,” said Saracens head coach Mike Lewis.
“But if we underestimate them it will be at our peril.
“I think they have a bit about them and if they have a good side out a really tough team to beat.
“I haven’t seen them play before or Kingsbridge’s first team for a couple of years so I’m not really sure how they play as a unit.
“It is going to be a bit of an unknown for us this weekend.
“We are at home and home games have felt few and far between. It has been stretched between the home fixtures.
“We do love playing at our place and the pitch at the minute, touch-wood, is in really good condition.”
It will only be Tamar Saracens’ third home game and their first since September 23. They also will not have another until November 11.
Sarries are missing quite a lot of experienced players this week including Reece Boase, Chris McDonald, Dane Waryck, Frazer Tatchell, Joey Pook, Marc Cioffi.
“We are probably missing eight players who are usually starters, but the positive is that we still have a team that when you see it you will think it is pretty much their first team,” said Lewis. “That just shows that bit of extra depth we have this year.
“Last week James Cluer played in the second-row. He’s a chap that hadn’t played for a while and just came training with us. He used to play for Newton Abbot as a kid, but he started last week and had a great game in the line-out, a great game at kick-offs and made all his tackles and carried. He did really, really well. He gets to keep the shirt again. He has really worked hard.”
Sarries have also added to their squad with the signing of Wales Deaf player Alex Parry.
Meanwhile, there’s a big game at St Mary’s Field where Plympton Victoria host city rivals Old Techs.
Old Techs have won their last two games and are sitting in sixth spot, while Plym Vic are still waiting for their first victory since returning to the league.
“We won’t be taking them lightly,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith. “You can’t afford to do that to any team in this league.
“I don’t think they are a bad side. They have stepped up a league and it might take them a bit of time to adjust, but they are scoring points so they must be doing something right.
“We haven’t played them for a long time. When I was playing we had some really good battles with them.
“We are looking forward to a derby.
Techs are missing a number of players including Eddy Ramazani and Ollie Davey, who started last weekend, but they hope to welcome back the experience Phil Ingleson, Danny Bond, Steve Wilkinson and Johnny Young, who have yet to feature this season, and Joe Bailey, who has only made one appearance.
Tavistock II will be optimistic of claiming their second win of the season when they travel to bottom side Totnes, while Plymstock Albion Oaks II have a tricky trip to Salcombe.
In Counties Three Cornwall, Saltash II host bottom side Redruth Albany. The Ashes will be keen for a win to try and pull clear of the bottom three. Will Morton is set to start in the centre for Saltash II, while Axel Nicks also returns and is named among the replacements.