IT IS derby day at Cross-in-Hand on Saturday as Ivybridge host neighbours Devonport Services in Regional One South West (2.30pm).
The two clubs are sitting in contrasting positions in the league table.
Services are flying high in second place with six wins out of eight, while Ivybridge are lying second-from-bottom with just one victory to their name this season.
However, both sides are aware that in big derby games form goes out of the window and Ivybridge did win last season’s league fixture at home thanks to a last-gasp try.
“They are second from bottom and we are second from top and if form dictates then we should go there and win, but the lads know that we won’t win unless we front up,” said Services head coach Ben Russell. “We have to show up.
“They will come out firing as it is their home game.”
He added: “They went away to Chew last week and scored 31 points. They are the only team to have scored four tries away at Chew.
“And anyone on their day in this league can beat anybody and it’s the big local derby.
“They beat us there last year in the league before we won at our place and also in the cup.
“They will want to stop our good run as we are their local rivals whereas we want to continue it as we want to be pushing.”
Russell admits his team have not forgotten their 18-13 defeat on this weekend last year at Ivybridge.
“We didn’t play well at all,” said Russell. “We just didn’t attack and weren’t a threat at all, but I thought, without playing well, we might have just sneak the win, but they scored with the last play of the game to win it.
“But I think since then we have grown and we are more competitive.
“Our twos are going really well as well so we have the right environment, culture and competitive squad, which is why I think we are pushing on this season.”
Services will be missing forward Mark Friend, who has started their last seven games.
“He’s been brilliant and he got our player of the month in October,” said Russell. “He will be missed but we do have James Hocking back this week.
“Harrison Coonick is also back, which is good for us as he scores tries for fun and is such an attacking threat.”
However, Services are waiting to see if centre Tom Davies will be fit to play.
Ivybridge are set to welcome back Kristian Davis and Sam Courtney, while Wes Vermigle and Dylan Armstrong are set to come into the starting line-up.
The Bridgers are looking forward to the game and are expecting a big crowd. They will have outside bars open to cope with a big crowd and hey will be offering breakfasts and lunch at the club.
“It is a massive derby game and they are always exciting occasions,” said club chairman Jay Geraty.
“The form book goes out of the window a bit.
“It is always a great occasion for both teams and a game you’d want to be involved in. The derby games are always the ones you remember.
“Obviously they are on a good run, but our lads are training hard and despite the scoreline last week, it was a really positive performance. There was a great attitude and we really showed a lot of heart, but we were just beaten by a really well-drilled big outfit who will probably win the league.”
COUNTIES ONE WESTERN WEST
WESTERN West league leaders Plymstock Albion Oaks will be confident of securing another win when they host Penryn at Horsham Fields on Saturday.
Penryn maybe seventh in the table and have five wins to their name but all of those have come at home. They have not yet picked up a point on their travels, although they did win at Horsham Fields last season and do have a good record against Plymstock.
“They will be a good side,” said Oaks head coach Lewis Paterson. “But I think we are pretty confident that we are the strongest side in the league on our day.
“A lot of teams are going to come and try to get the win on us, but it is an advantage playing at home.
“I think the main thing for us is that we want to go out and try and put in a dominant performance. We still feel we haven’t played to our full potential.”
In the same division, fourth-placed Tavistock will be looking to bounce back from their defeat at Bude last weekend when they host Tiverton at Sandy Park.
Tavistock are still unbeaten at Sandy Park this season but they are expecting a tough test from Tiverton, who beat Wiveliscombe 58-6 last weekend.
“I think they (Tiverton) have got a fairly big pack and a good set-piece and it will be another challenge,” said Tavistock coach Joel Caddy.
“The league is pretty tight. The top four stayed the same last week, but I think from us down to eighth or ninth there’s only about eight points.
“We will just see what Tiverton turn up with, but, as I say every week, we just have to worry about ourselves.”
Caddy is hoping the Sandy Park pitch will be okay to play some good rugby on.
“We have an ex-players day so we want to have a good spectacle to watch,” he said.
Tavistock are boosted by having the likes of Charles Bowden, Seb Cox, Al Spicer and Ethan Lamerton back in the mix, but Conor Packwood is still a couple of weeks away from returning.
WHILE their first team are battling Devonport Services at Cross-in-Hand, Ivybridge II will also be in derby action when they make the short trip to Elburton to take on OPMs at King George V Playing Fields.
The Bridgers’ second team sit bottom of the league, but they look set to field one of their strongest teams of the season against ninth-placed OPMs.
The Old Boys have won their last two games and are keen to make it a hat-trick, although they are expecting Ivybridge to be up for the match.
“Every team seems to turn up against us so we are expecting a strong Ivybridge team we just have to make sure we have as strong, if not an even better team,” said OPMs captain Billy Garratt..
“There are another couple of games in the calendar before the new year that we are targeting and hopefully, we will be in a good position by Christmas and go from there.”
Plymouth Argaum will be desperate for a victory when they host second-from-bottom side North Tawton at Bickleigh Down on Saturday.
Both clubs have only won one game apiece, with Argaum’s coming on the opening day of the season against Barnstaple II.
“It is a bit of a must-win one against North Tawton at home,” admitted Argaum head coach Dean Avery.
Avery knows if he can get good availability then they do have a good chance to pick up some points in the coming weeks with fixtures to following against OPMs and Ivybridge II after this weekend’s contest with North Tawton.
He is hoping the will have Reece and Owen Gocher, Tom Mann and Tom Worboys available again this week.
At the other end of the table, Devonport Services II will be keen to continue their good form when they host Exmouth II at the Rectory.
Services II have only lost once this season and are keeping the pressure on Torquay Athletic, who they face next weekend.
Devonport should be stronger than last weekend and could have Richard West back.
The Ashes have hammered Liskeard-Looe in their last two meetings but the Lions are a much stronger side this season, with the likes of former Plymouth Albion prop Luke Chapman and ex-Devonport Services player Cian Goldsmith having returned to them.
Liskeard have won half of their league games this term, but Saltash still have a 100 per cent record.
Saltash stick with a similar team to which beat Illogan Park 67-0 last weekend. There is just one personnel change in the backs and one in the pack.
In the backs Danny Snook comes back in at centre, while in the forwards Ryan Rayner returns at number eight with Devon Bennett-Murray switching to the second-row.
Club captain James Moriarty is set to make his comeback from injury in the Ashes’ second team match against Camborne II.
ALL eyes in Counties Three Devon South & West will be on the Parkway where the division’s only two unbeaten sides clash, with Tamar Saracens hosting Dartmouth.
Both clubs are flying high at the top, with Dartmouth leap-frogging above Sarries last weekend after the Ernesettle-based club’s away fixture with Paignton II was postponed.
That postponement meant that Sarries have only played one fixture in six weeks – a comfortable 67-5 away win over bottom side Totnes.
Saracens’ head coach Mike Lewis is hoping a lack of match fitness will not tell for such a bit game.
“They don’t make games much bigger than this, do they?” said Lewis.
“Both teams have 100 per cent records so far and these are the type of games you play rugby for.
“We want to get out of this league, they will want to get out of this league and this is like a bit of an early season decider.
“I don’t think this game will be pivotal in who will win the league but it will give whoever wins it that huge step up.”
He added: “If we had played last week and won then we’d have just had that safety gap.
“Whichever way it goes this weekend, it will affect the way you play over the next few months – are you going to be nervous or playing with more freedom.”
On his side’s lack of recent games, Lewis said: “Sometimes a break can give you that bit of hunger and desire, but will we lack a bit of match fitness? I’m not sure.
“I know the way we can play but we haven’t played this new Dartmouth team. We played them around February time and that was just when they were starting to turn the corner, but we haven’t seen the way they play. They have had some great results and we just have to see if we can nullify them on our patch.”
Sarries are set to welcome back Frazer Tatchell after his red card against Brixham II, while Joe McKinley is also set to return, but the likes of Chad Smith, Greg Parratt, Chris McDonald and Callum Perkin are still missing.
After securing their first win since returning to league rugby last weekend, Plympton Victoria find themselves in an unusual position of having expectation on them this Saturday when they host winless Totnes at St Mary’s.
Totnes have had a tough season but in recent weeks they have shown big improvement and last Saturday they picked up a losing point bonus point in a 17-10 defeat to Kingsbridge II.
Plym Vic might have beaten Tavistock II last Saturday and run in six tries, but they insist they have no intention of just expecting another win this week.
“We do want to try and kick-on but we certainly won’t be getting complacent,” said chairman Chris Hunt.
“We need to look at this game and expect it to be as hard as any other.”
Old Techs will be expecting a tough game when they visit Torquay Athletic II.
Like a lot of second teams, Torquay II have been very inconsistent but they did beat Oaks II last weekend and have twice scored 50 points this season.
Techs are still waiting to see if their 12-8 win against Salcombe last weekend at Weston Mill will stand after the game was abandoned in the final few minutes due to a knee injury to visiting player, although they have been told by the league secretary that the result should stand.
“We are on a bit of a run now, with four wins in a row,” said Techs’ Shaun Bedford-Smith.
“And we would like to keep that going and make it five.
“The big thing for us is to try and improve our away record outside Plymouth.
“We don’t know anything about them (Torquay II). We have not played them for years. We have just heard that they have a big pack, but it is sometimes quite nice not knowing anything about your opposition.”
Techs will be travelling up on the train and plan to make a day of it.
They are set to welcome back Billy Evans following the birth of his daughter and also Sion Norvill, but they are missing Dan Pullen, Ben Hockey and Lewis Harvey.
Tavistock II face Salcombe this weekend and they should be boosted by a having a few more players back. Calum Baker and Tylo Coupland are also expected to add some strength to the Moorlanders.
In the same division, fourth-placed Plymstock Albion Oaks II make the tough trip to third-placed Brixham II, who have only been beaten by title-chasing Dartmouth and Tamar Saracens.
In Counties Three Cornwall, Saltash II have another big test when they host second-placed Camborne II at Moorlands Lane.
Camborne II have only lost once, while ninth-placed Ashes need to pick themselves up after a heavy defeat at Launceston II last Saturday.
The Ashes second string are boosted by having a number of players back and are set to include James Moriarty, as he makes his comeback from injury, and Andrew Walsh in their backline.