AFTER a third postponement in five, Launceston are set to be back in action on Saturday when they welcome Exmouth to Polson Bridge in Regional One South West (2.30pm).
Last weekend saw their trip to bottom side Drybrook fall foul of the big freeze, while the Cockles haven’t played since December 17 due to the weather.
Launceston have seen off Weston-super-Mare (14-5) and fourth-placed Devonport Services (18-13) already this month, but due to Okehampton’s successes over Devonport and then Drybrook, the gap between them and the bottom two is six.
However the All Blacks have moved up to seventh above Weston, Old Centralians and Exmouth, ensuring there’s all to play for between five sides come the end of the season.
Exmouth arrive in North Cornwall with an identical record to that of the hosts with six wins and eight defeats, but crucially the All Blacks have three extra bonus points to their name. When the sides met in East Devon back in October, an excellent second half performance from the hosts saw them run out 22-12 winners.
Exmouth also have an excellent record at Polson Bridge in recent years. They won 31-25 back in September 2021 and put 70-plus points past the All Blacks back in 2019.
That said, Launceston are a formidable side on their own patch, particularly in winter, and will fancy their chances of continuing their good start to 2023.
To do that they will have to make some alterations from the Devonport win. In the pack, Leion Cole is available again to start and lines up alongside Tom Bottoms with Jake Crabb dropping to the bench. Crabb was unavailable against Drybrook.
On the outside, centres Joe Stansfield and Jack Statton are both at university in Cardiff, meaning a recall for Martin Kneebone. Full-back James Tucker is also away for the weekend meaning an unfamiliar structure to the backline. Glenn Coles returns at ten to partner Adam Collings with the versatile Tom Sandercock joining Kneebone in the centre and James Slater taking Tucker’s spot at 15.
LAUNCESTON v Exmouth: James Slater, Archie dinnis, Martin Kneebone, Tom Sandercock, Dan Pearce, Glenn Coles, Adam Collings; Ethan Pearce-Cowley, Mitch Hawken, Andy Knight, Leion Cole, Tom Bottoms, George Bone, Lloyd Duke (capt), Brandon Rowley. Replacements: Alex Bartlett, Levent Bulut, Jake Crabb.
Counties One Western West
AFTER picking up an excellent losing bonus point against high-flying Topsham last Saturday, Bude will hope for the same, if not better, when they make their shortest trip of the season to Bideford.
Just 25 miles separate the two clubs and although the hosts will start as favourites, Bude will travel up the A39 in good spirits after four wins in succession before the narrow Topsham reversal.
Bude have a nine-point buffer over second bottom Paignton but with it appearing likely that three sides go down, they have plenty of work to do.
They sit two ahead of Kingsbridge who have a game in-hand and are level with Plymstock on 31, although the Oaks have just five games remaining having not been affected by the weather. Wiveliscombe are also on 31 having played the same number as Bude (14), meaning four sides are in a battle along with Paignton for survival.
Bideford are enjoying a decent campaign with eight wins and six defeats from their 14 outings and comfortably won at Bencoolen Meadow back in October as they ran out 46-14 winners, a margin of victory few sides manage in North Cornwall.
They will also be motivated by a 53-19 hammering at Penryn last weekend.
Bude make three changes from last weekend, all of which are enforced. Prop Matt Williams and winger George Hodgson are injured while the versatile Ben Hancock is unavailable. Their places go to Chris Allin and Jack Horwell while Ed Hilliam-Cooke is back and takes Hancock’s spot at inside-centre.
BUDE at Bideford: Olly Denford, Patrick Marks, Ben Tharme, Ed Hilliam-Cooke, Jack Horwell, Will Pharo, Olly Mounce; Jason Bolt, Rory Mead, Chris Allin, Chris Hill, Will Kingdon, Dec Smale, Finley Fry, Freddie Saxton (capt). Replacements: Fraser Martyn, Shaun Andrew, Luke Wilson.
Counties Two Cornwall
FOR SALTASH to win the title they will need outside favours following their 23-23 draw at Redruth Seconds last Saturday, and have another awkward away day when they head to Veor this weekend.
Saltash are now down to fourth, three points and two points behind St Austell Seconds and Veor respectively, although have two games in-hand.
However they are now 18 adrift of leaders St Ives with two games in-hand. Steve Down’s side still have the top two to play as well, ensuring plenty of interesting games are guaranteed over the next few weeks.
SALTASH at Veor: Ryan Cruickshanks, Ollie Crawford, Greg Eatwell, Sam Snell, Jay Moriarty (capt), Lewis Stuart, Jack Pritchard; Simon Nance, Axel Nicks, Ryan Simmons, Lewis Woolaway, Matt Coker, Lewis Wells, Phil Eatwell, Devon Bennett-Murray. Replacements: Rob Walsh, Liall Honey, James Sutton, Nick Blake.
They will hope their neighbours Liskeard-Looe – fresh off a morale-boosting victory over Bodmin – can pull off a major surprise when they go to St Austell.
Liskeard had conceded their previous two encounters against the Ashes and St Ives, but responded in the best fashion possible with their 10-8 win over Bodmin.
Bodmin themselves will expect to return to winning ways on Saturday when Newquay Hornets make the relatively short journey up the A30.
Bodmin beat Illogan Park in their last home outing, albeit on the 3G at Callywith College, and will hope to pull clear in the race for sixth.
Counties Three Cornwall
LAUNCESTON Castles are struggling for numbers tomorrow due to injuries and unavailability won’t travel to third-placed St Just.
The Castles were hoping to rearrange it for later in the season, but the request has been declined.
Bude Seconds are without a game while Lankelly-Fowey, who picked up a solid 29-17 victory at Wadebridge Camels Seconds last weekend, will back themselves to do so again when Roseland visit Lankelly Farm.
Roseland are ten points ahead but a bonus point, plus a bigger margin of victory than seven, will move them to within five.
Women’s NC 2 South West (West)
ALTHOUGH Launceston Ladies have the weekend off ahead of their crunch last 16 clash at Dings Crusaders in the Women’s Junior Cup, Bude are in action when they head up to Bideford tomorrow (4.30pm).
The Seasiders have found the going tough due to a series of injuries but will hope to have a few back for their first outing of 2023.
When the two sides met at Bencoolen Meadow back in October, Bideford edged home 18-12, so Bude will be hungry to turn the tide and move level on points which is what they would do if they can secure a bonus point victory and in the process stop Bideford from collecting any.
BUDE LADIES at Bideford Ladies: Teagan Parnell, Holly Stephenson, Frankie Perry, Lisa Allin, Jess Martyn, Caitlin Williams, Ellie Gregory; Beth Wilson, Jess Davey, Kessen Porter, Sam Pooley, Molly James, Phoebe Holden, Alex Gallagher (capt), Vinnie James. Replacements: Victoria Clarke, Natasha Davey.