Bideford eye chance to go top of Tribute Western Counties table
BIDEFORD should take charge of the Tribute Western Counties (west) title race this weekend.
A bonus-point win over bottom side Honiton is well within the promotion chasers' capabilities and that would put them one point clear of current leaders St Austell.
Bideford manager Dave Harris's prediction that January would be a difficult month for the Cornish side has proved accurate.
The Chiefs were beaten 28-17 at Torquay Athletic on Saturday – a second successive defeat, following the 20-15 reverse at Penryn.
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Bideford took advantage with a 22-3 win over Ivybridge at King George's Field, scoring a bonus-point clinching fourth try late in the game to put them within striking distance of the top of the table.
Harris said: "I said January was going to be a big month for St Austell. They did well to win away at Kingsbridge with a bonus point, I could see them coming unstuck at Penryn and Torquay away is always going to be difficult.
"The ball is in our court. Honiton are playing for survival and we won't take anything for granted but we should go top on Saturday and then it is in our hands."
Harris will be wary, though, of tough fixtures ahead against Kingsbridge and Penryn away, and Okehampton and St Austell at home.
Bideford scored all their points in the second half as they avenged October's 33-31 defeat to Ivybridge, when they led 31-10 at the break.
This time it was Ivybridge who led at half time, but only 3-0 from an Adam Bradley penalty.
Bideford were quickly into their stride in the second half, scoring three tries before the hour mark.
Simon Bright and Pete Hockridge forced their way over from catch-and-drive moves, with Pat Sanders converting the first.
For the third, Paul Thomas, Bideford's man of the match at prop, made a charge, Richard Norman and John Mock carried it on, then Chris Snell put Sam Olde in at the corner.
Ivybridge, 17-3 down, responded strongly and were pushing for a losing bonus point in the closing stages. But they lost possession and James Buckland and Adam Crouch hacked the ball through for the latter to score the bonus-point try.
"We would have taken just a win against Ivybridge after what happened down there," said Harris.
Andrew Loosemore, the captain and centre, will have a knock to his knee assessed in training this week ahead of the Honiton game. Andrew Baxter stands by to replace him.
Sanders is likely to start at centre in place of the unavailable Buckland. Mike Williams is also unavailable but fellow forward Dave Evans will return.