Hard work starts now for Western Counties leaders Bideford
BIDEFORD have been warned the hard work is only just beginning after they went top of the Tribute Western Counties (west) table.
Simon Bright scored a hat-trick of tries as Bideford got the bonus-point win they needed in their game in hand, against Honiton on Saturday, to move a point clear of former leaders St Austell.
But with games against Kingsbridge, Okehampton and Penryn to come before the March 9 showdown with St Austell, Bideford cannot afford to celebrate yet.
Kevin Booth, the coach, said: "The hard work will start now we have finally taken that top spot from St Austell.
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"I said earlier in the season I would rather be looking up and chasing than sitting there thinking we are comfortable.
"Momentum is an immense factor now. You can see from St Austell how teams can get caught at the top. We can't sit back and rest on our laurels."
Excitement is building at King George's Field in anticipation of a thrilling end to the season with a potential league and Devon Intermediate Cup double.
"There is a real buzz about the club and it's great to be part of it," said Booth.
"The committee are backing us with the resources we need and hopefully we can all pull together and go forward."
The only disappointment for the club is that the second XV, the Harlequins, had another match cancelled at the weekend when Teignmouth II failed to travel north.
The Quins are unbeaten this season but seven fixtures have not been fulfilled by their opponents.
"Something has got to be done about it," said Booth. "It seems nobody wants to travel to Bideford."
Sam Olde (dead leg) and Dave Evans (calf) are expected to shake off injuries for the first XV's trip to Kingsbridge on Saturday. James Buckland and Mike Williams are available again, while captain Andrew Loosemore could start after being named on the bench at Honiton as a precaution against a knee problem.
"Everyone is so keen to be involved and it makes it so hard for us as selectors," said Booth."It's a great position to be in but people will be disappointed."
Tom Skelding has been declared fit to resume playing for Barnstaple.
The player-coach has started only one game since Christmas because of illness. But he has been cleared to return to the second row for Saturday's National Three south west fixture at Chippenham.
Kevin Squire, the director of rugby, said: "Tom Skelding has been told he can resume playing.He's delighted and I'm ecstatic.
"He is such an influence on the side and he will be right back in the team on Saturday."
Skelding's return is part of a triple boost for Barnstaple with captain Winston James (back) and top try scorer Linford Brock (shoulder) fit again after missing the defeat to Brixham last time out.
Kele Taofinu'u will be fit to start in the back row after hobbling through the Brixham game with a calf problem. Ben Vellacott, the scrum half, is unavailable again but new signing James Bath, the former England Colleges No 9, will make his debut.