Albion Take A Punt On Cambridge

Dan Pullinger of Plymouth Albion is tackled by Olli Parkinson of Fylde during the National Division 1 match between Fylde v Plymouth Albion at the Woodlands Memorial Ground, on January 13 2018, Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, UK. PHOTO: Cameron Geran/PPAUK

Plymouth Albion face Cambridge RFC at Volac Park in National League One this Saturday, January 27 (KO 2pm).

Albion will be keen to play the fixture after their scheduled game against Loughborough Students was called off last Saturday.

Kieran Hallett’s side are now fourth in the table, while Cambridge are in 10th position, four places ahead of where they finished last season.

Head coach Hallett considered the pitch playable for the Loughborough game: “I still think we would have been fine to play. I was disappointed that Loughborough didn’t feel the same way. It is done with now and it is over to the National Clubs Association (NCA Rugby) and they will decide what happens next.

He said: “We have only got one free weekend left. I don’t know the whole process or what the options are – whether because the referee said the pitch was fit to play on and maybe they just award us the points, or whether we replay it on the Easter weekend.”

The postponement means Albion have played only one competitive game in five weeks

Hallett added: “Am I concerned? No. Would I have liked to have played those games? Yes.

“I am more worried that we now don’t have a free weekend before the end of the season while the teams around us have two or three. That makes things difficult and we will have to manage our playing minutes accordingly. Some of the boys may not be able to play week in week out any more, so we may have to share that around a little bit.”

With pitch problems of their own and yet to play at home this month as a result, Cambridge have not seen any action at Volac Park since mid-December.

Hallett says another postponement could cause real problems: “They are literally right next to a river so, if the weather doesn’t improve, I am pretty concerned about it. They can’t extend the season and the possibility of us having to do Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, becomes more and more likely. We just have to cross our fingers and hope that it’s OK.”

The team will have an early start for their 500-mile round trip to Cambridge but Hallett says the journey is not the only challenge: “They’ve given us problems every time we’ve played them. They are decent up front, have a big pack and a couple of times have had the better of us at set piece which doesn’t happen to us too often. They try and play some really good attacking stuff and if they get it right they carve teams open.

“It will be an interesting proposition. I think the weather and the pitch will play a big part in how the game is won. Their last two games were called off because of a properly waterlogged pitch so, even if it’s playable, I would imagine it is going to cut up pretty quickly. We will have to adapt on the day to win.”

When the sides met at Brickfields pitch in October, Albion were victorious (17-10) but Cambridge, who defended well, came away with a losing bonus point.

“We were going through a tough patch at the time and we drew against Old Elthamians two weeks after that. They caused us a few problems then, but I think we are a much better team now in terms of understanding what is required of us in certain situations.

“I am sure they have got better as well but we will just see how it goes on the day.”

Shortlisted in the Coach of the Year category at next week’s Herald sports awards, Hallett is tipping Plymouth Argyle manager Derek Adams for the honour: “In a football-dominated town when you get a promotion it is pretty nailed on!”

Nonetheless pleased to be nominated, he adds: “It is nice to get those individual accolades but, as I’ve said before, they come off the back of a lot of hard work from the people around me.”

Squad News

With Sean Lonsdale, Jack Owlett, Harvey Skinner and Marcus Street involved in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, the only dual-registered Exeter players available for selection are Harrison Cully, Ed Holmes and Joe Snow.

In any case, no changes have been made to Hallett’s side selected to face Loughborough last week.

Plymouth Albion team to face Cambridge at Volac Park on Saturday, January 27 (KO 2pm).

15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Seta Raumakita, 12 Dean Squire, 11 Harrison Cully, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Joe Snow, 1 Luke Chapman, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Ed Holmes, 5 John Kelly, 6 George Mills, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Eoghan Grace (Captain).

Replacements

16 Joel Armitage, 17 Jamie Salter, 18 Herbie Stupple, 19 Cameron Setter, 20 Jordan Gott