Plymouth Albion welcome Rosslyn Park to Brickfields this Saturday, May 5, for the penultimate game of their National League One season (KO 3pm).
Originally scheduled for March 3, the tie was postponed when the London club were unable to travel west as a result of the wintry conditions.
Albion will be full of confidence after their convincing 29-5 win over last Saturday’s visitors, Blackheath, while twelfth-placed Rosslyn Park escaped relegation and secured third tier rugby again next season with a 55-14 home win over Old Albanian.
Head coach Kieran Hallett was pleased with his team’s performance: “I was disappointed we didn’t kick on after half time. Sometimes that happens but I think if Coventry or last year’s champions Hartpury were 24 nil up at the break, they would have won by 50 or 60 points and that is the difference in mentality at the moment.
“It is difficult when it is effectively a dead rubber. The first half performance was excellent and the game was effectively over but we have got to look at how to continue to push through games like that and put up a big score.”
Hallett, who announced his retirement from playing last summer, took to the field for the second week running as a result of his depleted squad and flanker Eoghan Grace moved forward in the pack to the second row.
The fly-half made very little of the shake-up: “I just think for the first time in a while we did the things we talked about in the week. It is no coincidence that our best performances this season have come when that has happened.
“The times when we have struggled, or not scored as many as we would have wanted to, are when we don’t do what we say we are going to. I think Lewis’s try in the corner was a perfect example of that. We said that they would get narrow and leave a lot of space on the edge and if we just moved the ball there we would be able to score.”
Albion’s strong performance was marred by a bad-tempered period in stoppage time when Eoghan Grace was red-carded for contact to an opponent’s eye area.
Hallett did not have a clear view of the incident: “I was quite far away but, looking at it again on the video, I can see why the referee came to that conclusion in real time.
“Looking at it in slow motion, I don’t think he made contact with the eye. He does make contact with the face, there’s no getting around that.”
As a result of the RFU discipline hearing this week, Albion will have to do without Grace against Rosslyn Park after he was handed a three-match ban. The back row forward will also miss the Loughborough Students game on May 12 and the club’s first pre-season fixture.
Hallett describes the Rosslyn Park fixture as a mental battle: “Everyone else has finished and it has been a long season. We are down on players available in terms of injuries and now obviously Eoghan is banned as well.
“It is a test of character, not so much terms of how we beat them or performance-wise, but can we get ourselves into a position mentally to go out and perform again.”
The last time the two sides met at The Rock in November, Albion needed a last minute try to draw the game at 26-all.
“They are a good side and I am surprised they are that far down the table. They have some very experienced players and their back three are dangerous. We struggled up there a little bit and it will be a difficult game plus it is going to be tough for them to travel the same day. They are mentally in the same place as us as they had a big win last week to make sure they stayed in the league so trying to get up emotionally for another game might be hard. But for us, we are now looking to push on and secure third.”
Talk in the press suggests that neither Rosslyn Park nor next week’s opponents Loughborough Students will be keen to travel to fulfil the fixtures that now have no bearing on promotion or relegation. Despite this, Hallett remains focused on the task ahead: “We are just preparing as if the game is going ahead and that’s all we can do. We are looking forward to pushing on and finishing third.”
In any case, there are fewer headaches as far as squad selection is concerned, with dual-registered Exeter players Jack Innard, Sean Lonsdale, Harvey Skinner and Joe Snow back in the fold after their A league final earlier this week.
“They haven’t been able to train this week because they played on Monday and had their end of season dinner on Thursday. That makes things difficult but at least we have got enough numbers to choose from.”
The club is also offering deals for this and the final home game – on May 12 – for students and serving and former military personnel.
Students can gain ground entry for £7.50 on production of an NUS card, representing a saving of 50% off the usual price of £15, while serving and former military personnel can gain entry for £10 with valid ID, saving £5 off the usual price.
Plymouth Albion team to face Rosslyn Park at Brickfields on Saturday, May 5 (KO 3pm).
15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Jordan Gott, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Robbie Weeks, 11 Harrison Cully, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Cameron Setter, 1 Will Norton, 2 Jamie Salter, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Lewis Pearson, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 6 Dan Williams, 7 Flynn Elworthy, 8 Herbie Stupple.
16 Luke Chapman, 17 Benjamin Phillips, 18 Jack Innard, 19 Luke Flack, 20 Joe Snow.
Press enquiries contact Lucy Ryland on 07779 725253 (email@example.com)