Plymouth Albion are at home at Brickfields this Saturday, March 24, for their top-of-the-table clash with National League One champions Coventry (KO 3pm).
Albion are third in National League One following last week’s home win over Bishop’s Stortford, 17-10.
Head coach Kieran Hallett says: “We weren’t at our best by a long stretch. Looking back through the video, we made eleven clean line breaks and didn’t finish any of them.
“If we convert two or three of those then everyone goes home happy. It was unlike us to be that inaccurate, with simple two-on-ones with the full back where we couldn’t put the ball away. On that individual level we simply weren’t good enough.”
Injuries led Hallett to name two Exeter Academy youngsters – centre Luke Flack and second row forward Lewis Pearson – as replacements and both took to the field for their first taste of National One rugby.
“I thought they did very well to slot in, especially after only one training session. It gives them a starting point to build on and get better but I was very impressed with the way they conducted themselves.
“It shows all the good work they are doing down at Truro College and Exeter College. They are preparing these guys for National League rugby while they are still at school and doing a fantastic job.”
Albion’s already depleted squad was weakened further during the game with injuries to key players causing Hallett some major headaches this week.
“Things are not looking great. We have brought in three more college students because we have had to. Dan Collier pulled up during the game and Dan Williams was struggling too but he is OK now. We are down to our bare bones really.”
Hallett was quick to praise Coventry’s achievement in securing the league title with several fixtures remaining.
“They have been the outstanding side in the league this year – there is no getting around that. They have done fantastically well to secure promotion with five games to go.
“Going into this week for us we couldn’t really be further away from that to be honest. We are picking up school students because we have got so many injuries.”
By his own admission, Albion were comfortably put away when the two sides met at Butts Park Arena back in November, but Hallett says his team are firmly focused on putting in a good performance on home turf.
“If you compare the squads that will go out at the weekend it would be easy to say there will only be one team in it, but we are certainly not just going to roll over and let it happen.
“I know my boys and they don’t have that in them so we will go out and give a good account of ourselves.”
The former fly-half is calling on his new-look team to go out and enjoy the game: “I am not going to put any pressure on these young kids. We have five in the match day squad, three of whom are starting. For the two guys last week it was their first game of men’s rugby ever. We have got another two who will play their first this week. So there is no pressure on them They are young and fearless and just need to go out and play and enjoy the experience.”
Despite Coventry already securing the title, Hallett recognises the importance of the fixture for his squad.
“It is not what it means to me, it is what it means to them They are the club. They will want to give a good account of themselves and put in a good performance. We are not going to roll over and die just because we have got a few injuries.”
Asked whether Coventry are likely to field a strong team, Hallet replied: “I would imagine they will go full strength. I would if it was me. I wouldn’t expect them to do us any favours.”
Plymouth Albion team to face Coventry at Brickfields on Saturday, March 24 (KO 3pm).
15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13, Luke Flack, 12 Robbie Weeks, 11 Jordan Gott, 10 Dean Squire, 9 Cameron Setter, 1 Luke Chapman, 2 Jamie Salter, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Lewis Pearson, 5 Dan Williams, 6 George Mills, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Herbie Stupple
16 Will Norton, 17 Rupert Freestone, 18 Flynn Elworthy, 19 Devon Jewsbury, 20 Setareki Raumakita