Rugby returns to Brickfields today (Saturday, February 3, 3pm) when Plymouth Albion take on Caldy RFC in National League One.
Despite their disappointing loss away at Cambridge last week (16-14), there was good news for Albion as club captain Herbie Stupple returned to match action following a long injury absence.
The number 8, who featured for 15 minutes at Volac Park, was delighted to be back but unhappy with the team’s overall performance.
He said: “We didn’t quite play how we wanted to. Seeing the conditions, it took us too long to get in the swing of things. Defensively we put a lot of pressure on them and forced mistakes but in attack we couldn’t keep hold of the ball for long enough. When we did, we scored tries, but it was a mixed bag of everything really; the conditions and a few individual mistakes.”
The 27-year-old from Padstow, who has missed three months with a slipped disc, was pleased to return to the field: “It was amazing really. I wanted to get on and try and change something in the 15 minutes I had. The injury was right at the back of my mind. It is not a worry and I am just happy to be back out there.”
Named on the bench once more for this week’s fixture, Stupple is an admirer of the Merseyside visitors’ style of play: “They are another one of the teams that love to throw the ball around and they play an expansive game.”
In fact, when the sides met at Paton Field in October, it was newly-promoted Caldy that took the lead: “They pushed us from the beginning, led in the first half and were very close to coming back in the second. They play some really good rugby. “
Caldy will be full of confidence following their big win over Old Elthamians (32-24) last week: ”They are on a high so they will be coming down and wanting to prove a point, especially after our loss. They will probably think we are a bit down in the dumps.
“The boys are excited. We are obviously upset about last week but we have been given a chance to redeem ourselves.
“It will be great as we haven’t had a home game for a while and the boys will be all guns blazing! We are looking forward to it.”
The fans’ favourite says he is hoping to feature for longer this week: “Personally, I feel a lot fitter than I thought I was going to. I would have liked to play more last week but you have to test the lungs and see where you’re at. Fitness-wise I came out of it really well. This week it would be nice to get my hands on the ball again.”
The Albion squad remains largely unchanged and Stupple agrees with head coach Kieran Hallett’s decision to give the team another chance.
“It was hard – a long day travelling, horrible conditions and I don’t think we were quite there mentally. It’s only fair they get another shot.”
One change sees Exeter’s Harvey Skinner return from Anglo-Welsh duties for the Premiership side.
Stupple rates the versatile centre highly: “He is a very good communicator and manages the game well. Having him alongside Muggy (Dan Mugford) is huge. He offers a kicking game too and it will be great to have him back pulling some strings out there.”
Earlier this week the National Clubs Association (NCA) announced that Albion will replay their scheduled fixture against Loughborough Students on Easter Saturday (March 31, KO 3pm).
Stupple said the impact of the postponement ran deep through the squad: “It was so upsetting personally for me as my first game back and I didn’t get to play but also because they came all the way down and didn’t want to play.
“The guys were upset but it is what it is. That’s one game we will definitely be up for!”
Plymouth Albion team to face Caldy at Brickfields on Saturday, February 3 (KO 3pm).
15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Harvey Skinner, 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).
16 Joel Armitage, 17 Jamie Salter, 18 Herbie Stupple, 19 Jordan Gott, 20 Cameron Setter