Preview to Plymouth (H) 26.10.13


Turning back the clocks at St Peter

The last weekend in October seems very early for a return match - the clocks haven't even gone back yet.

But that's what we're facing at St Peter this weekend, with Jersey and Plymouth Albion having the second of three Championship encounters for 2013/14 (the third will be a Valentine's weekend love match in February). Kick-off is at the earlier time of 2.30pm, as the visiting squad will be passing up the attractions of a night out at the Traf in St Aubin in favour of an early evening flight to Southampton.

Plymouth -albion -kit

The season opener enabled Albion to avenge two defeats at Jersey's hands in 2012/13, and leaves the men from Devon just above Jersey in the table.

With tough trips to Rotherham and London Scottish on the agenda to start November, Jersey will be especially keen to get a win on home soil.

A key factor for the home side will be to remain switched on throughout, avoiding the lapses that have been responsible for their three defeats thus far.

The priority for Albion will be keeping 15 men on the field throughout, something they've only managed once in six competitive games this campaign, with a tally of one red and seven yellow cards thus far.

Recent History - 1 Big Rugby Weekend

South-west 'neighbours' Albion and Jersey were paired together in the ground Plymouth fans refer to as Shandy Park. Tom Brown claimed the Islanders' first try of the season, this was cancelled out by Ien Ascroft-Leigh, but Ed Dawson's try enabled his side to lead 15-13 at the break.

Shandy Pk

When Aaron Penberthy stretched his side's lead with two early penalties, it looked like a done deal given the strong wind behind Jersey. Instead, the wheels came off - Chris Elder and Tom Bowen (above) scored tries, and although Penberthy was able to level the scores at 27-all, Albion pulled clear with two more tries.

The match featured a prominent performance in the impact-sub-cum-panto-villain Rob Langley. Soon after coming on Langley committed a professional foul but was spared the sin-bin because the referee didn't see his number, and couldn't refer to the TMO as the offence wasn't foul play. The rangy forward then proceeded to surf the wave of good fortune on which he found himself, scoring his side's fourth try and then being spared a likely red card for a tip-tackle on Jersey's Dave Felton. He departed, grinning, to spend the last seven minutes of the game in the sin-bin, with Jersey supporters spluttering into their beer.

The full match report can be found HERE

News from the Jersey camp

Director of Rugby Ben Harvey mixed things up in the British & Irish Cup, but is set to return to the line-up he considers his strongest available for this game.

Jersey will hope Tongan hooker Elvis Taione will leave the Island for a three-week international break on a winning note, while Nicky Griffiths will surely return to the scrum-half berth.

The home side will name their side at 12noon on Friday.

New Coach leads Albion into 2013/14

James Shanahan was appointed a few days before Albion concluded their 2012/13 season, altho' the new man completed the season as Player-Coach of Old Albanians, steering the club to a creditable fifth spot in SSE National One. Shanahan played for Albion during 2002/03 - one stop of a career that also took in Exeter, the Cornish Pirates, Bedford and Cambridge.

Albion had a disjointed pre-season, not helped by Worcester cancelling a planned fixture due not having sufficient players (the implausible 'our coach caught fire on the motorway' excuse just wasn't going to wash). Plymouth did give a mixed Gloucester squad a decent game, losing 22-13 at Kingsholm, and also had wins against Aberavon, Exmouth and Redruth.

The season started with the Double Header match with Jersey, and the following Friday Albion looked to be cruising to their second win of the season, 31-6 up over Moseley just before half-time at Brickfields. Somehow the visitors got back into it, and the match finished 34-all, with Plymouth gaining three points.

The final weekend of September saw Albion head to the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, where they were well-beaten by London Welsh, before another Friday night home game featuring a lead that was lost, London Scottish replacement Jamie Stevenson scored a late try to clinch a 20-22 win for his side.

The British & Irish Cup has seen Albion claim nine points from two games, defeating Nottingham 28-9 at home and then scoring six tries in a 9-38 win at Stirling.

James _Shanahan _250.ashx

'Shanners' (pictured above) has overseen a significant change in personnel over the summer, with a number of new signings, including centre Pale Nonu from Rotherham, full-back Chris Elder (Esher) fly-half Dan Mugford from London Scottish and prop Tom Harrison from French side Auch. There have also been departures, including Tongan veteran Keni Fisilau for Oxford Harlequins, and Canadian skipper Aaron Carpenter to Cornish Pirates.

Two Canadian internationals remain - former captain Sean-Michael Stephen, and lock Brett Beukeboom, who faced Jersey's Taione in the Pacific Nations Cup tie between Canada and Tonga in June (Albion team-mate Sam Matavesi made his debut for Fiji in the same tournament) but was not required by his country as they secured a World Cup 2015 berth by beating their US neighbours in a two-leg show-down in August. Beukeboom is currently suspended having been sent off in the match against London Scottish.

Perhaps the most interesting position for Plymouth is fly-half where, like guests making for the Ferrero Rocher at the ambassador's party, they are truly spoiled. Supporters are divided whether Mugford or the Irishman Declan Cusack is the preferred option. Cusack joined during last season and had his first start in the game against Jersey at Brickfields in March, but was injured for last month's Jersey game when Mugford slotted seven kicks at a 100% success rate. To complicate matters, Shanahan is also a fly-half and has utilised his own services from the bench in all the league matches so far this season.

Mugford, with 54, is Albion's top points scorer this season and after four Championship matches he has slotted 19 of his 20 kicks at goal with the other effort hitting an upright.

Albion have a number of dual registered players, but haven't yet seen much of wing Jack Arnott, scrum-half Rob Coote and the front row Cowan-Dickie brothers Tom and Luke. Luke, the younger of the two, was part of the winning England squad in the Under 20 World Cup in France this summer.

History of Plymouth Albion RFC

Plymouth Albion RFC (then Devonport Albion) were formed in 1875 and their team originally comprised of Dockyard apprentices taken from the local harbours.

Plymouth's first home was Devonport Park before they moved to Home Park, which is now the home of Plymouth Argyle FC. In 1925 the club relocated to Beacon Park, which remained their home until 2003 when they moved to their current ground Brickfields.

In the late 1980's Albion were one of the leading lights in the setting up of the National Leagues. In 1988-89, the first season that promotion was available, Albion won Courage League Three with a 100% record that saw them promoted to the second tier of English rugby.

After two seasons at that level, Albion went into a period of decline and were nearly relegated from the National Leagues altogether. In 2000 former England and Bath hooker Graham Dawe was appointed as Chairman of Rugby in order to try and turn the clubs fortunes around.

Promotion came in Dawe's second season and a unbeaten run of 43 leagues games saw Plymouth gain another promotion, this time to National League One (now the Championship).

Dawe put together a formidable squad which included players such as Dan Ward-Smith, Luke Arscott and Will James, and in 2005 Albion finished third, were just 11 points off promotion to the Premiership.

After finishing fifth and sixth in the next two seasons, Albion went into another period of decline, which eventually led to Dawe leaving the club midway through last season. He was replaced by former Exeter Chiefs' Head Coach Pete Drewett, but when a proposed financial backer failed to materialise, Drewett left and Assistant Coach Nat Saumi, a former Fijian 7s international who joined Plymouth as a player in 2003, took control.

Under Saumi's leadership Albion made a strong finish to 2011/12, registering four wins out of six in the relegation play-offs to pull clear of danger.


Links with Jersey are few, but Jersey-born centre Ross Allan (above) played for Albion in the late noughties, making more than 30 first team appearances. His only try for the club was against Manchester in December 2008. Back-row player Charlie Walker-Blair was linked with a move to Brickfields this summer after a move from Jersey to Sale fell through on medical grounds, but CWB suffered a further knee injury in August requiring surgery and it was feared his career could be in the balance.

Albion in 2012/13

Four wins from five games saw Plymouth jostling for position at the top end of the Championship at the end of September, but the remaining seven months of the season were tough for Nat Saumi's men. After defeating London Scottish at home on November 9, Albion lost a record nine straight league matches, and after losing to Jersey in early March, Nat Saumi announced he would leave the club at the end of the season.

Championship status was by no means secure at this point, but in the next game after Saumi's announcement a hard-fought 9-16 win in the reverse fixture against the Exiles was enough to take Plymouth clear, and they achieved a seventh league win of the season on the final day, 22-26 at Castle Park against relegated Doncaster.

12/13 Head-to-head

Jersey claimed their second league win in defeating Albion 16-14 at St Peter in November. James Copsey's try after three minutes put the Islanders in front, but the visitors recovered to lead 10-14 early in the second half before two Mike Le Bourgeois' penalties edged Jersey into a winning lead. The match finished with a rain shower and a glorious sunset, captured below by Sue Trower, and no apologies are proffered for using it again. The match report is HERE.

JRFC Clubhouse At Sunset

In March, a Guy Thompson try was all Jersey had to show at half-time, leading only 3-5 in spite of having much of the play. Captain Nicky Griffiths scored twice in five minutes early in the second half but his side still had to encounter a late fightback, and the loss of front row players Jon Brennan and Dave Felton to hospital, before claiming their first away league win. Final score 15-19 - report's HERE.

Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Plymouth through the following channels:

• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday from 5.30pm, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon (available online and on your transistor-wireless device).
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more coverage in the 'Inside Centre' pull-out in Saturday's paper (on sale from 7am) and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match preview on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon
• The Plymouth Herald will be at the game and has a 'running online commentary' which covers (almost) every move and is available via the sports pages
• Reports and match action on Channel TV online and on Monday evening at 6.15pm; and on BBC Channel Islands on Monday evening at 6.30pm

The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend

Jersey's next two opponents clash at the Athletic Ground in Richmond on Friday, while on Sunday, live on Sky, Bedford and Ealing should get their first league win of the season. What price a draw?

London Scottish v Rotherham, 7.30pm

Moseley v Leeds, 3pm
London Welsh v Cornish Pirates, 6.30pm

Bristol v Nottingham, 3pm
Bedford v Ealing, 3.15pm (live on Sky)

And Finally

Since former Jersey player Mike Le Bourgeois was widely featured on Youtube for being clattered by Courtney Lawes in pre-season, it's only fair to flag up another clip which proves that 'Booj' is a pretty handy tackler in his own right. See HERE

In other rugby involving Jersey sides, HMP Panthers host visitors from St Jacques in Guernsey, with the match at Les Quennevais at 11am. The same ground sees LQ Lydian Lions play Beeches, while Jersey 2nds take on Banks at Grainville at 11.30am. Jersey's newly-formed amateur side, Jersey Athletic, will be seeking a fourth consecutive win with a Shield fixture at Henley.

Enjoy your weekend's rugby
Tom Innes

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