Preview to Plymouth Albion (H) 08.11.1406/11/2014
The Hungry Men: a tale of two Coaches
After a four-week gap, it's almost certainly understating
matters to say that the return to Championship action is
For Jersey and Plymouth Albion, getting back into the swing of things in the league has the added spice of a crucial game for both clubs. The Islanders have made the better start, lying eighth in the table with 11 points, while Albion have just two bonus points and are currently bottom.
There are certain similarities between the situation when Ealing Trailfinders - also without a win - visited the Island last November to play Jersey, who also had 11 points. On that occasion the lower-ranked team had the hunger to win and claimed a deserved success, which proved to be the final act in Ben Harvey's time in charge of the Island side.
Albion's hunger for victory is considerable and long-lasting: the men from Devon have lost 15 straight competitive matches since an 18-33 win at Bedford on March 8th. The losing run began with a home defeat by Jersey the following Saturday, and their most recent match went the same way, with Harvey Biljon's team taking the spoils in a British & Irish Cup tie at Brickfields two weekends ago. Unlike Ealing 12 months ago, Plymouth are certainly not adrift: Moseley have also yet to win a game, and Bedford are only just clear, and it's easy to forget the season remains in its early stages - there are 17 of the 22 games still to play.
The spoils of victory will be significant - with Jersey sensing the calm waters of mid-table could be within their grasp, while Albion seek to turn a corner and move away from the bottom. The significance of victory is magnified by tough schedules during the rest of November before the next Cup break - Jersey travel to London Scottish and Worcester, while Albion host Worcester and travel to Leeds.
Biljon will be desperate to underline to his squad the importance of not taking Saturday's opponents lightly and the irrelevance of the league table. Meanwhile his counterpart James Shanahan knows that Albion need to recapture the ability to win games, which they did regularly for three-quarters of his first season in charge. Two hungry groups of men will be chasing a single set of meal tickets - this won't be for the faint-hearted.
News from the Jersey camp
Jersey hope to have prop Sam Lockwood back for the first time since the previous league outing at Bedford, and have some interesting selection issues elsewhere. Will it be Aaron Penberthy or Jonny Bentley at fly-half? Can skipper Alex Rae force his way into the engine room, or will he play in the back row or on the bench? Which of the many permutations in the back three will be selected? The squad will be announced on Friday morning - check it out HERE
Any previous? (click for links to match reports)
November 2012 - Jersey 16 Albion 14
March 2013 - Albion 15 Jersey 19
September 2013 - Albion 41 Jersey 27 (played at Sandy Park, Exeter)
October 2013 - Jersey 18 Albion 23 (pictured below)
March 2014 - Albion 23 Jersey 30
October 2014 - Albion 16 Jersey 22 (B&I Cup)
Plymouth Albion - a potted history
Back in the day: in the early 20th Century Albion played at Home Park, where Plymouth Argyle Football Club now play. In 1925 they moved to Beacon Park, their home until the move to the current ground, Brickfields, in 2003
Famous sons: two internationals became Player-Coaches of the club - the Cornishman Graham Dawe and his successor, the Fijian Nat Saumi. The latter announced he was stepping down following a home defeat by Jersey in March 2013
Jersey connections: Islander Ross Allen, who has been playing for Jersey Athletic this season, played for Albion from 2007-09. This season, the Devon side signed former Jersey duo Tom Fidler and Jimmy Williams. Scrum-half Williams was a short-term deal prior to his going travelling, but Fidler is in the long haul and has featured in all five league matches so far
League history: Started at level three, then known as Courage League Three, in 1987/88. Promoted in 1988/89 but relegated after two seasons and didn't return to the second tier until 2003.
The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend
There are three games on Friday night, with Worcester and Bristol looking to cement their positions at the top with home wins over Bedford and Doncaster, while Rotherham travel to Yorkshire Carnegie for a county derby. On Saturday Moseley host London Scottish at 12noon, while the Sunday game sees Nottingham travel to Penzance.
See HERE for the full preview to round 6
The Colts are the other JRFC team in action this weekend, with an away match at Basingstoke on Sunday. Jersey Athletic aren't playing, but will be running out at St Peter next Saturday, November 15th, for a showdown with the Highlanders of London Scottish. The 12noon start allows time for a great day of it with lunch in the clubhouse and wall-to-wall Autumn internationals on the TV.
Always interesting to see how former JRFC players get on, and it's especially heartening to see those who have defied injury and resumed playing. Step forward Charlie Walker-Blair, who was only in Jersey for a few months in 2013, but played a key role in some crucial wins for the club and certainly put his body on the line (see below).
A proposed move to Sale in summer 2013 was scuppered due to injury, but Charlie's been back in action for his old club Taunton, who are flying high in National Two South, and scored two tries last weekend, earning himself a place in the Team of the Week selected by writer Nick Verdier of The Rugby Paper.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby!