Frozen tundra, sunset and Shanners' eye for
Jersey and Plymouth Albion are set to play their fifth
Championship contest of the past two seasons, with the score
currently locked at two-apiece.
The Islanders did the double over the men from Devon last season,
but had the favour returned by the time the current season was six
Albion's main concern this season has been home form, with no
league win at Brickfields all season until the final weekend of
January. That was the day it all clicked and high-flying London
Welsh were downed by 36-15. It then became two in succession when
Nottingham were defeated a few weeks later.
Jersey have improved gradually since new Head Coach Harvey Biljon
was appointed in January, but have only managed a single victory
during this time, albeit that four of the six matches have been
against the top four. The last two weeks have brought bonus points
against Cornish Pirates in the mud of Penzance, and on home soil
against a Leeds Carnegie side who many felt were there for the
The match is a rearranged affair, having been called off on
Valentine's Day due to the horrendous and incessant rain that
blighted much of the British Isles, notably SW England. In 11 years
since Albion moved to Brickfields, this was the first time a game
had been cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch - the only other
cancellation was due to frozen tundra conditions for the Boxing Day
derby against the Pirates in 2010.
News from the Jersey Camp
The Jersey squad will be confirmed late on Friday morning. Winger
Grant Pointer may be struggling after sustaining an ankle injury
against Leeds, and it's possible the rule about English-qualified
players may influence the selection. Prop Sam Lockwood missed
the game against Leeds, the club who he is on loan to Jersey from,
due to the terms of the loan agreement, but should return.
Albion in 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.
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.
After coming to Jersey on the weekend the clocks changed, Albion
gave Bristol a very good game at Brickfields in losing 31-38, and
claiming two bonus points, but the home supporters felt a win was
there for the taking. Ealing were defeated away from home, but
Nottingham held on for a 15-10 win at Meadow Lane.
Arguably Albion's most disappointing game of the season was the
16-27 home defeat by Bedford in November, the start of a four-match
Championship losing streak that also took included defeats to
Rotherham (17-28) and Leeds (14-15) on home soil and a Boxing Day
battle in Cornwall by 10-3.
At the start of February, having beaten Welsh the week before,
Albion were at the RAG taking on London Scottish in a game of three
thirds: hosts go 19-0 up in 35 minutes; visitors score four tries
(Stevens, Mugford, Warner, Langley) to take a 19-27 lead; Exiles
hit back with three more tries to seal a topsy-turvey 38-27
The match against Nottingham was an attritional affair, with Heath
Stevens claiming the only try in a 22-12 win, but Albion then lost
heavily against Bristol, conceding seven tries in losing 43-12 at
Last weekend Albion went to Goldington Road and managed an
impressive win. Eoghan Grace's try helped the visitors to a 10-16
lead at the break. The second half was more eventful, with tries
for Albion from an intercept (Chris Elder seizing possession and
feeding Rhys Oakley) and Tom Bowen, and yellow cards for Rob
Langley and Toby Howley-Berridge. Playing with 13 men didn't seem a
problem and Plymouth hung on to win 18-33.
The British & Irish Cup has seen Albion claim a quarter-final
spot, winning five of their six games and losing 23-9 to Munster
'A' in Waterford. Albion pipped Munster to the pool winners' title
on goal difference, and it could have been a home QF too apart from
a new regulation that allowed a best runner-up (Bristol) to claim
the crucial fourth spot in the qualifiers' ranking. Albion are away
to Leeds in early April.
'Shanners' 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.
Centre Heath Stevens arrived from Coventry but recently confirmed a
move to the Premiership this summer. There have also been
departures, including Tongan veteran Keni Fisilau for Oxford
Harlequins, and Canadian skipper Aaron Carpenter to Cornish
Two Canadian internationals remain - former captain Sean-Michael
Stephen (whose neck injury could force him out of a league match
for the first time this season), and lock Brett Beukeboom, who
faced Jersey's Elvis 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 missed this
season's trip to Jersey after being sent off in the match against
London Scottish and subsequently suspended.
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 the opening league game against Jersey. To complicate matters,
Shanahan is also a fly-half and utilised his own services from the
bench in eight league matches early in the season.
Cusack with 86 is Albion's top points scorer in the league this
season, while Mugford has 66 - this included 19 of his first 20
kicks of the season, but he's been less prolific since a five-week
absence following an injury sustained against Jersey at St Peter.
Tom Bowen is top try-scorer with 12 in the league and two Cup
South African hooker Jared Saunders is the newest signing for
Albion, who had no cover in this position for their game against
London Scottish a month ago. Saunders played alongside Shanahan for
Old Albanians, but also has Premiership experience with
Most recent of the team's four encounters was at St Peter in
October 2013. Toby Howley-Berridge scored within
three minutes (pictured below), Nicky Griffiths did
likewise within another three and the hosts led 13-12 at the break
in spite of Mugford crossing for Albion. Cusack put his side in
front with two penalties and Chris Elder's try sealed the game
altho' Tom Brown scored late on to give his side, beaten 18-23, a
bonus point. Match report is HERE
South-west 'neighbours' Albion and Jersey were paired together
in the ground Plymouth fans refer to as Shandy Park for the
double-header match that kicked off the 2013/14 season in
September 2013. 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.
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 - Elder and Bowen scored
tries, and although Penberthy was able to level the scores at
27-all, Albion pulled clear with two more tries. The full match
report can be found HERE
In March 2013, 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 at
level two. Final score 15-19 - report's HERE.
Jersey claimed their second Championship win in defeating Albion
16-14 at St Peter in November 2012. 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 by Sue Trower below), and no apologies are
proffered for using it again. The match report is HERE.
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
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
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
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 2011/12. 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.
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.
Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Plymouth
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). The redoubtable
Richard Collinson will partner Dick Straughan, moonlighting across
the Tamar from his regular gig covering the Pirates
• There's a novel way of following the action with the scrolling
text commentary from the Plymouth Herald, complete
with 'clickety-clack' sounds effect for the regularly-typed (as in
every 10 seconds or so) updates. Not everybody's cup of tea, but
they don't miss much
• Preview in Friday's JEP, more coverage 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 report on Channel 103 on Saturday
• 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
Jersey fans will be keeping an eye out for news from Ealing - not
only are the West London side the next opponents for the Islanders,
but they are currently hovering above the relegation trapdoor, with
11 points to Jersey's 19. The Trailfinders haven't taken a point on
home soil so far this season, but a win against Bedford on Saturday
(3pm) would give real hope and leave the visitors, who have 26
points, looking anxiously over their shoulders (along with
Nottingham, who are without a game this weekend).
Albion will probably be more interested in Sunday's score from the
Mennaye Field, where the Pirates host London Welsh (KO at 3pm). The
men from Devon are seeking to overtake their 'cream tea' rivals in
sixth place, and go into the weekend just six points behind the
Other action involving Jersey sides this w/e are sadly all away,
so there'll be little chance of live rugby: instead just updates
from the away games, and of course some pivotal 6N action on the
TV. Away from the Island, Jersey Athletic continue their quest to
take the Zoo Sports Shield title in their first season with an away
game at Esher on Saturday. On the same day LQ Lydian Lions travel
to play Guernsey 2s, while on Sunday the Banks Ladies travel to
Lewes and Jersey Colts go to Petersfield.
The Brickfields cancellations triv referred to in the opening
paragraphs could have been stat of the week, until Plymouth
Player-Coach dropped a cheeky goal at Bedford last Saturday - his
first points at level two since he converted a James Owen try for
Cornish Pirates in their 26-12 defeat to Exeter on January 3rd
'Shanners', the only Player-Boss in the division, hasn't played
much rugby of late - just 29 minutes since late November in two
appearances as a replacement - but showed that match sharpness
doesn't affect a good player's eye for goal, or their nerve to
follow it through.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.