At the start of the season, not many rugby aficionados would have tipped two of the mightiest clubs in the division to be competing at the bottom end of the table but, at the beginning of February, that is the reality.
Leeds and Plymouth Albion are traditionally more versed at competing not just at the top of the table but at the top of the league above and this weekend’s game really is the veritable ‘8 pointer’
With one league point separating the teams, the visitors have the same number of league wins and both squads will know this game has the potential to kick start a season. In their last three home games, Albion have taken two bonus-point wins along with a losing bonus against third-placed Sale while the visitors have on one away league win under their belt (an impressive 15-17 job at Cambridge).
Should Albion take the honours, the old ‘Fortress Brickfields’ term can begin to apply; especially with two further teams visiting the Ocean City this month. On the flip, the Yorkshiremen would start to put a bit of distance between them and the bottom two spots in the league with a win. For the Albion faithful, it may be at the wrong end of the table, but this is certainly a game to get excited about.
Coached by former England fullback Jon Callard, the visitors boast a very young and energetic team who certainly play the full 80. Over their last 5 games, they have won two and lost three with a points differential is -10 further backing the point that this will be a tough game. The Leeds gameplan relies heavily on gaining momentum through direct carries and there will be a big emphasis on Albion standing firm to some heavy barrages.
Fortunately for Albion, there is a settled look around the starting XV for this game with marine Craig Duncan at fullback marshalling two of the league’s most impressive finishers, Shea Cornish and Alex Ducker. Having missed a few too many weeks, the return of the ‘Prince of Plymouth’ Ducker will be a major fillip as he is one player with the ability to conjure magic from anywhere.
In the midfield, the Polynesian powerhouses Jeremy To’a and Satareki Raumakita will be expected not only to match the hard carrying Yorkshiremen but bring some real impact themselves and, with Welsh wizard Phil jones at ten, they have the magician to find them space to do so. At scrum-half, fellow Welshman Henry Clement remains, and he will have a big task marshalling the mighty Albion pack to his bidding!
Up front, Southworth, Pullinger and Wilkinson will look to repeat the heroics of the last few games where they have been the dominant front row. With Shek Sherrif and Dan Collier locking behind them, they won’t suffer for lack of horsepower! The backrow looks to have real balance with Jake Clemson turning out at blindside next to the ever-impressive George Mils and stalwart Herbie Stupple.
The combination of great lifting alongside the work of Clemson and Mills has been a real bonus for the team of late at lineout time and they will be expected to starve the visitors of first phase ball yet again.
Looking forward to the game coach Damian Welch added ‘After a weekend without a game, the lads are really excited at the opportunity this match provides. We have started to show some form at home, and I know we are all very keen to carry it on in front of a busy Brickfields crowd. With the Argyle game being shown before the match and the England six nations after, we hope to see a big attendance as the brickfields faithful really are the sixteenth man”
Plymouth Albion v Leeds Tykes 3pm Brickfields
1 Danny Southworth
2 Harry Wilkinson
3 Dan Pullinger
4 Dan Collier
5 Shek Sherif
6 Jake Clemson
7 George Mills
8 Herbie Stupple
9 Henry Clement
10 Phil Jones
11 Alex Ducker
12 Jeremy To’a
13 Setareki Raumakita
14 Shea Cornish
15 Craig Duncan
16 Ramaz Rukhadze
17 Jamie Salter
18 Ayden Hurst
19 Tom Putt
20 Ben Parsons