Plymouth Albion face Taunton Titans this weekend in what is a huge fixture for the Ocean City club. With a couple of games left in their season, they know a minimum of three league points from their remaining matches will be enough to secure their spot in National Division One. There is no doubt they would be keen to achieve this before the away trip to Rosslyn Park next weekend.
In truth, they may already have done enough as Blackheath (three league points behind) have one fixture left and face the unenviable task of having to win at Cinderford while Leeds (six points behind) have away games at Darlington, Taunton, and conclude with an out of season game at home to Cinderford.
Regardless of their fellow strugglers, it is a testament to the squad that destiny is firmly in their hands after a hugely difficult time when they have been shorn of playing resource. Indeed, for the last seven games, Albion have been unable to field a full squad of twenty players.
This has changed on Saturday however as Damian Welch has been blessed with a few returning players as the injury crisis has eased. Albion have a 20 man squad this weekend with a starting XV all in their favoured positions for this vital fixture.
As the last home game of the season, there is expectation of a bumper crowd. This will be bolstered by the visitors who will certainly bring a decent travelling contingent as they look to secure the double over Albion. Add to the mix over 2000 St Luke’s Men’s Day out attendees and a crowd close to 3500 is expected!
In the previous fixture Taunton were inspired by star Australian fly half James Walsh but injury has ended his season. His halfback partner Sam Maunder is also absent as he has been recalled by Exeter Chiefs. In their place, veteran Lewis Webb and Sam Baker will be expected to deputise.
Nevertheless, Taunton still pose huge threats and will be expecting big performances from star prop Isaac ‘Dozer’ Dalton and the man mountain Sam Prior at 8. Their free scoring over the last few games would suggest entertainment will be high on their agenda!
Albion however have shown real steel over the last few weeks and will have high expectation from the game. Fresh from scoring 4 tries last weekend, Jamie Salter spearheads the familiar front row of Rukhadze and Pullinger. Retiring from a slight niggle, Jake Clemson locks down with centurion Dan Collier and will be expected to run the lineout due to absence of George Mills who is on holiday.
In the backrow, captain fantastic Herbie Stupple returns to more familiar territory after his heroics in the backs. With his testimonial game just over a moth away, he will be keen to provide a reminder to the faithful of just how important he is to Albion and his head to head with the aforementioned Prior is sure to be seismic. The backrow unit certainly packs a punch as Torin Clarke is joined by the returning Chiefs powerhouse Max Norey who comes back after seven weeks with the Exeter first team.
It’s as you were at halfback with the Tom’s, Cairns and Putt linking up and looking to provide some direction to a potent backline. The midfield looks balanced with the bludgeon Jeremy To’a lining up next to the rapier Ben Parsons – who was heroic in his defensive effort last weekend. Our wide, the ‘Prince of Plymouth’ Alex Ducker is joined by Frankie Nowell and Connor Eastgate.
The bench is certainly heavyweight and will ensure the forward pack can keep up momentum although one may argue lacks subtlety!