Following last weekend’s postponement at Moseley, Albion face the visit of the oldest rugby club in the world this weekend with London based Blackheath heading to the Brickfields.
For the second time this season, this is undoubtedly a ‘must win’ game for the Ocean Cities’ finest. On the first occasion, against Leeds, they scored a resounding bonus-point win and the stage is certainly set for a colossal battle.
Like Albion, Blackheath have not had the most auspicious season to date and haven’t won a game since an impressive victory over Rams on the 4th of December. Indeed, last weekend they lost at home to the league’s basement side Tonbridge and will be targeting this weekend as a key fixture. Having played two more games and just four points further up the log, the stakes cannot be more obvious for either side.
Following a four-year break from playing and most definitely adding spice to the game has been James Shanahan returning to the Blackheath matchday XV. He started at fly half for the Londoners last weekend and is well known to the Albion Faithful following a run as player-coach at the Brickfields.
Moving to the home team and there is a settled look to the side that has been showing more than patchy form at Brickfields of late. Indeed, aside from narrow losses to top four sides Cinderford and Sale, the team has comfortably seen off Bishops Stortford, Moseley, Leeds and Darlington with bonus-point wins since December.
Selection wise, the notable change is in the second row where Cornish Pirates Ed Scragg returns in the place of injured Shek Sheriff. With Jake Clemson and George Mills also in the line-up along with Jamie Salter in at hooker, the Albion lineout should function to the level expected of a team coached by Damian Welch.
In the backline, Tom Putt slots in at fly half with Phil Jones joining Samoan Powerhouse Jeremy To’a while Craig Duncan returns from Navy duty to fill the fifteen jersey. Out wide, the ‘Prince of Plymouth’ Alex Ducker and Shea Cornish will be excited by the clear weather forecast having been spectators in the squall for the last few games!
On the bench, club legend Wayne Sprangle looks to make his second appearance of the season after his late signing while eagle eyed supporters will be delighted to see Luke Chapman kitting up as the travelling reserve. After what appeared to be a career ending achilles tendon surgery, Chapman has worked diligently on his rehabilitation and his return to the first XV squad is a testament to his steely determination and the backroom staff at the club!
Speaking of the game head coach Damian Welch added ‘We’ve tried to keep a bit of consistency from the group selected to play in the game against Moseley which was unfortunately postponed. There were several close calls as the boys have been working hard and putting their hands up for selection in training. We are expecting a strong test from Blackheath and we know how dangerous they can be. Our game at theirs was extremely close and we will hope to be on our game accordingly’
With England against Wales screening immediately post game, a display from the Plymouth Cheerleaders at half-time and the aforementioned clear forecast, there has never been a better chance to get down to Albion and support the team.