Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Albion look to challenge Esher for fourth spot

Ed Holmes congratulates Ethan Ford

PLYMOUTH Albion could move up to fourth in the National One table this weekend if they were to beat Esher away (3pm).

Graham Dawe’s side go into the match at Molesey Road four points behind their fourth-placed hosts, with both teams having won the same number of matches.

Albion currently sit sixth in the standings, with Ampthill, who play second-placed Blackheath on Saturday, one point ahead of them in fifth.

Molesey Road, though, has not been a happy hunting ground for Albion over the years.

They have not won on their last five visits to Esher, suffering three heavy defeats in their last three trips there, while the club’s record league defeat – a 70-0 reverse – also came at the venue in 1998.

“We do seem to have had more losses than wins there, but we don’t want to talk about the past,” said director of rugby Dawe.

“We are just focusing on this game and looking at their last two or three fixtures in this league and preparing with that in mind.

“All we want to talk about is the challenge Esher will pose this weekend and nothing else.”

Esher beat Albion 38-12 at Brickfields in October, which was Plymouth’s most disappointing display this season.

But Dawe reiterated he didn’t want to look back when asked about that loss.

“What is the point of talking about it? That was then, this is now,” said the Albion boss, who side beat Coventry 29-18 last week.

That home defeat by Esher did kick-start Albion’s season. Since then they have only lost three times and have now claimed seven wins from their last eight matches.

They are also unbeaten away from home since November 21. Their good away run has seen them claim victories at Wharfedale, Hartpury College, Rosslyn Park and Fylde.

“We are looking forward to this game,” said Dawe. “We had a good win last weekend against Coventry. However, where Coventry sit in the present time we don’t know with the injuries they’ve had, but it would be great to back that win up with a good performance at Esher.

“Although there is a bit more rain to come, the Esher pitch is normally pretty firm and fast.”

He added: “They (Esher) have quite a vociferous crowd and our aim will be to nullify them and even try and get them to turn on their players a bit. That’s got to be our goal, achieved through our own playing exploits.

“We have worked on and talked about a lot of things in training this week – how to minimise their opportunities. We just want to try and up our defensive game and improve our set-piece game.”

Albion make one change to their starting line-up for the trip to Esher.

To help their set-piece, Albion have recalled lock Ed Holmes. He will resume his second-row partnership with Dan Collier. Nile Dacres will revert to flanker, which is where he had played until the Wharfedale game at the start of December.

Frenchman Gregory Sebastien drops to the bench. Dawe admits that is hard on Sebastien, who he feels has played well starting the last two games.

“It was a big call to leave out Gregory,” said Dawe. “He has brought a lot of energy, a high tackle count and contested over the ball well. He has certainly been good at the breakdowns.

“We’ll feel very confident putting Gregory on during the game, but Ed’s power in the scrum and maul will be paramount in the early exchanges.”

Albion have lost the services of Royal Navy players Jarrad Hayler and Seti Raumakita. Their places on the bench are taken by Andy Chesters and Harrison Cully. Ethan Ford has recovered from an ankle injury he suffered against Coventry.

ALBION TEAM TO FACE ESHER

15 Ethan Ford

14 Tom Bedford

13 Jake Murphy (capt)

12 Marc Koteczky

11 Matt Shepherd

10 Billy Searle

9 Cameron Setter

1 Ollie Dawe

2 Rupert Freestone

3 Christian Judge

4 Dan Collier

5 Ed Holmes

6 Nile Dacres

7 Sam Matavesi

8 Herbie Stupple

Replacements: Dan Pullinger, Gregory Sebastien, Andy Chesters, Harrison Cully, Elliot Bale.

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