Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Albion look to move into top three with Blackheath victory

Ethan Ford

PLYMOUTH Albion could move into the top three in National One on Saturday if they beat Blackheath at Brickfields (3pm).

The London club, pace setters for most of the season, arrive in third place, just one point above fifth-placed Albion, who have won 12 out of their last 13 games.

With four-placed Ampthill, who are level on points with Blackheath, taking on leaders Richmond at the same time, this weekend could be crucial in deciding where teams will finish in the standings.

Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe, though, is refusing to look any further than 3pm on Saturday.

“What does it matter where we are Saturday evening?,” he said. “Let’s just concentrate on being ready at 3pm.

“We are just looking at Blackheath in isolation. What is the point of wasting energy looking at other results or games?”

Albion’s biggest defeat of the season came against Blackheath at Rectory Field in November.

That day they lost 34-3, with Blackheath showing a real clinical edge when they got inside Albion’s 22 and also some impressive defence when they were in their own third.

Blackheath v Albion“Blackheath are a good team and it should be a good game of rugby this weekend,” said Dawe.

“We are really looking forward to this game.

“Although we played well for a large part of the game at Blackheath, the scoreboard looked anything but in our favour.

“It was a very competitive game up there, but every time they got a line-out in our 22 they scored and repelled us with some outstanding defence.

“It was a tough day at the time because of the scoreboard, but we took positives from that game.

“However, we would certainly like the scoreboard to be a lot different this time.”

Following that defeat in November, Albion have only lost once.

Blackheath, meanwhile, have been having a bit of sticky patch, losing four games since February.

“They’ve had some pretty tough fixtures over the last month and they have come up short a couple of times on the scoreboard,” said Dawe.

“We have to try and capitalise on the fact that they will be asking a few questions and maybe having a few doubts. We have to try and jump on the back of that and try and impose our game on them.”

Blackheath’s big weapon at their place was their driving maul.

“We have to applaud that they have got a good maul,” said Dawe. “We have to make sure we don’t give them field position by giving away penalties in the tackle area. We want to be pristine in that area as often as possible. That’s the easiest way not to give them opportunities.”

He added: “We really want to win it, but we have to try and get the components of our game right – be good in the set-piece, good in the tackle area, good in defence, have lots of energy, play the conditions and try and build pressure on them. We have to try and get on the right side of the officials.”

Veryan Boscawn has been handed the job of refereeing the big game. His last visit to Brickfields was in November when he took charge of Albion’s game with Darlington.

Christian Judge, Herbie Stupple, Dan Collier and Ethan Ford have all been deemed fit enough to start for Albion.

Prop Judge had been struggling with a shoulder injury, Stupple and Ford ankle problems and Collier missed Plymouth’s last game due to a head injury.

It means Ford (pictured top) will get to make a farewell appearance before returning to Australia with his pregnant wife.

However, the news is not so good for front-row forwards Ollie Dawe and James Penman. They remain doubtful for the match. They have been named on an extended bench, but will have to pass late fitness tests.

Prop Dawe suffered a nasty knock to his head against Darlington, while Penman is struggling with a hamstring problem.

In their absence, Dan Pullinger will start at loose-head prop. Although he is better known as a tight-head prop, Pullinger did wear the number one shirt in Albion’s stunning win at Hartpury College in December.

“Dan’s done a fine job when he’s played this season,” said Albion boss Dawe. “And, hopefully, he will do another fine job. We do have every confidence in him. He has got a strong scrummaging game.”

Albion have opted not to bring Marc Koteczky straight back into the starting line-up. He is set to line-up on the bench after missing the memorable win at Darlington after getting sent off in Plymouth’s last home match against Henley Hawks.

“Tom Bedford came in and played 12 in Marc’s absence at Darlington and he deserves another crack because it was such an outstanding win,” said Dawe.

Albion’s team to face Blackheath

15 Matt Shepherd

14 Ethan Ford

13 Jake Murphy (capt)

12 Tom Bedford

11 Robin Wedlake

10 Billy Searle

9 Cameron Setter

1 Dan Pullinger

2 Rupert Freestone

3 Christian Judge

4 Dan Collier

5 Ed Holmes

6 Nile Dacres

7 Sam Matavesi

8 Herbie Stupple

Reps (from): James Penman, Ollie Dawe, Dean Brooker, Gregory Sebastien, Andy Chesters, Marc Koteczky, Seti Raumakita, Harrison Cully

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