CLUB captain Jake Murphy is hoping Plymouth Albion’s players can show the qualities Graham Dawe has instilled in them on Saturday when they entertain Hartpury College in their final home match of the season.
The team were shocked to find out on Monday that the new owners of the club, Dave Venables and Bruce Priday, had asked Dawe to stand down with immediate effort, despite an incredibly successful season on the field.
They told Dawe, who was asked to help England this season, the short-term direction they wanted to go in did not involve him, but, if he was interested, they would like to find a role for him at the club at a later date.
Dawe’s assistant coach Simon Lane and conditioning coaches Tristan Lark and Lee Jago have since stood down in protest.
Albion’s owners did bring in two Exeter Chiefs coaches – Rob Gibson and Sam Morton – but they were supposed to be just assisting the club’s current staff with training and not picking the team.
The selection of this week’s side has been left to team manager Simon Hicklin, who announced on Thursday that he will also leave the club at the end of the season, Murphy and Herbie Stupple, although it is believed they have taken advice from the old coaching staff.
“It has been a tough week for the boys,” said Murphy, who is currently out injured. “But over the season they have shown this resilience.
“Graham has instilled some really good traits and qualities into the boys and when it comes to Saturday it is business time.
“I know Graham’s first thought would be for us to go out there and try and get a result and back up that away win at Hartpury earlier in the year, which was a massive statement.
“When it comes to Saturday it is just down to rugby. Nothing off the field can affect what’s happening, it is just down to the 15 guys on the pitch and the five on the bench to get their jobs done and end this season on a high and a positive.
“We want to reward those supporters that have been so loyal and have been willing to follow us around the country all year. Their support has just been phenomenal.
“I know they have had a couple of tough years up in the Championship and so it’s just nice that they have been able to enjoy some good rugby down in National One this season.
“We have tried to play some attacking rugby out there and put on some good performances for them, which they thoroughly deserve.
“It would be nice to put on another performance for them on Saturday, but just as importantly for us as well.
“There’s a lot of hard work gone into this season and we want to leave Brickfields with those good memories of the 2015/16 season.”
Albion and second-placed Hartpury both have 20 wins to their name. Only champions Richmond have achieved more victories this season.
That statistic would remain if Albion win on Saturday as no-one else would be able to claim more than 21 victories.
“That would be another good stat for us,” said Murphy. “It would not be the be-all and end-all but it would be nice come the end of the season to look at how many wins we got and just how good this team has been.
“It has been a great year. Obviously we have had the points deduction which luckily has not affected us in terms of our league status. But we have kind of ignored that and just looked at the points tally we have got this year, which is testament to how good we have been.”
Interestingly, Albion have hardly scored any tries from diving mauls this season. Their last one was six months ago against Cinderford at home when Marc Koteczky joined in to score.
“I think the forwards quickly cottoned on that if they set one of those up then Marc or one of the other backs would rush in to try and get on the end of it,” said Murphy.
“Although we haven’t used driving mauls, the rest of our set piece has been absolutely incredible this year. That has allowed us to play that more attacking style of rugby.
“The scrum and line-out have just been functioning so well that it would be a crime if the backs don’t make the most of it, which we have.
“It’s been a really enjoyable style of rugby to be involved in.”
Hartpury arrive at Brickfields looking for revenge after Albion became the first time to beat them on their own soil in more than a year when they triumphed 22-17 at the Gloucestershire club in December. Champions Richmond are the only other team to win there this term.
Hartpury, though, have never lost twice to the same team this season, which has given Albion something to aim for.
“There’s been lots of firsts this year for Plymouth and it would be fantastic to be the first team to turn Hartpury over twice,” said Murphy. “But that’s going to be no easy task.
“You can see from their league position and the quality of players they have that they are going to come down with the intention of walking away from Brickfields with five points.
“We’ll have to be on top form to get anything out of this game.
“But chatting to the boys this week, I feel really good about Saturday. I think we will go out there and put on a performance.”
Murphy wishes he was running out at Brickfields for the final time this season, but he has still not recovered from a broken hand.
“The cast is coming off for longer periods of time now and it is nice to have my right hand back again but I think it will now just be me on the sidelines nagging the boys.
“I’m gutted that I am missing the last home game and don’t get the chance to lead the boys out but I know Herbie (Stupple) will lead them out and do everyone who has been involved this year proud.”
Stupple captains and Albion team which is exactly the same as beat Loughborough Students away last weekend.
ALBION TEAM TO FACE HARTPURY
15 Matt Shepherd
14 Harrison Cully
13 Tom Bedford
12 Marc Koteczky
11 Robin Wedlake
10 Billy Searle
9 Cameron Setter
1 Ollie Dawe
2 James Penman
3 Christian Judge
4 Dan Collier
5 Ed Holmes
6 Nile Dacres
7 Sam Matavesi
8 Herbie Stupple (capt)
Reps (from): Rupert Freestone, Dan Pullinger, Andy Chesters, Tom Putt, Jon Dawe.