1stXV V Plymouth Albion, Sat Dec 03, 2016, Match Preview
Ampthill welcome Plymouth Albion this weekend for their second ever visit to Dillingham Park, though not to Bedfordshire, as Bedford Blues ‘just up the road’ Goldington Road home was an annual stop for many Championship years.
Plymouth Albion were formed in 1876 by a group of apprentices from the Royal Naval Dockyard in Devonport and played in Devonport Park. In 1887 the club moved to Bladderly, where spectators paid three times as much (3d) to watch as players to play (1d or a touch less than 1/2p)!
During the 1894 season Plymouth Albion played at Home Park, now the home of Plymouth Argyle, and then moved to Rectory Fields, where they hosted the first touring All Blacks team in 1905.
The Great War intervened with both Albion and local rivals Plymouth RFC losing their grounds to the war effort and many of their players to the conflict leading to a merger 1919 to form Plymouth Albion RFC and a new home at Beacon Park.
The following decades saw Albion achieve much success before being placed in Courage 3 when the league system was introduced in the ’80s. However, by the end of the 1998-99 season, the Club’s on field fortune had declined, only a last day of the season away win preventing relegation from the National Leagues.
In 1999 Graham Dawe was appointed Chairman of Rugby and oversaw a period of unprecedented success with eventual promotion to National One (now the Championship) in 2001-02, a status retained for 13 seasons until relegation at the end of season 2014-15. Graham Dawe’s return as Director of Rugby for last season saw a new squad record a played 30 won 22 record securing 102pts and 5th place in the table before an insolvency event landed them with a 30pt deduction.
This season, under new head coach Dan Parkes with another new and much younger squad Albion have added a more adventurous playing style to their traditional forward strength and are one of the form teams in National 1 with a played 13 won 10 record to lie 3rd in the table, 7 pts and 2 places ahead of our 1stXV.
Last week Ampthill’s seven try win over Blaydon was the best of the season so far, backs and forwards combined to produce an entertaining brand of rugby while, possibly for the first time this season, the squad produced an 80 minute performance.
The run of three home games in four leading up to Christmas provides an opportunity to cement a strong league position, with two local derbys to come, Cambridge away next week and Old Albanians at home on December 17.
Changes to the squad this week are limited, up front a fit again Matt Burke returns at blindside flanker, Joe Bercis rotates to openside and Maama Molitika returns at eighthman. There are no changes to the backs while the bench includes the rotated Loti Molitika and a returning Will Goodge.