Albion gunning for revenge in Boxing Day derby
THE Cornish Pirates travel to Brickfields on Boxing Day (3pm) in what promises to be a cracking local derby against Plymouth Albion, writes Dick Straughan.
And just to add extra spice to the RFU Championship encounter there will be a scent of revenge hanging heavily in the Plymouth air, as Nat Saumi's side look for some payback after their narrow early season loss at the Mennaye.
Albion looked set for a rare win in Cornwall as they led with eight minutes to go before a Matt Evans try and Rob Cook penalty edged a 19-17 victory in favour of the Pirates. And Pirates head coach Ian Davies knows full well how much that hurt the Devon side.
"We were fortunate to get a win that day because we didn't play well," he said. "We snuck a victory there but our focus is now fully on the game at Brickfields."
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He added: "It will be a massive crowd but the loss of Herbie Stupple to injury has been a massive blow to Plymouth.
"Their results suffered a bit when the Canadians were away, but they are back now."
And Davies doesn't think that the threat of a points deduction hanging over Plymouth will play much of a part in the game. The RFU recently imposed a suspended five-point deduction following the on-field violence against Bristol.
"I can't see it tempering the atmosphere," he said. "Derbies are always intense affairs and Greg MacDonald is refereeing, so we know what to expect from him."
Plymouth started the season in fine form, winning four of their first five Championship games before a heavy defeat at Bedford snuffed out their momentum. Since then they have lost at home to both Bristol and Nottingham, adding only one more league win against London Scottish back in early November .
Currently eighth in the league table, two places and three points behind the Pirates, Albion have registered successive wins over Aberavon in the B&I Cup to give them a boost ahead of the clash with the Pirates.
After last weekend's 59-0 thrashing of the Welsh side head coach Nat Saumi, himself a former Pirate, remarked: "The Pirates will look at that score and will know that coming up here will be a tough game for them."
"We have set the tone for the Pirates game which was our goal."
Following their cup win against Swansea the Pirates squad took a short break before reporting back to prepare for the trip to Brickfields. Hooker Rob Elloway was the only fresh injury concern after taking a heavy knock on an elbow but is expected to recover in time. Lock Gary Johnson could also return after a two game absence with a facial injury.
Prop Ryan Storer is the only other doubt after a quad injury forced his late withdrawal from the team named to play in Wales. Matt Evans (quad) and Grant Pointer (hamstring) are also expected to miss the two fixtures over the holiday.
Cornish Pirates (from): Kilmartin, Riley, Fatialofa, Hallett, Bedford, Andrew, Elloway, Prescott, Lyons, B Maidment, Storer, Semmens, Barry, Kessell, Cheesman, Paver, Joyce, McGlone, Mercer, Davies, Cattle, Buckle, Marriott, Tyas, Hambly, Duncan, Hill, Moyle, Johnson.