Changes have made league more exciting, says Nat Saumi
PLYMOUTH Albion coach Nat Saumi believes changes to the laws and the structure of the Championship has made the league far more exciting this season.
Last weekend saw 44 tries in the six Championship matches – an average of more than seven a game.
Two matches – Leeds v Bristol and Rotherham v Jersey – saw more than 80 points scored.
Points scoring is up across the board and Saumi believes scrapping the relegation play-offs and giving teams only five seconds to play a ball after winning it at a ruck has played a major role in making the league more attractive.
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"With the laws now there is no more slow ball, so that is why I think now teams are playing with pace and trying to score as many tries as they can," said Saumi.
"Also with no play-offs for relegation I think teams are going at it in the season so that they don't finish bottom."
Saumi felt the pressure of trying to finish in the top eight made teams play more conservatively as the cost of losing a game could make the difference between fighting for promotion or scrapping to avoid relegation.
"Before in the last three seasons when we had the play-offs people were conservative," he said.
"They were not playing rugby because they were thinking about the play-offs."
Albion, like six other Championship teams, have already scored 100 points for the season.
And there has been an increase in bonus points scored by sides.
Last weekend, only one team – the Cornish Pirates – did not pick up a bonus point.
Every one of Albion's games so far has been decided by one score.
Saumi would love to win by more, but would settle for just picking up victories no matter how they come.
However, he knows his team still have areas to work on.
One of those is their line-out.
Even though they have won their last two games, they have lost 10 line-outs in them and Saumi knows his team need to be more consistent in the set piece.
"Coming against a good team like Rotherham this week you can't get away with that (losing line-outs)," said Saumi.
"They have big ball carriers and if you lose possession at your own line-outs it will be tough to defend.
"But I've got confidence in the boys.
"They are ready to go again this week."
He added: "We have worked on it (the line-out) this week.
"Every week is a new challenge and what we try and put in place hopefully comes out positively on a Saturday, but sometimes it is negative.
"We watch the DVD and the following week we have to sort out those negatives."
Rotherham, meanwhile, are keen to tighten up their defence after conceding 31 points against Jersey last Saturday.
Their coach Andre Bester is expecting a close match tonight.
"It's always tough going down to Plymouth and we don't have a great record down there, although our matches tend to be very close affairs and I expect more of the same tonight," he said.
"We've prepared for Plymouth with the greatest of respect, as we do for all our opponents.
"We need to stick to our game plan and make sure we execute the basics efficiently.
"If we are successful in doing that, we should give ourselves an opportunity to get the result we all desire."
Albion: 15 Henry Slade, 14 Paul Bailey, 13 Toby Howley-Berridge, 12 Bevon Armitage, 11 Jack Arnott, 10 Paul Roberts, 9 Ruairi Cushion, 1 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 2 Jon Vickers, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 4 Brett Beukeboom, 5 Ien Ascroft-Leigh, 6 Wayne Sprangle, 7 Sam Hocking, 8 Sean-Michael Stephen (capt).
Reps: 16 Rhodri McAtee, 17 David Morton, 18 Rupeni Nasiga, 19 Jack Andrew, 20 Tom Cowan-Dickie, 21 Aaron Carpenter, 22 Keni Fisilau.
Rotherham: 15 Mike Whitehead, 14 Eamonn Sheridan, 13 Lee Blackett, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Mike Doneghan, 10 Garry Law (capt), 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Neale Patrick, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Alex Rieder, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Toby Freeman. Reps: 16 Dan Baines, 17 Shane Cahill, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Rory Pitman, 20 Peter Homan, 21 Joel Gill, 22 James McKinney.