Sam Hocking is pleased to be back in action for Plymouth Albion
PLYMOUTH Albion may have had a weekend to forget, losing 21-3 at home to Rotherham in the British & Irish Cup, but there was at least one positive for the Brickfields club with the return from injury of Sam Hocking.
Back-row forward Hocking, Albion's joint top try scorer, had been out for more than a month with a hamstring injury picked up in the Championship defeat away to Newcastle at the end of November.
But he was back in action on Saturday when he came on in the 63rd minute against Rotherham – a match that ended Albion's hopes of progressing in their only cup competition.
"It was very good to be back," said Hocking. "It has been a long four weeks, so it felt really good to be back out there.
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"It was good to get 20 minutes under my belt on Saturday and, hopefully, I can push on from there."
Hocking's injury did not appear to be anything serious when he left the field at Newcastle.
"Originally I thought I had just pulled it slightly," he said. "But I probably pushed it too hard in my rehab being too eager to get back that I hindered it a bit more."
He added: "I missed the Pirates and Leeds league games. It was particularly frustrating to miss the Pirates game, but it is just good to be back now."
Hocking had been Albion's key player at the start of the season. He started their opening 11 league games, scoring six tries in seven weeks.
He hopes he can regain the form he showed in the first few months of the campaign – providing he can get back in the team.
"Sammy (Matavesi) and Wayne (Sprangle) have done well since they have been in the side, but hopefully I can push my way back in," said Hocking.
"We have got a game against Munster (this week) and hopefully I can force my way back in for the Moseley (league) match."
Hocking, though, does expect it to be difficult to get his place back.
"It is going to be tough," he admitted. "Sam (Matavesi), Wayne (Sprangle), Sean (Michael Stephen) and Carpie (Aaron Carpenter) have all played well and Herbie (Stupple) is coming back soon and Dan Lee is back, so competition in the back-row is more fierce than it was at the beginning of the season.
"But I just have to work hard and hopefully get a bit of luck."
He added: "I can play all across the back-row. I would like to play seven, but if I have to play anywhere else I can play there."
Albion have only beaten two teams since the end of September – London Scottish in the league and Aberavon twice in the cup.
Their performance against Rotherham in wet and windy conditions on Saturday upset head coach Nat Saumi.
"I think we are struggling a bit with our game management at the moment," said Hocking.
"It is a team thing, but we will look at the video (of Saturday's game) and we will go back and work at it and improve for next week."
Albion have not had much luck with the weather at home this season.
Hocking said: "It has been a bit horrible down here.
"I think we have had only about three games all year when it has been dry, but no doubt that will change soon."
ALBION are still waiting to hear back from the RFU following their appeal over the result of their game at Leeds on January 6.
Albion lost the Championship match 34-16 but the visitors were unhappy that the fixture went to uncontested scrums after less than 15 minutes because the new Headingley pitch was cutting up so badly.
They have formally made their feelings know to the sport's governing body but Albion chairman Graham Stirling insists the club have not asked for a replay to be played on a neutral venue.
Stirling said: "We don't know what the outcome will be.
"The RFU are reviewing all the circumstances surrounding the match and we just hope common sense will prevail and that there will be a positive outcome for Plymouth Albion.
"We have left the options open to the RFU."