By Haden Tye
Albion marched to 12 consecutive wins by cruising past Blackheath 7-48 in the sun at Well Hall in the penultimate game of the season.
Kieran Hallett’s men went behind very early on, but recovered and then some, to make their winning run 12 games and cement a second-place finish in National League One.
Both Robin Wedlake and Rupert Freestone scored two tries apiece, Herbie Stupple, Matthew Shepherd and Tom Cowan-Dickie all chipped in with one, and a penalty try on top meant that Albion cruised away from the hosts with relative ease.
Hallett made four changes to his side from the team that beat Ampthill 19-14 two weeks ago, with Samuel Nixon replacing Billy Keast and Freestone replacing Cowan-Dickie. Dan Collier came in for Nile Dacres and Rupert Cooper started in place of Dan Williams.
With two games left of the season and little to play for, you would be forgiven for anticipating Albion would let their guard down against Blackheath. But, you would be forgetting that this is a side led by a certain Kieran Hallett, who demands the highest standards from his side.
Albion’s 12 game winning run is built on solid foundations and a side that are happy to be swapped and changed and still perform. Whilst Hartpury have ran away with the league, in the second-half of the season Hallett’s men have been just as relentless, with Hallett looking for increasingly brilliant performances each week.
If Albion’s victory against Blackheath is anything like the 11 that preceded it, then the future bodes well. Despite an early scare when Blackheath’s Freddie Owen scored a try that Mark Cooke converted within the first two minutes, Albion were irresistible.
It only took Albion the same length of time as they had trailed to get themselves back in the game, with an instant reply as Harvey Skinner kicked down the left and Wedlake stormed onto the loose ball before anyone else could react.
Albion took the lead minutes later, after a maul on the right took Albion over the try-line and Freestone managed to put down for Albion’s second try.
Just before the quarter of an hour mark, Tom Baldwin got yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on, which allowed Albion to capitalise and add another two tries in quick succession.
Albion, who had been more powerful than the hosts, asserted their physical strength once more with a scrum on Blackheath’s 5, which Albion pushed forward and over the try-line to allow Stupple to dive on to the loose ball and extend Albion’s advantage – which Shepherd then stretched even further with a conversion.
Moments later, Albion were at it again. Collier powered his way down the left and offloaded to Wedlake. Albion’s winger had a man to beat, which he did with ease, dummying to come inside before stretching his legs away from danger to score on the left.
Just before the break, Albion put themselves 20 points clear of their opposition.
Matthew Crosscombe had the ball on the right and charged forward, but played a pass to Ed Holmes upon being tackled. Holmes surged forward further, but under pressure played the ball back to Crosscombe, who was now free. Albion’s winger quickly offloaded to Shepherd, who put down in the corner for another neat Albion try.
Crosscombe would be the provider of Albion’s next try too, in the second-half, as he offloaded to Freestone on the right who marched over the try-line for his second try of the game, which Shepherd converted.
Albion scored their sixth try just before the hour mark, after an attack down the right they were awarded a penalty try, which Shepherd kicked between the sticks.
With quarter of an hour to play, Cowan-Dickie, who had only recently come on for Freestone scored Albion’s final try of the afternoon. After a line-out which Cowan-Dickie had taken, he joined the maul and pushed Blackheath back over their try-line to put down. Shepherd converted.
Albion were simply too much for Blackheath and Hallett’s side have now won 12 on the bounce, with one left to play. That’s next week against Cambridge, who will have to be at their best to beat this Albion side.
We can’t stop winning.
15 Dan Powell, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Harry Strong, 11 Robin Wedlake, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Matthew Shepherd, 1 Samuel Nixon, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Daniel Pullinger, 4 Dan Collier, 5 Samuel Holmes, 6 Rupert Cooper, 7 George Mills, 8 Herbie Stupple.
Replacements: 16 William Norton, 18 Thomas Cowan-Dickie, 19 Nile Dacres, 20 Daniel Williams, 21 Harrison Cully.
T: Robin Wedlake 5, 25, Rupert Freestone 12, 46, Herbie Stupple 24, Matthew Shepherd 37, Penalty Try 56, Tom Cowan-Dickie 65.
C: Matthew Shepherd 24, 46, 56, 65.
15 Mike Mvelase, 14 Tom Chapman, 13 Markus Burcham (Capt),12 Alex Pickersgill, 11 Dan Hamilton, 10 Mark Cooke, 9 Jake Bedding, 1 Aston Croall, 2 Harry Fry, 3 George Baker, 4 Freddie Owen, 5 Tom Stradwick, 6 Chris Walker, 7 Jesse Liston, 8 Tom Baldwin.
Replacements: 16 Mike Perks, 17 Bertie Haskins, 18 Devin Montgomery, 19 Gregor Gillanders, 20 Simon Whatling.
T: Freddie Owen 2.
C: Mark Cooke 2.
Yellow Cards: Tom Baldwin 14.