Cambridge 16 V Plymouth Albion 14

Dean Squire of Plymouth Albion goes over for a try during the National 1 Match between Cambridge and Plymouth Albion at Volac Park, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire on January 27th 2018 - PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Tim March at Volac Park

Albion looked off the pace as Cambridge won the game with three unanswered penalty kicks.

Head coach Kieran Hallett’s team were in control for the first 20 minutes with tries from Matt Shepherd and Dean Squire being the high points of their day.

Cambridge chipped away at Albion as the game went on, scoring a try and three penalty kicks, and showed superior game management skills while Albion crumbled.

On why his team struggled, Hallett said: “We were a little bit rusty with only one game in five weeks, but that’s not an excuse… we were just not good enough. We didn’t have the hunger that we normally have. We were matched at set pieces and we didn’t deal with it particularly well.

“In the second half we played against tough wind and it was difficult to get a foot hold. The couple of times that we did have possession in their half, first we kicked the ball away cheaply and turned it back over then secondly we had two line-outs with our caller in the bin! All of that adds up to a pretty abject performance.”

When asked if individual errors cost his team, Hallett replied: “It was more collective today, we just weren’t at the races and sometimes that happens. We need to be better at dealing with the expectations that come with putting on that shirt for Plymouth every week. Nobody cares that we have played once in five weeks or that we had an early start this morning, it doesn’t matter. We have to realise whenever we play away from home everyone is out to get us and at the moment I don’t think we are dealing with that too well.”

Captain Herbie Stupple came off the bench to have his first action on the pitch since returning from a slipped disc injury. He said: “I only got 15 minutes but that’s all I wanted. I’m actually surprised and  shocked with how well I feel.”

The 27-year-old from Padstow says he now feels ready to start a match: “If I start I’ll do what I can to make sure I’m fit and ready for it. Being out there I got the buzz back – I wanted to be out longer.”

Stupple thought his team let the match get away: “We said in the week about having the right game management and kicking at the right times. We didn’t control the game in the first half with the wind and in the second half it was too late. We gave away far too many penalties. It was frustrating but something we will look at in the week.”

In the first 15 minutes Cambridge were barely able to leave their half and the only things that stopped Albion scoring in the opening plays were some miscalculated passes and dropped balls in wet conditions.

But 18 minutes in Matt Shepherd scored to the right of the posts with a Dan Mugford assist after a strong line out. Mugford’s conversion put Albion 0-7 up and it looked like the Devon side were in for an easy afternoon.

There followed a something of a stalemate in the the centre of the pitch before Cambridge took advantage of the lack of Albion pressure. The home team pinned the visitors to their try line for a long two minutes and Rob Conquest eventually put the ball over, with fly-half Ben Penfold adding the extras.

Plymouth were able to respond in good fashion with Mugford making up 25 yards which finished with a clever pass at pace for Dean Squire to score. Another successful kick for the number 10 put Albion up 7-14.

Cambridge started to get into a rhythm and, in the closing moments of the first half, were awarded a penalty inside the 22. Penfold tucked it away, making it 10-14 going into the break.

In the second half, a mixture of small errors and perfectly-timed Cambridge tackles meant Albion were not able to take control.

A penalty was awarded to Cambridge 44 yards out and, with the wind in his favour, Jack Green kicked it right through the centre of the posts, taking the score to 13-14.

A series of poorly-executed Albion line-outs did nothing for the players’ confidence as time after time they gave the ball away.

When Cambridge were awarded their third penalty of the day Green finally put his side ahead after 67 minutes and the so-called ‘Blood and Sand’ saw out the remainder of the game to finish 16-14 victors.

Albion will look to bounce back with their next match on Saturday, February 3, at home to Caldy.

Cambridge:

15 Mike Ayrton, 14 Owain Collard, 13 Albert Portsmouth, 12 Matt Hema, 11 Ashley Elvers, 10 Ben Penfold, 9 Lewis Barker, 1 Harry Morley, 2 Ean Griffiths, 3 Shane Moynihan, 4 George Bretag-Norris, 5 Rob Conquest, 6 Darren Fox, 7 Keifer Laxton, 8 Jake McCloud.

Replacements:

16 Alex Rayment, 17 Matthew Worrall-Clare, 18 Josh Peters, 19 Cameron Keenan, 20 Jack Green.

Albion:

15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Seta Raumakita, 12 Dean Squire, 11 Harrison Cully, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Joe Snow, 1 Luke Chapman, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Ed Holmes, 5 John Kelly, 6 George Mills, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Eoghan Grace (Captain).

Replacements:

16 Joel Armitage, 17 Jamie Salter, 18 Herbie Stupple, 19 Cameron Setter, 20 Jordan Gott

Tries

Cambridge: Jonas

Albion: Shepherd and Squire

Conversions

Cambridge: Penfold

Albion: 2 Mugford

Penalties

Cambridge: 1 Penfold, 2 Green

Yellow card

Albion: Holmes

Man of the match: Jake McCloud