By Jack Guthrie at Brickfields.
Plymouth Albion 24 Rotherham Titans 17
Plymouth Albion returned to winning ways after a close-fought and physical game saw them clinch a much-needed 24-17 win over Rotherham at Brickfields.
Albion coach Kieran Hallett said the good work they did without the ball was key to winning the game and moving up to sixth in the National League One table, four points behind the Titans.
He said: “Our defence in the first half was solid, we didn’t give lots of opportunities for them to get scores. It was important to capitalise on turnovers, particularly to get points from defensive plays to give us the advantage.”
First-half tries from Jonathan Dawe and Jack Arnott were both converted by Matt Shepherd, who also added a penalty. A penalty from visiting full-back Alex Dolly and a try from Rotherham No8 Sebastian Nagle-Taylor was converted to end the half with Albion leading 17-10
The second half was a nervy and tense affair for the home side as the Titans grew into the game. Improved success from lineouts and scrums forced Albion back within their own 22 and powerful forward carries saw them break the gain line consistently.
An early converted try for Albion by substitute David McGregor was matched by Nagle-Taylor who bagged his second with 10 minutes left on the clock. The game was eventually ended after 88 minutes after Albion turned the ball over and kicked it high into the stands.
The first half was dictated by strong defence and powerful forward play as both sides relished the battle. Damp and slippery conditions posed a real problem for both, causing a series of handling and unforced errors which gave up possession.
Albion took advantage in the first half with plenty of possession being turned over by Rotherham, particularly from lineouts where Albion were well-drilled and dominant. This allowed them vital field position for testing the physicality of their forward match-ups.
Dawe’s try came on nine minutes after a quick passing move was well held as he went over for the score. Five minutes later an excellent kick and chase from Arnott saw him open to run in for the second try of the match.
Rotherham added a penalty after a succession of infringements by the hosts, scored by full back Dolly, which was immediately countered by an Albion penalty from Shepherd.
The away side stayed well in the game and scored a deserved try on the stroke of half-time after a barraging run by tight-head prop Will Dennis set up a passing move for Nagle-Taylor to run it in under the posts.
Rotherham came out after half-time full of intent, bringing the game to Albion and forcing a reaction from them.
It resulted in substitute hooker McGregor making an instant impact, scoring a try from a driving maul after his lineout. This was converted again by Shepherd to give the hosts a more comfortable lead.
Albion discipline slipped a little, conceding territory through scrums and penalties. Players from both sides had to be broken up after an altercation under the Albion posts.
Hallett said: “The tussle didn’t annoy me. I feel it was what we needed to spark us to put in a resolute performance in the closing stages. It forced us to get more physical in the second half.”
Nevertheless, there followed an excellent driving scrum by the Titans which saw Nagle-Taylor go over for his second, touching the ball down as it rolled over the try line.
Rotherham kept pressing, however Albion had all the answers in defence and prevented them from adding another.
Albion went a man down after Dan Swain was yellow-carded in the final minute, but managed to turn over the ball from Rotherham and kick to touch.
Looking forward, Hallett said: “Of course now we want to press on and go on another run, similar to others that we’ve been on this season.
“We have the opportunity in the few games left to solidify our position and also show our intent on winning against anyone we face.”
Tries: J. Dawe; J. Arnott; D. McGregor
Comversions: M. Shepherd (3)
Penalties: M Shepherd
Tries: S. Nagle-Taylor (2)
Conversions: A. Dolly (2)
Penalties: A. Dolly