DRAMATIC WIN FOR ALBION IN SOUTH WEST LONDON
By Kevin Westlake.
Following the hard-fought draw against Chinnor at Brickfields last week, Albion were back on the road with Richmond awaiting their arrival in South West London. Richmond had been sitting second in National One after Round 12, with the Plymouth club just managing to keep above the dreaded relegation spots.
Albion were bolstered by some additions to the squad after injury, with Connor Eastgate and Josh Skelcey coming back into the matchday squad. With Director of Rugby Nigel Sparrow taking charge of the fixture in the absence of Ben Gulliver, many were wondering how the Devon side would fare.
First blood went to Richmond, who after 5 minutes scored the opening try through prop Jeremy Cunnew. Richmond managed to draw the penalty at the scrum. From the ensuing penalty, the Richmond pack controlled the possession with a good drive which culminated in the try, however, the extras were missed by Full Back Robert Kirby.
The London side were then forced into an early substitution as Kirby was replaced by Lewis Dennet. It was Richmond who scored next, they held possession for what seemed like an eternity, with the Albion forwards tackling for their lives. Eventually, the pressure told as the ball was sent wide for winger Dan Kelly to cross out wide. Replacement kicker, Tom Hodgson added the extras, and it looked like it was going to be another long day for Plymouth.
Albion then managed to put together a sustained period of pressure, culminating with a penalty at the scrum, which has been an excellent part of the Plymouth armoury all season. Albion applied huge pressure, which saw referee Charles Gayther award the visitors a penalty, which was dispatched to touch only 5 metres from the Richmond try-line.
The ball was gathered by Lewis Pearson and a powerful drive followed, however, Richmond were penalised for pulling down the maul and Gayther had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. As a result flanker Andrew Boyce was sent to the bin for a 10-minute break.
What followed next was a battle of attrition in the midfield, with both sides trying desperately to wrestle control of the contest. It was Richmond who capitalised next though. Centre Cameron Mitchell went over for Richmond’s third which was easily converted by Hodgson.
Just before the stroke of half time, Albion were penalised within kicking range. Hodgson converted, leaving the score looking much better for the London club at 22-7.
After the break, it took Richmond 5 minutes to add their bonus point try, with Louis Molloy scoring on his debut for Richmond. The conversion was missed.
Albion were 15 points behind, but it did not stop them from piling on the pressure. Apart from the early try, Albion looked refreshed and ready to make amends. Was a comeback on the cards?
Well, yes it was. Started by a well-taken try from Joe Snow, following Albion being awarded a penalty in the Richmond half. The conversion was slotted by Full Back Connor Eastgate and the revival was on.
On 57 minutes, hooker Jamie Salter scored. Another penalty costing Richmond dear. Sam Morley had no hesitation in putting the ball into touch 15 metres from the try-line. The catch and drive was sublime, with Salter taking the spoils. The conversion was missed, but at 27-19, Albion could sense an upset.
Both sides reverted to the aerial game for a period, but when play resumed, it was Plymouth who took the game by the scruff of the neck. Centre, Javiah Pohe cut through the away defence, offloading to replacement Josh Skelcey, who raced over with 12 minutes left to play. Eastgate added the extras, which made it a one-point game.
With 10 minutes to go, a series of penalties saw the match being played between the 22-metre lines, with both defences cancelling each other out. A penalty was awarded on 77 minutes and Richmond chose to kick the three points to try to close out the game. The kick was good, and it looked like Albion might have to settle for a losing bonus point.
As hard as Richmond tried to run down the clock with substitutions, it was Albion who took the initiative. With the clock turning red, the Plymouth side-mounted one last attack, which saw them cross in dramatic fashion through Skelcey for his second of the afternoon, but was it a try??
After a long discussion, and much to the delight of the travelling support, Gayther awarded the try, putting Albion one point to the good with the conversion to come. Eastgate stepped up and missed the final kick, but it didn’t matter. The final whistle went, and Albion celebrated a dramatic and well-deserved bonus-point win, on the road.
This win elevated Plymouth Albion to 11th spot, with the bonus point allowing Richmond to lead the table at the end of Round 13, despite their loss.
Albion now faces the prospect of facing Hull at Brickfields this Saturday who have managed only one win from 12. Perhaps an Albion resurgence is on the cards?