Plymouth Albion 33 – 22 Sale FC
By Jack Guthrie
Plymouth Albion cruised to a 33-22 victory, after their best first half performance of the season aided them in shutting out Sale FC in their National Division one clash.
In his pre-match notes, Plymouth coach Ben Gulliver sang the praises of the work that had been put in off the pitch, writing: “the work of James Earp, Gareth Steenson and Carl Rimmer is starting to bear fruit in training and as a coaching group we are really excited at the prospect of taking on Sale.”
Albion truly bloomed in the first half scoring their bonus point try just before half-time, displaying utter dominance in both attack and defence throughout. The forwards were the key to Albion’s devastating success, as they left the Manchester side in dismay and unable to break the hosts down.
The battered away side made vital changes coming into the second, which shifted the momentum in their favour as they desperately searched for a losing bonus point, however Albion stayed rigid in defence and blitzed them in attack putting themselves just out of reach.
The first major action of the game came just after 10 minutes, when Sale winger Jack Moorhouse saw yellow for an intentional knock-on. The resultant line-out from the penalty set up a classic Albion driving maul, which heaved its way over the line for Jamie Salter to finish. Full-back Connor Eastgate notched up his first points of the game with the following conversion.
Just before Moorhouse returned to the field Albion scored their second. A powerful scrummage drove the visitors back, and quick passing down the line left Alex Ducker open on the left flank. Eastgate extended the lead to 14, as Sale returned to a full 15.
When they got the chance, Sale put points on the board from a Chris Johnson penalty to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Albion then started to stamp their authority with their incredible defensive effort. Using quick line speed and heavy hits, they forced the away side to punt the ball clear time and again.
Salter led the line in defence and punished the lackadaisical Sale side with an excellent chase-down block that left him acres of space to dart under the posts, grabbing his second of the game with Eastgate getting his third conversion.
Later on in the half, Ducker suffered the same fate as his match-up Moorhouse, intentionally knocking the ball on and spending the rest of the half on the sideline. This eased the pressure of the Reds as they came back to score a try of their own, as Matt Bradley took in an offload on the try-line and dived in for the easy score.
Johnson converted, but the hosts remained unphased, turning the ball over and gaining penalties deep in the opposing territory. Quick passing from the backs sliced open the weak defence, allowing Dan Swain an easy run in from the passing play. The kick was missed but the bonus point was secured as the teams jogged to the changing rooms.
Sale replaced their scrum-half and a second-row, as Alex Ducker was waved back onto the pitch.
Albion continued their physical play with barraging runs being made by their pack. They moved along Sale’s try-line and Joe Snow was able to sneak under the defence to touch the ball down. Eastgate’s conversion pushed the lead to 23, leaving the away outfit needing at least four scores to win.
Replacement scrum-half Raphael Quirke changed the game for the Manchester outfit as they pushed the hosts back with excellent box kicking and chasing. Quirke would then get his share as an overlap on the wing opened up the pitch, allowing an easy pop-pass to fall in his path as he supported the run and finished the play, with outside-centre James Williams converting.
Albion’s hooker Jamie Salter had the chance for a hat-trick as he was found on the wing with a skip pass, but it wasn’t meant to be as he was tackled into touch just shy of the whitewash. He was subbed off with just over 10 minutes left of play, cheers resounding after his stellar performance.
Matthew Postlethwaite added himself to the score-sheet, as Albion had a taste of their own medicine, scoring after multiple phases of battering from Sale saw them break through. Williams couldn’t add the two points afterwards, and Albion put the game in cruise control and edged out their opponents until the final whistle.
Despite the amount of key players missing from this game, Albion put on show that they have excellent strength in depth as they deal with their injury woes. With club captain Herbie Stupple expected to return to the field soon, Plymouth could yet again display dominant runs in the league similar to those of last season, as it looks to finally be clicking under Gulliver.
15.C. Eastgate 14.D. Powell 13.D. Squire 12.J. Pohe 11.A. Ducker 10.S. Morley 9.J. Snow 1.J. Higgins 2.J. Salter 3.D. Pullinger 4.D. Collier 5.L. Pearson 6.G. Mills 7.P. Ingoldsby 8. D. Swain
16.S. Raumakita 17.M. Norey 18.C. Setter 19.K. Britton 20.O. Mulberry
TRIES: J. Salter (2), A. Ducker, D. Swain, J. Snow
CONVS:C. Eastgate (4)
YELLOW CARDS: A. Ducker- 35′
15.F. Mulchrone 14.J. Moorhouse 13.James Williams 12.J. Toa 11.P. Ah Van 10.C. Johnson 9.M. Bradley 1.D. Birchall 2.J. Rivas 3.M. Talaese 4.W. Davies 5.M. Postlethwaite 6.J. Barron 7.A. Hughes 8.Jarad Williams
16.C. Ford 21.J. Pope 18.S. Priestley-Nangle 19.T. Brady 20.R. Quirke
TRIES: W. Davies, R. Quirke, M. Postlethwaite
CONVS: C. Johnson, James Williams
PENS: C. Johnson
YELLOW CARDS: J. Moorhouse- 11′
REF: Adam Wookey