Plymouth Albion kicked off their 2018 National League One campaign with a dismal 26-11 drumming at the hands of newly promoted Chinnor, at Brickfields Saturday.
The upset loss was only the sides second home blemish in over a year, with Albion spending the majority of the game on the back foot playing catch-up to their visitors, who were eager to leave their mark on the league early.
Head coach Kieran Hallett, knew his side was outclassed throughout the game, saying:
“I don’t think we can have any complaints, there wasn’t a single area where we were better than them.
“On an individual view, and a collective view, they were better than us, we’ll obviously look back at the video to try and figure out why and where we can get better.
“It was a strange game for us, we didn’t start well, we spoke earlier in the week about the added emotion they’d bring to the game and we didn’t manage it well, then from that first scrum on, we never recovered.”
Playing a newly promoted team after finishing third in the table might cause some to question if complacency was a factor in the loss, but Hallett disagreed, saying:
“No there wasn’t any complacency, we knew we’d have to figure out how to break them down during the game without having any footage of them, and we did that in patches.
“We said at the end you don’t win or lose a league after the first game, but obviously that performance is unacceptable, and we have to try and rectify that.
“A lot of the senior players didn’t step up and perform today and perhaps there’ll be a bit of a wakeup call this week.”
Luke Chapman was also disheartened with the sides performance, he said:
“I’m really disappointed, that wasn’t us at all to be honest, as we showed in the preseason, we’re much better than that.
“At the end of the day they outplayed as in everything, we can’t say that we deserved to win at all.”
Chapman, however, did find some positives to be taken from a tough introduction to the season, and was full of confidence for a comeback next week, adding:
“Some defensive aspects were good, we had some good shots, we had a few mistakes near the end, but they’re unavoidable, so over-all we were happy with the defence, but in pretty much everything else we were outplayed.”
“With the squad we’ve got, the mentality we’ve got, we’ve got the ability to bounce back and beat Esher at their place.”
The first half descended into a kicking duel between Albion’s Matt Shepherd and Chinnor’s Caolan Bryan, as both players claimed responsibility for the only points scored for their respective sides as penalties plagued the opening 40. Albion, though, were clearly the weaker of the two sides early on, playing timid and at times nervous rugby against their newly promoted foes.
It could have been argued that Chinnor should have felt intimidated, playing their opening game against Albion, a side who’ve been in the mix three seasons in a row. Chinnor had other ideas, disproving that theory immediately, opting to take three points from the boot of Ryan to score their first points in National League 1.
Again, another penalty fell Chinnors way, the second in the first five minutes, but sensing their early momentum, the side this time went on the attack, kicking for the five-metre line. Albion held firm but seemed off colour as the lineout phased into a quick side to side attack, but the threat was dealt with, with a clearing kick from Shepherd.
Albion’s shaky start continued, especially in the scrum, as the side struggled to execute, losing the first three attempts of the half, whilst losing ground position in the process.
Chinnor would hold exclusive possession on the ball for the first fifteen minutes, causing Albion real trouble off somewhat basic attacking, as they struggled to bring runners down with poor arm tackling.
With the fifth penalty on the 12th minute mark, Ryan would again prove precise to double Chinnor’s lead to six, as Albion struggled to adjust to their visitors.
With a quarter of the game in the books, Albion finally played enough mistake free rugby to place themselves in the driving seat towards the opposite end. Chinnor repelled admirably before giving away a penalty out front of their own posts. In an unusual move for Albion, the side elected to go for points and steady ship, rather than taking the usual attacking stance, which paid off.
Three consecutive penalties later, and once again Albion was up against it with their backs against the line, without an answer for Chinnor’s early speed. Ryan put the seventh penalty in half an hour away to land the visitors ahead by six once again.
One glimmer of hope for Albion were their clear advantage in forward pack power, it seemed whenever a maul was set properly, Chinnor couldn’t reply to the strength thrown at them. It was fortunate for them that Albion rarely coordinated their squad together in the first half, leaving Chinnor to play to their own strengths.
Even with the momentum on their side, Chinnor never looked a threat to score five, and both sides settled to retire to the lockers with the score at 9-6 at halftime.
Any soul searching over the break didn’t seem to do the trick for Albion, who resumed the match on the back foot again. With so much possession in Albion’s half, it was an inevitability Chinnor would score, and their search for line ended 10 minutes into the second half.
Tom Burns would handle a quick pass at half way to find an undefended seam. More poor tackling would let Albion down as the last tacklers failed to stop the number eight’s momentum. The try was converted, leaving Albion 10 points adrift.
Facing a large deficit, Albion finally snapped themselves to life, showing a glimpse of the usual strong rugby seen at the Brickfields. Albion came on strong, trying to attack beyond Chinnor’s 22 to no avail, but a penalty kick in the corner paved the way for the sides only try of the afternoon.
After plucking the ball from the air, the initial play along the backline was sluggish with Albion players heading backwards. Play stiffened up though and the line came into focus. Being held short for five phases, replacement, Joe Snow, decided to change the attack angle, kicking a perfectly placed ball out to the wing where defence was non-existent. Teegan Minkley, playing his first game for the city, caught and placed the ball at his feet, but the extras couldn’t be converted.
Albion needed a try to level the score, and Chinnor knew it, grasping hold of the ball and keeping Albion pinned.
The extra time with the ball led to the visitors fourth penalty kick, as well as a converted Craig Holland try in the 80th minute to stun the hosts who’ll need to dig deep before the first road game of the season next week at Esher.
15 Matthew Shepherd, 14 Jordan Gott, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Robbie Weeks, 11 Teegan Minkley, 10 Fraser Honey, 9 Cameron Setter, 1 James Kenny, 2 James Salter, 3 Daniel Pullinger, 4 Daniel Swain, 5 John Kelly, 4 Rusiate Tuima, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Herbie Stupple (C)
6 Jonathan Dawe, 17 David McGregor, 18 Kieran Westlake, 19 Luke Chapman, 20 Joe Snow
15 Kieran Goss, 14 Reon Joseph, 13 Alexander Dancer, 12 Daniel Barnes, 11 Craig Holland, 10 Caolan Ryan, 9 Joshua Barton, 1 Jake Ellwood, 2 Daniel George, 3 Jack Gilding, 4 Benjamin Thomas, 5 Jack Ramshaw, 6 Joseph Dancer, 7 William Bordill, 8 Tom Burns
18 Benjamin Betts, 17 George Oliver, 16 Ricardo Cano, 19 Robert Bell, 20 David Brazier
Albion: 1 (Minkley)
Chinnor: 2 (Burns, Holland)
Albion: 2 (Shepherd)
Chinnor: 4 (Ryan)
Chinnor: 2 (Ryan)
Man of the Match: Dean Squire
Referee: Calum Howard