By Jack Guthrie
Plymouth Albion came away with a draw against their National Division One rivals Chinnor on Saturday, as their physical battle with the Oxfordshire side saw both teams claim points as the game ended 10-10.
Albion’s Captain George Mills felt that: “it was a really tough, close game, the team’s been a bit thin on the ground and we’ve had to make a few changes, but we pulled through and were unlucky not to get the win.”
Albion held control for the most of the first half, as a sin-bin for Chinnor’s Peter Laverick early in proceedings gave them the advantage to attempt to open the scoring. Albion found themselves deep into enemy territory for large periods slowly moving widthways along the try-line, however, costly turnovers and penalties allowed the away side to relieve the pressure.
Even after Laverick returned to the match Plymouth held firm, excellent kicking from the man of the match Joe Snow allowed the backs free-reign in their opponent’s half, but they were unable to turn those opportunities into points as they lacked inaccuracy. At the half, the game was scoreless leaving fans with little to cheer about.
The second half was much livelier as both teams threw caution to the wind and attacked each other with intent. Albion hit the post from a penalty attempt which would have seen them take the lead. They then conceded a penalty in their half which Laurence May dispatched for Chinnor, giving them a slight edge over their counterparts.
Albion replied instantly with a converted try, and minutes later added a penalty onto that which saw them 10-3 up. A lapse in defence saw Plymouth caught out, as a break from the Chinnor backs saw them burst through the middle of the pitch, breaking multiple attempted tackles before firing the ball out to the left-wing where Samu Yawayawa bundled the ball into the corner. Mills felt that was their only main opportunity of the game saying: “they broke the line once really, and they did us on the edge, our defence for the rest of the game I think was outstanding.”
The final stages of the game were incredibly encapsulating, with both teams at each other’s throats. Chinnor looked to have the momentum after their try and pressurised Plymouth into mistakes which gave them important territory. Under the pressure, the ball was played to Alex Ducker who quickly booted the ball into touch with the game finishing even on the scoreline, despite contrasting performances from the sides.
Albion had a real chance in the opening stages of the game when Alex ducker made a breakthrough multiple Chinnor defenders, gaining a good 60 yards. The resultant passing play down the right-wing saw the ball fumbled by Seta Raumakita for a Chinnor scrum.
Albion didn’t continue to threaten the weaknesses of the away outfit until the yellow card for centre Peter Laverick, which scrum-half Joe snow managed to expose through a variety of excellent kicks for the wingers to chase. Albion managed to force line-outs throughout the first half, but they were not as accurate as usual with more being turned over as they looked to find their feet.
After Laverick returned, the hosts continued to press. Chinnor were confined to their own 22 for the rest of the half, with the only relief of pressure coming from time-off after their second-row Cameron Gray stayed down injured after a collision. The Oxfordshire side managed to ride out until the whistle and both sides went into the half with nothing to show for their efforts.
Albion continued to pile on the pressure in the opening stages of the second period and gained a penalty just outside the Chinnor 22 which they opted to kick at goal. Fullback Dan Powell attempted the kick, with usual kicker Connor Eastgate out injured, and struck the right upright which came back into the possession of Chinnor.
Chinnor built upon that miss by forcing a penalty of their own. Fly-half Laurence May also opted to kick for goal and found the mark, giving them a slender lead. Albion responded incredibly strongly to this score, and two minutes later broke though the away defence with a succession of offloads, which saw hooker Jamie Salter over for another try for his season tally. Powell extended the lead to four with his conversion, and Albion had looked to regain control.
Later in the game, Powell made up for his earlier penalty error, by securing another three points for the hosts, pushing the lead to a whole converted score, and putting the pressure on Chinnor to respond.
With 70 minutes gone Chinnor did respond. Some poor missed tackles from Albion saw the away backs to run the ball down their throats, through the middle of the park. The ball was fired out to the right-wing and forced over the line by winger Yawayawa as he ploughed through two Plymouth bodies. May was accurate again, and the pressure was back on Albion. Their only major mistake had been capitalised upon and the game was tied with shy of nine minutes remaining.
For the first time in the game, Albion looked timid and uncomfortable on the ball. Chinnor pressed high and Albion looked incredibly prone to mistakes. As the running clock hit 80 minutes the ball to Alex Ducker was kicked into the grandstand before the game could be lost.
Neither outfit played at their peak today, as they both looked sloppy at times in both attack and defence. Plymouth will blame this partly on the multitude of injuries that are rife throughout the squad, including club captain Herbie Stupple and star winger Josh Skelcey, leaving the team selection with the bare bones and having to play players in makeshift positions.
Albion fans will be frustrated to have not capitalised on their dominance in the first half but will be relieved that they didn’t give up the draw towards the end of the match. Against one of the better teams in the league, Albion were able to gain points for their campaign and will be happy that they can compete with the elite as the season wears on.
Tries: J. Salter
Convs: D. Powell
Pens: D. Powell
Tries: S. Yawayawa
Convs: L. May
Pens: L. May
Yellow Card: P. Laverick