Match Report provided by Kevin Westlake.
Following Albion’s impressive win against Cambridge at Brickfields last weekend, Kieran Hallett’s men had the long road trip to Caldy to look forward to. The second longest of the season against opposition who sat just two places below Albion after Round 19.
Caldy had lost narrowly at Esher the week before and would be looking to avenge a 24-14 loss to the Plymouth club at Brickfields earlier in the season. Albion on the other hand were looking to complete the double over the Cheshire based club and to further climb the National One table after a run of good results in 2019.
Albion were forced to make a number of changes from the side who overcame Cambridge the week before with Cam Setter coming in for Exeter Chiefs bound Joe Snow and new loan signing Ashlee Crouch coming into the front row to bolster the scrum. However, a training injury denied Crouch the opportunity. Albion management had to think fast and arranged the signing of Royal Navy Under 23 tight-head Chris Robinson, who came into the squad at short notice for his debut.
In windy and wet conditions Albion kicked with the wind in the first half and enjoyed good periods of possession, with impressive runs into enemy territory by Herbie Stupple and John Kelly. On 3 minutes, Caldy infringed at the breakdown and Matt Shepherd stepped up for a kick at goal. On this occasion, the wind surprised him and the kick curled horribly past the right upright.
Albion continued to hold on to possession, denying Caldy a single opportunity to enter their half. After 16 minutes of sustained pressure, Albion had set a good base through the forwards and drove toward the try line. Following a series of pick and go rucks Albion’s Hooker Paul Davis crashed over for the first try of the match. Shepherd duly converted, giving the away side a 0-7 lead.
On 33 minutes, Albion were awarded another penalty in a kickable position due to Caldy infringements. Full Back Shepherd stepped up and coolly slotted the points to increase the lead. Two minutes later, following an incident at a ruck, Caldy Prop Derek Salisbury saw Yellow for foul play and Albion’s Paul Davis was dismissed for an alleged kick by referee Calum Howard.
Following this, the first half ran down fairly uneventfully, with the exception of a penalty kick for Caldy’s Ben Jones.
HALF TIME: Caldy. 3 Plymouth Albion. 10
Albion started the second half facing into a stern wind with rain driving into their faces.
Wing Josh Skelcey gave way for replacement hooker Jamie Salter following the sending off. It wasn’t long before Albion were back scoring again though, with Fly Half Connor Eastgate stepping up to kick three points from the 10 metre line, into the swirling wind.
Caldy enjoyed a period of decent possession following this, but were forced back by a determined defence with Centre Seta Raumakita making a series of thunderous tackles. Caldy seemed to have had enough of the affront and tried to clear their lines, but a charge down and chase from Man of the Match John Kelly added 5 points to the Albion score line. Shepherd easily converted from in front of the posts.
Three minutes later, Plymouth were on the front foot again, piling pressure on the hosts defensive line, some skilled passing and great running lines resulted in flanker George Mills charging through the middle to score Albion’s third and final try. Again Shepherd added the extras.
With the bit between their teeth, the dominant Albion pack now took control and continued to push forward, but on 67 minutes, Centre Dean squire was Yellow Carded for a high tackle. This gave Caldy some belief, they pushed into the Albion half for the 10 minute period but couldn’t break an outstanding defensive effort.
The game finished with blue skies on The Wirral and delighted travelling supporters heading back to Devon with 4 points on the road.
Head Coach Hallett was full of praise for his side, and was especially impressed with the performance of debutant prop Chris Robinson, speaking after the game he said “Chris was outstanding today. When you consider he only had 24 hours notice to prepare for the match, he did really well, I’m not sure many people could have done that. Although I think his background as a Marine probably helped. He definitely wasn’t expecting a full 80 minutes, but coped admirably with the pace”
He also made comments about Man of the Match John Kelly “JK definitely had his best game of the season today, he managed to stay on the right side of the referee and carried the ball really well. We have been working on this in training with him and challenging him to take the initiative”.
Overall, Hallett felt that the first ten minutes were frustrating, “We had lots of possession, but couldn’t turn it into points early on, but we grew throughout the game and controlled possession well. It’s always difficult to lose a player, but to have played with 13 for a period of time could have introduced panic. But the boys remained calm and our Game Managers controlled the game well”
Albion return to league action next Saturday at Brickfields when they take on Cinderford in another important clash in National One. Kick Off is at 3pm and tickets are available at www.plymouthalbion.com and Under 16s can watch for free with a paying adult.
Yellow Card: Salisbury
Tries: Davis, Kelly, Mills
Conv: Shepherd 3
Pens: Shepherd, Eastgate
Yellow Card: Squire
Red Card: Davis
Referee: Calum Howard