Old Elthamians 27 Plymouth Albion 20
Report by: Kevin Westlake / Images by: James Thompson
After last weeks win over Rotherham at Brickfields, Albion supporters were looking for a less nerve-wracking more controlling from their team who have registered one win from the first three National One matches.
Before the 500 mile round trip to South East London, Head Coach, Ben Gulliver told us that “matches in this league are going either way by one score and we have to be an 85 minute team”. Gulliver also mentioned the hard yards being covered in training, and the competitive nature of an Old Elthamians team who pushed Ampthill hard for promotion to the Championship last term, “They are a good team, they are powerful and very dangerous at home”.
The Albion starting XV was unchanged from a week ago against Rotherham, with the exception of Rusi Tuima returning to the bench following his return from Exeter Chiefs duty.
The game started slowly with neither team controlling possession and making small errors. Albion managed to put pressure on the OEs line after 8 minutes with Fly-Half Dan Mugford charging down a poor clearance kick, and regathering the ball to dot down just wide of the uprights, Mugford converted his own try, putting the Plymouth side 7 points to the good.
Almost immediately, Albion infringed at the ruck and referee Calum Howard brandished his first card of the day, with Dan Collier heading for a 10 minute break for infringement at the ruck. The Old Boys fly-half Thomas White reduced the arrears by slotting the three points.
On 16 minutes, Mugford was successful with the boot again, restoring the seven point advantage after OEs were penalised at the scrum. Albion’s scrum looked powerful throughout the game as Dan Pullinger bullied Thomas Concu. The penalties kept coming and Albion repeatedly put the ball into touch in the Elthamians half, trying to force a scoring opportunity.
The first half finished with a penalty miss for OEs fly-half, and Albion went for oranges with a slim lead. OLD ELTHAMIANS 6 – 10 PLYMOUTH ALBION
In the second half, Albion were playing with a strong breeze, but it was OEs who were first to capitalise, the ball was moved from left to right as Albion fell away from some tackles. The pressure eventually told with wing George Perkins barrelling over on 44 minutes, the conversion was missed.
Changes for both sides followed, with the introduction of Cam Setter, Rusi Tuima and Dean Squire on 46 minutes, then came the most memorable moment of the match, for all the wrong reasons. Tuima made a full-blooded tackle and the OEs pack reacted, firstly by second row Parker and then a reaction from Tuima. This lead to some ugly ugly scenes and an extended period of conflict, which resulted in more cards from referee Howard, this time Red for both players concerned.
Only a few minutes later, OEs lost flanker Adam Batt to the sin-bin for foul play, but the man advantage did not help the away team as OEs slotted another penalty making the score 14 – 10 to the hosts.
White struck again on 53 minutes with another penalty kick as Albion were caught again at the breakdown.
Albion then manufactured the try of the match as Cam Setter took a quick tap penalty and chipped the ball neatly into a space at the back, Cornwall flyer Alex Ducker ran through and gathered the kick, crossing out wide for Albion’s second and last try of the day. Replacement kicker Connor Eastgate converting from the 22. With the game level, OEs took control of the match, forcing Albion to make mistakes and giving away cheap penalties. Eventually the pressure told, and on 71 minutes, Brown, once again put Old Elthamians in the lead.
From the following kick-off, OEs Louis Brown added to the home sides advantage, scoring out wide. The conversion was good from White. With Old Elthamians now 27-17 to the good, Albion went in search of a bonus point in the final few minutes. On the 79th minute, Old Elthamians flanker Hamlisch Barton was penalised, and up stepped Eastgate for Albion. From inside his own half, Eastgate struck a beautiful kick to add three points and securing the bonus point on the road.
The game fizzled out as OEs held onto possession until the clock was in the red. Then ball was punted into touch and the game was over.
Following the bad-tempered affair, head coach Gulliver was full of praise for his team saying “we could have quite easily lost our heads out there today, but the boys have stuck together and have continued to gel as a team. I’m proud of the effort, but the result just didn’t go our way”.