By Jack Guthrie
Plymouth Albion 21 – Cinderford 10.
Another dominant defensive display by Plymouth Albion helped them to a third win in a row and a move up to seventh place in National League One, following a 21-10 victory over a physical Cinderford side.
The visitors never got a sniff in the first half, with excellent kicking and chasing from the home side’s backs keeping the ball at the Cinderford end for a 14-0 half-time lead.
And, while they fought back after the break, outscoring their hosts with a more disciplined display, Albion head coach Keiran Hallett was pleased with how his side handled it.
“They ran a lot at us in the second half and made some nice offloads; we were more stressed, but I think we handled it well,” said Hallett.
“We were dominant and calm throughout the first half, though, which was pleasing.”
Albion started the game showing their intent early on, with an excellent passing move being rewarded with a Cameron Setter try within the first five minutes, which was converted by Matt Shepherd.
Albion continued to hold their position on the front foot, pinning the away side within their own 22. They gained the extra man advantage after 16 minutes when a high tackle from Cinderford prop James Elliott saw him yellow-carded.
Albion kicked to touch and scored their second try through a powerful driving maul from the lineout, finished by hooker Jamie Salter.
Cinderford changed their tactics coming into the second half, maintaining more possession of the ball and forcing Albion to commit men to tackles and rucks.
Some ill-discipline from the home team saw Cinderford come into the game more, with an early penalty being scored from Dan Pointon in the second half and try-scorer Salter later getting sin-binned.
This led to a Cinderford try from hooker Nathan Taylor after their driving maul forced them the length of Albion’s 22-yard-area.
Hallett said: “The yellow card was a collective one, we spoke at half-time that the only way they would get into the game was by giving away penalties and we gave away six or seven on the bounce.”
This was not helped by the conditions, where large areas of the pitch were worn and muddy, leading to unforced errors being made at both scrums and lineouts by both sides.
Despite Cinderford having the extra man, Albion were able to mirror their first half performance and keep the opposition in their own half. Excellent line-breaking from the forwards inched Plymouth closer to the try line, with Cinderford defending resolutely on their own five-metre-line.
Albion played the ball out quickly through the backs and a dummy pass from Seta Raumakita saw him open to run in for the try, with just shy of 10 minutes on the clock. Shepherd had an excellent day of kicking and was able to convert the try and crucially put Albion two scores ahead.
Both teams played intense rugby in the final moments of the game with kick and chase being the preferred tactic from both sides.
Albion looked hungry for a fourth try, and more crucially a bonus-point win, and Cinderford piled on the pressure on the Albion backs who were very well drilled in their passing plays.
Some sloppy possession from Cinderford allowed Albion to intercept and the game was over, following a thrilling second half of physical and punishing rugby.
It meant Hallett could reflect on another excellent win for his side, and he praised the way they have bounced back from their run of poor form earlier in the season.
He said: “If you look at where we’ve come from, having six straight losses around October and November, to be able to turn that around is very impressive.
“It just shows that when the guys prep right, we are able to beat a lot of teams in the league.”
PLYMOUTH ALBION LINE-UP
15. M. Shepherd, 14. J. Skelcey, 13. S. Raumakita, 12. D. Squire, 11. J. Gott, 10. C. Eastgate, 9. C. Setter, 1. J. Kenny, 2. J. Salter, 3. W. Norton, 5. L. Pearson, 6. K. Westlake, 4. J. Kelly, 7. G. Mills, 8. H. Stupple
Replacements: 16. D. McGregor, 17. D. Swain, 18. D. Powell, 19. C. Robinson, 20. J. Snow
15. S. Hawley, 14. S. Smith, 13. J. Hayes, 12. G. Boulton, 11. R. Norville, 10. D. Pointon, 9. A. Frame, 1. G. Porter, 18. N. Taylor, 3. J. Elliott, 4. G. Evans, 5. D. Lemon, 6. J. Shields, 7. M. Bennett, 8. A. Ryan
Replacements: 16. T. Brockett, 17. J. Smart, 19. M. Lane, 20. E. Bogue, 21. H. Hone
PLYMOUTH ALBION: Tries: C. Setter, J. Salter, S. Raumakita; Conversions: M. Shepherd (3)
CINDERFORD: Tries: N. Taylor; Conversions: D. Pointon; Penalties: D. Pointon