Old Elthamians 40 Plymouth Albion 29.
By Leon Theisinger
It was always going to be a tense affair at College Meadow when Albion travelled to Old Elthamians at the weekend and the fixture did not disappoint.
Old Elthamians Director of Rugby, Gavin Lach, deemed it “the most important 7 days in the clubs [Old Elthamians] history”. Head Coach at Plymouth Albion, Kieran Hallett, said before the game; “For every game we set out to win and this game is no different, but I also think that it will be a great test of our character as a team, whilst also providing a good gauge to us as to how far we’ve come this season. We’re under no illusion though, this will be the toughest challenge of the season.”
With talk like that from both clubs, it was sure to be a cracker…and what a cracker it was! Just one minute in to the game, Albion stole the ball on their own 22 and winger, Josh Skelcey, ran down the touchline for the first try of the game, with Matt Shepherd making the conversion to take an early 0-7 lead.
Albion could not have written the script when just 5 mins later, Matt Shepherd intercepted a pass by the opposition just outside of Albion’s 22, but an unopposed run, Matt placed the ball over the line, with converting the try himself to make it 0-14.
With a start like that a response from table topping Old Elthamians was inevitable and it didn’t take long from the restart, a neat break by Joe Carlisle allowed Fred Hosking to touch down over the line, followed by Carlisle converting to bring the score back to 7-14 to Albion.
The first penalty was given by Albion on the 18th minute, for what was deemed a late tackle by Albion, which following a ‘catch-and-drive’, allowed Adam Brett to make his touch down and Carlisle to step up to convert, bringing the score level on 14 points apiece.
The restart was somewhat indifferent by Old Elthamians, presenting Albion with a penalty opportunity, which Matt Shepherd stepping up and adding 3 points to the Albion tally, putting them back in front 14-17.
Two penalties awarded to Old Elthamians in quick succession, one for a scrum infringement and the other following a high tackle by Albion, meant that Carlisle was able to add 6 points, giving the hosts the advantage at 20-17.
Before half time it there was another piece of great play by the Albion backs, with quick hands they were able to stretch out the oppositions defence, allowing Jon Dawe to skip through the midfield to place the ball for a try to Albion. Matt Shepherd was once again on target, adding the conversion to make it 20-24 to Albion heading into the break.
The second half started much in the same vain as the first half, with both teams showing their intention to want the win. Albion’s defence stood resolute for two catch-and-drives by the opposition, but couldn’t contain when Hamish Barton placed down for a try, and Carlisle adding the additional points with his conversion, putting the visitors just ahead on 27-24.
With two more penalties being awarded to Old Elthamians, one of which was put firmly between the posts to give the hosts a 6 point lead, 30-24. At this point Albion were not about to lie down and let OE’s have it all their own way when Herbie Stupple was credited with the bonus point try, after a huge effort by the Albion forwards that pushed the scrum over the line, this time however Matt Shepherd was off target, meaning the score advantage remained with the hosts at 30-29.
With penalties being such a feature of the game for the opposition points, they were once again handed the opportunity to add more points following the ref blowing up for Albion holding on in the tackle, this allowed Old Elthamians to widen their advantage to 33-29.
Seven minutes later, a scrum penalty was kicked to the corner by OE’s and the resulting catch-and-drive was completed when Rhys Mrogan flew around the blindside, and Carlisle converted. This wrapped up an entertaining game and gave OE’s their 7th successive win, 40-29.
Albion: 4 (Skelcey, Shepherd, Dawe & Stupple)
Old Elthamians: 4 (Hosking, Batt, Barton, Morgan)
Albion: 1 (Shepherd 1)
Old Elthamians: 5 (Carlisle 4)
Albion: 3 (Shepherd)
Old Elthamians: 4 (Carlisle)
Referee: MR JAMES PHILIP CLARKE