Plymouth Albion 15 Old Elthamians 19
Robert Tunley at Brickfields
Plymouth Albion were pipped to the post Saturday, as the side were beaten by top of the table Old Elthamians, in a close National League One contest at Brickfields.
Both sides seemed evenly matched through the wind-swept game, but a couple of missed conversions proved fatal for Albion, who couldn’t quite keep up.
Albion’s head coach Kieran Hallett was naturally disappointed after his sides second loss in a row. After the match he said:
“We practiced all week to do certain things, but two minutes in we lose a player and had to re jig and everything goes out the window, and yeah we also made a lot of errors in terms of where to play and not to, especially in the second half.
“A couple of soft tries really hurt us, but when you’ve got guys out of position playing where they wouldn’t normally, you’re always trying to adapt on the fly.”
Although the loss was hard to take, Hallett was also quick to find positives from a close fought game, saying:
“I think the main positive was that we put ourselves in a position to win the game, we did a lot of things better than last week at Rotherham, we lacked edge and physicality, and I thought we improved on that a lot.
“There were just some poor decisions there at the end with regards to how we run around power plays when we’re a metre from the line, we’re not quite showing enough fight in that area to get over the line.
“Defensively we’re too soft at times, they opened us up way too easily, and that ultimately cost us the game.”
Wing Jack Arnott shared his coach’s opinions on the game, saying:
“We played well in patches and that’s the story of the season so far I think, but we’re doing the right things, putting things right from last week, playing with more physicality.”
“They were a good side and they’re at the top of the table for a reason and we can’t afford to switch off against teams like that.
“It doesn’t come down to massive errors, just little individual ones that we can easily correct in the week, and we’ll come together as a squad and work in this.”
Arnott, however, thought the game was theirs to win. He said:
“We can’t really take any confidence from that game, we should have won it and we let it slip from our hands and we’ll be disappointed about it for a few days to come.”
From the kick-off, it seemed the crowd were in for a high scoring afternoon of rugby, as both sides got off to whirlwind starts.
Plymouth Albion struck first out of the gates with an impressive run down Elthamians left flank to stun the visitors onto their back foot three minutes in. Rolling the ball of a half way line-out, Albion used quick line speed to their advantage to catch the defence napping. Arnott Carried for good meterage, before a timely offload found its way to Dean Squire to trot in close to the posts.
Keen not to fall back on their heels too long, Elthamians came back with speed of their own to take their first lead of the afternoon with the next possession. A rumbling charge by the number 8 was brought down short by a last-minute Albion tackle, but with possession one metre out, a try seemed inevitable, and it was Max Wilkins who squirrelled his way to score between the posts for a converted try.
The explosive start to the game would continue through the first fifteen minutes as both sides tried to push themselves ahead and be the dominant force on the pitch. Elthamians, however, would be the side to take the numbers advantage, as Albion’s Flynn Elworthy received a yellow card after a bad tackle.
The visitors failed to do much with their advantage, and Albion did well to keep their opposing numbers outside of the twenty-two, limiting any attempts at points.
The return of Elworthy heralded Albion’s second try of the outing, as the city side set themselves the task of resuming their early ball possession. Missed tackles would give the opportunity the boys in white were looking for, with Herbie Stupple carrying the ball close to the line to set up a textbook ruck offload for Dan Swain to score his first. The blustery conditions would again prove fruitless for kicker Fraser Honey, who missed his second conversion.
In a carbon copy of the first flurry of points, Elthamians refused to die away, scoring another try of their own in Albion’s corner. It was the wing Dominic Lespierre who finished off a swift run this time, and with another White conversion, the visitors resumed their lead up 14-10 into halftime.
Both sides left the lockers to begin the second half with the same ferocity shown at the end of the first. Fast breaks materialised for both squads, but for the most part play was contained around the half way line and points seemed hard to come by.
Continuing the match wide trend, both sides then traded tries immediately after each other, but this time it was the visitors who scored first from another nice run down the wing. The ball ended in substitute Rhys Morgan’s hands, and he beat a strong pursuit put up by Robbie Weeks to score five. Two minutes later and it was Albion’s Daniel Swain who found himself going over for his second try of the game, using an unstoppable maul to roll down the side-line to score easily.
Both conversions were missed at either end, and the game remained close with the visitors ahead by four.
Slowly but surely, the pendulum of momentum began to swing the visitor’s way as Albion seemed to tire from consistently fast sets of play and high phase possessions. Multiple times Elthamians seemed to be on the verge of scoring again, but valiant last second tackles kept the score attainable.
Albion’s gritty defence paid off, and eventually the ball was turned over and an attack towards the Elthamians line was made possible. Needing a try with five minutes on the clock, Albion looked to steal the result away from the top of table outfit, electing to take a penalty scrum over a kick from out front of the posts.
With fresh forwards being subbed in, it seemed the game was on the line, and the city side were preparing to throw everything they had at it. In what is becoming a recurring nightmare for Albion, the scrum was spoilt multiple times by Elthamians, but no penalty try was awarded.
Still, the ball was won and moved into touching distance of the vital five points needed to win. Phase after phase was thrown at the visitors but Albion seemed lost, losing the ball to a knock on to seal the loss.
Albion: 3 (Swain 2, Squire)
Old Elthamians: 3 (Lespierre, Wilkins, Morgan)
Old Elthamians: 2 (White)
Referee: Harry Walbaum