Albion’s start to the 2019/20 season fell just short of a win in an entertaining, end to end affair at Brickfields. Albion, with a number of their new recruits taking to the field, started strongly and looked to put Stortford to the sword early on, but a strong second half display from the visitors put pay to a first win under new head coach, Ben Gulliver.
From the very start, Albion’s forwards looked strong and eager, especially at the scrum, where Stortford were driven back and penalised regularly. The first score came after a period of sustained pressure from the home side which saw quick hands to beat the defence, wing Josh Skelcey crossed for the first score of the day, with the conversion added by player/coach Dan Mugford.
It wasn’t long after, and Albion were doubling their lead, with a beautifully worked try for George Mills. A line break by centre Dean Squire left the away defence rocking as Mills crossed on the 13 minute mark. The conversion was added by Mugford.
On 16 minutes, the Albion pack were at it again, controlling possession and driving the Stortford boys back. A short range effort from Hooker Jamie Salter and the subsequent conversion made the score an impressive 21 – 0.
Albion then went to sleep in defence, allowing Bishops Stortford possession and territory, Albion should really have closed the door on them at this point, but to their credit, the away side persevered and were rewarded when wing Rob Duff scored his team’s first try of the campaign. The conversion was added by Fly Half Brad Burr.
The home team then slipped up again after some more missed tackles when Prop Will Roberts crashed over from short range, the conversion was duly added making the score 21 – 14 with 24 minutes on the clock.
On 28 minutes, Bishop Stortford were forced into a change of personnel due to Full Back Nick Hankin retiring through injury, Jake Spivey taking his place. This did not upset the away team’s rhythm, with Flanker Dan Elsom touching down after more pressure. Burr added the extras to level the scores.
In the 35th Minute, Albion regained composure and after a series of hard fought forward phases, Dan Mugford opened his try scoring account, the conversion was narrowly missed, putting Albion 26 points to the good and securing the bonus point try before the half time whistle.
The Final play of an entertaining first half saw Burr add three points as Albion were penalised for an infringement at the breakdown.
The half time team talk spurred Bishops Stortford into action, as one again, Albion were adjudged to have been infringing at the breakdown. Burr coolly added the three points to take them into the lead.
An early second half substitution was forced by injury when Dan Collier was replaced by England Under 18 back row forward, Rus Tuima.
It didn’t take long for an invigorated Stortford to extend their lead with a try through flanker Elsom who had a good day all round. The conversion was missed by Burr, but it was the away team who had the impetus.
Cameron Setter struck back on 50 minutes with a try of his own making, Mugford converted to get Albion back in front. Now followed a topsy-turvy struggle for power, as both teams attacked with some real venom. Winger Josh Skelcey scored his second try of the match, which Mugford converted.
However, the final say went to Bishops Stortford, when prop Sebastian Brownfield scored the last try of the day. This effort took Stortford into the lead. The conversion was missed by Burr.
The last three minutes saw Albion chasing possession in the Stortford half, but they managed to retain possession and kicked the ball dead to bring the game to a close. The Final Score being 40-42 to the visitors.
Head Coach Ben Gulliver reacted to the narrow loss, saying “It was good game for the neutral, we scored a lot of points, but our defence wasn’t quite up to it. We’ve got to look at the positives and our processes were good out there today. Defensively there are a few things to work on, but our set pieces were strong. We’ll take it on the chin and go again next week.”
Now Albion face a tough trip to Cinderford next weekend. Gulliver will be looking to mastermind a win against a savvy opponent in Gloucestershire.