Report by Jack Guthrie.
Plymouth Albion 42-29 Darlington Mowden Park.
Plymouth Albion head coach, Kieran Hallett praised his players for their best performance of the season in a 42-29 win over Darlington Mowden Park, which saw them close the gap on their opponents in the National Division One.
Hallett said: “It was clear we were the better side in most areas of the game, in all honesty I felt we completely dominated the game. That will be up there as our best performance this season.”
Albion’s attacking prowess in the first half saw them streak to a big lead going into the half, with everything going right for the hosts.
Tempers did flare throughout the match, with plenty of altercations between both sets of forwards breaking out at various points in the match, with a total of four yellow cards brandished across both sides. Hallett was disappointed with the discipline saying: “If we had handled these situations better, we probably wouldn’t have given them the bonus point.”
As the first half started Darlington looked to be the more alert team. Albion gave up a scrum on their 22 for a knock on, and then conceded a penalty for not driving straight. Darlington’s fly-half Warren Seals put an early three points on the board.
Albion went down to 14 men for the first time in the game when Dan Swain was penalised for a dangerous tackle from clearing the ruck on flanker Simon Uzokwe. The resultant line-out was won by the away side and excellent forward running opened the wing for Oliver Walker to run in by the posts, with Seals converting the try.
Despite the man advantage, Mowden Park gave away an offside penalty which saw the hosts kick back to the five-metre-line. Albion replicated the format for the try they conceded, and excellent passing from the line-out saw Jack Arnott run in on the wing. Matt Shepherd converted and Albion were back in the game.
When Dan Swain came back from the bin, Albion looked like an unstoppable force. Unforced errors from Darlington gave up good territory and Plymouth Capitalised. Albion’s second try came from an excellent kick from Fraser Honey from his own 22, which was chased by Josh Skelcey and Darlington’s Oliver Walker in an epic foot race, where Skelcey managed to get the first touch on the ball as it went over the try line. Shepherd converted and Albion had a foothold.
Albion attacked the visitors head on and broke the defensive line multiple times. An excellent run from Jonathan Dawe dragged the team into the 22-yard-area, where Mowden Park conceded another penalty and the home side kicked to touch. The ball was played out to Fraser Honey, whose pass rebounded off the Darlington forwards, leaving him open to run in under the posts, allowing an easy conversion for Shepherd.
Darlington kicked off and a series of excellent runs and offloads saw Albion push into the 22 area again, where they won another penalty. They kicked to touch again and had the line-out on the five- metre line. Albion retained possession and set up a powerful driving maul, which ploughed over the try line with Jamie Salter touching the ball down, and Matt Shepherd converting for their second try in as many minutes.
Albion went into the break 28-10 up, with the bonus point already secured and a free-flowing offence that looked to continue in the second half.
It didn’t take long for the Durham side to answer back I the second half, when a driving maul two minutes in set up Ben Frankland to run through the Albion backs and in for the try, which was converted by Warren Seals.
Both sides were more careless with the ball, giving up bad interceptions and needless penalties. Albion then kept the ball and continued to press the defence, setting up mauls and ruck, slowly getting to the try line.
Cam Setter managed to lunge to the try line in a desperate effort to break the gain line and touch the ball down for Albion’s fifth of the day, with Shepherd again converting.
Darlington responded on the 77th minute with a powerful run from Simon Uzokwe which saw him touch the ball down, however this instigated the first major altercation between the sides as all of the officials attempted to break the players apart. The away side relinquished the chance for the conversion and continued back to finish the game.
Albion continued to be dominant in the closing stages forcing errors deep into the Darlington half. A five-metre-scrum led to a penalty try for the home side, which put the win beyond any doubt. Another scrap broke out between the sides, with Darlington’s Uzokwe and Albion’s John Kelly being carded for their ill-discipline.
Darlington then pressed the home side into their own half, forcing another penalty to be given, and another yellow card to be brandished to Albion, with George Mills as the recipient. Play continued quickly and Talite Vaioleti powered through for Darlington’s final try of the game. It was converted by Warren Seals and the game was ended, after 92 minutes.
After the game Hallett said: “Giving them the bonus point was a killer, it means they are still ahead of us in the table.
“We have to take these opportunities to get as good a position as we can and seal out games, and that’s something we will have to work on going into the rest of our matches.”
15. M. Shepherd 14. J. Skelcey 13. J. Dawe 12. D. Squire 11. J. Arnott 10. F. Honey 9. C. Setter
19. W. Norton 2. J. Salter 3. D. Pullinger 4. L. Pearson 5. D. Swain 6. S. Daly 7. G. Mills 8. H. Stupple
Replacements: 16. D. McGregor 17. J. Kelly 1. J. Kenny 20. D. Powell 18. F. Kelly
DARLINGTON MOWDEN PARK:
15. G. Law 14. O. Walker 13. B. Frankland 12. C. Mackenzie 11. S McCartney 10. W. Seals 9. M. Dudman 1. A. Barron 2. J. Blamire 3. T. Vaioleti 4. J. Brady 5. J. Craggs 6. S. Uzokwe 7. M. Heaton 8. O. Hodgson
Replacements: 16. S. Westwood 17. J. Poole 18. D. Fisher 19. R. Hamilton 20. M. Gibbs
Plymouth Albion: J. Arnott; J. Skelcey; F. Honey; J. Salter; C. Setter; Penalty Try
Darlington Mowden Park: O. Walker; B. Frankland; S. Uzokwe; T. Vaioleti
Plymouth Albion: M. Shepherd (5)
Darlington Mowden Park: W. Seals (3)
Darlington Mowden Park: W. Seals