Report by Rob Kershaw
Photography by David Cunningham
Plymouth Albion overcame the stern test of Bishop’s Stortford to pick up their second consecutive victory at home in a 31-17 National League One win.
Stortford arrived having won four of their opening 14 league games this season, making for what was expected to be a close encounter.
On a bitterly cold, atrociously wet, and miserable day, questions were raised as to whether the game would go ahead. The pitch was damp, with standing water and one of the corners of the pitch was extremely waterlogged.
Following a pitch inspection by the referee, it was decided that the game would take place, but much of this was owed to the patrons of the club. Fans, stewards, groundsmen and women, as well as members of St John Ambulance, were on hand to help sweep litres of water away from the touchline on a day that had echoes of the Albion of old at Beacon Park.
With the players on the pitch – certain now that there was a game of rugby to be played – we got under way. Stortford initially started the better, but Albion did not take too long to find their stride, and Henry Clement powered over the line with seven minutes on the clock. Phil Jones stroked home the conversion, and Albion started rolling.
Six minutes later, they doubled the advantage. Following immense pressure on the Stortford back line, the visitors were guilty of a deliberate knock-on with attackers queueing up behind to score. As a result, Stortford were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes, and Albion were awarded a penalty try for a 14-0 lead.
Albion showed signs of extending the gap further, but mistakes began to creep in, allowing Stortford a foothold.
Some poor discipline gave the visitors four penalties in the space of 19 minutes – the first of which was scored by former Albion man Dan Powell.
Three more followed, and George Cullen stepped up to reduce the home team’s lead to just two points going into the break.
Albion began the second period with an immediate knock-on, as Stortford threatened to overturn the lead Albion had built up.
However, four minutes later, the home side were back on track as Shea Cornish flew through a flimsy defence to put a third try on the board. The conversion was missed by Connor Eastgate, but five minutes later Albion were in again.
Craig Duncan had too much pace for what was now a crumbling Stortford defence, and he gratefully sprinted through for the bonus-point try.
But Stortford had made a four-hour journey to play in the pouring rain, and they were not on the pitch to throw in the towel; they pulled the score back with another try, and though they missed the conversion there appeared to be more impetus to the visitors’ game.
This lasted for six minutes, before Albion put themselves on the scoresheet again. Duncan latched on to a phenomenal kick towards the touchline and snuck in for his second of the day. Eastgate once again slotted the conversion, before some handbags following a ruck led the referee to give the captains a telling off.
The end of the game was competitive, and Albion almost got themselves over the line for a sixth, but for the concession of a penalty for failing to roll away after a tackle.
Albion next play at Rams on January 15, while they will take to Brickfields again to face Sale the week after.
Craig Duncan, Shea Cornish, Jeremy To’a, Connor Eastgate, Ben Parsons, Phil Jones, Henry Clement, Danny Southworth, Jamie Salter, Dan Pullinger, Shek Sheriff, Jake Clemson, George Mills, Will Gibson, Herbie Stupple
Replacements: Harry Wilkinson, Ramaz Rukhadze, Dan Collier, Tom Putt, Torin Clarke
Daniel Powell, Alexander Gilham, Samuel Winter, James Ayrton, Chris Smith, George Cullen, Daniel Smart, Sebastian Brownhill, Harrison King, Harrison King, Thomas McCrone, Harry Charter, Thomas Lewis, James Apperley, Jacob Wrafter, Rory Banks
Replacements: Alexander Rayment, Williams Roberts, Jake Bridges, Oliver Jones, Joss Linney