Written by Chris Bentley
Bill Murray plays a weatherman stuck in a time loop, unable to escape from repeating the same day in the seminal film ‘Groundhog Day’. It is a difficult scenario for his character to overcome as he suffers the same day over and over again. After the loss this weekend at basement club Tonbridge Juddians, it’s fair to say Albion are currently stuck in a Groundhog Day of their very own.
Having travelled up the day before, Albion arrived at the Slade in fine fettle and ready for what was always going to be, a tough assignment. A positive Covid test meant Setareki Raumakita replaced Jeremy To’a in the starting line-up but otherwise, there was a settled look about the XV. On the back of six losses, the Juddians would have noted Albion’s lowly position and targeted the game. Playing into a strong wind, it was the home side who struck first via a Tom White penalty.
Albion were certainly lively and probed the opposition defence with some very strong carries. Herbie Stupple was, as ever, very notable in attack and was unfortunate to be penalised after one big break when he was adjudged held. This was one of a few peculiar decisions on the day that seemed to dent the Ocean City teams confidence.
It took a further knock on the 20th minute when George Mills was sin-binned for an unclear offence. Missing their skipper for ten minutes, Albion appeared to lose a bit of direction. Playing with a very strong wind, they didn’t take full advantage of the conditions and continued to make play in their own half when a strong kick may have been a better option. On the rare occasion, they did execute an impressive 50:22, the resulting lineout was lost and pressure dissipated again.
With the last play of the half, Albion did manage to convert a penalty and get the game level.
HALF TIME Tonbridge Juddians 3 – Albion 3
Into the second half, it became very apparent the home team had learned from Albion’s mistakes and spent most of the game kicking to the corners and defending stoutly. For all their endeavour, Albion continued to be their own worst enemy with loose passes not going hand or overlaps being squandered. Meanwhile, The Juddians fly-half continued to kick for position or long-range penalties as they crept to a 9-3 lead.
With the second-row partnership of Sherriff and Scragg showing real grunt, there was a feeling Albion would start to muscle their way back into the game on what was a very heavy pitch. With fifteen minutes to play, Albion did so. Following a rare sequence of continued pressure, Dan Pullinger bulldozed over with Connor Eastgate adding the extras.
In such a high stakes game it didn’t feel that would be enough and so it came to pass with 5 minutes left on the clock, Tom White stepped up yet again to score the crucial penalty and send the home fans into raptures as they secured their first win in two months!
Speaking after the game, a dejected Damian Welch added “Again, there was no lack of effort from the lads, our defence was good but conditions were bad with a huge amount of mud and wind levelling things up. We didn’t manage the key moments well while their 10 played the conditions perfectly, especially in the second half”
There is no doubt the team has plenty of promise and ambition, but the loss this weekend does now make the next two home games with Darlington Mowden Park and Leeds Tykes of critical importance. Perhaps like Bill Murray in the aforementioned film, Albion need to start to enjoy the process and not get too focused on the result to get some positive returns.
FULL-TIME Tonbridge Juddians 12 – Albion 10