By Tim March at Brantingham Park
Plymouth Albion head coach Kieran Hallett felt his team were mentally “already on holiday” as they slipped to fifth in the National One table following a 33-14 defeat at relegation-threatened Hull Ionians.
The defeat meant Albion lost their second away match in succession and were second best throughout at Brantingham Park as 13th-placed Ionians fought to avoid the drop.
He said: ‘We struggled; we were off colour. The best way to sum it up is that it looked like a game where one team were scrapping for everything, trying to stay in the league, and one team was mentally checked out and already on holiday.
“It wasn’t for lack of effort, we didn’t quite have that edge physically like we had the previous week against Coventry.”
Albion had put up strong resistance against the league champions at Brickfields, before losing 24-21, but were almost unrecognisable away from home soil.
And Hallett admitted the result might call for a spot of soul-searching when Albion return to training this week ahead of the visit of Birmingham Moseley.
He said: “We have to ask a few hard questions on Tuesday and get them to think about the weekend, and what they want to achieve between now and the end of the season.
“We could easily let it slide, carry on how we are and go through the motions then finish fifth or sixth, or we can really knuckle down and head for third or second. It is still up to us, we just have to re-focus.”
In the first half Albion conceded three penalties and a try due to some ill-discipline and Hull scrum-half Isaac Green punished them from the kicking tee.
The home side took the lead in after just eight minutes with a penalty awarded right in front of the posts which scrum-half Green slotted easily.
Green scored another penalty shortly afterwards due to infringement at the breakdown and just six minutes later had a chance for a third, but left his kick just short.
Albion finally got into the match after 33 minutes with a try from prop Dan Pullinger right between the posts, making for a simple conversation for full-back Matt Shepherd.
But their narrow lead lasted an entire three minutes before Hull’s Lewis Minikin crossed, although Green missed the extras.
Albion could not stop themselves infringing, and just before half-time Green was given a chance to make amends with his third penalty and he took it.
Having gone into half-time 14-7 down, Albion then conceded a try just minutes into the second half from wing Sam Wilson, with Green converting.
After 60 minutes, quick hands down the blindside from Hull front-row David Laverick gave the home side the initiative before Minikin shrugged off a couple of Albion tacklers to score.
Albion thought they may have regained some pride when centre Robbie Weeks crossed the line for a consolation try late in the second half.
But Ionians full-back Steve Slingsby had other ideas and scored with the final play of the game, ensuring the bonus point win for the home team.
Hallett was at a loss to explain the high penalty count throughout the match, given the slightly random nature of the offences.
He said: “I’m not entirely sure [why it was]; the penalties we gave away were not a certain type of penalty. They were kind of scatter gun, for lots of different reasons.”
Hull Ionians: 15 Steve Slingsby, 14 Sam Wilson, 13 Lewis Minikin, 12 James Tincknell 11 Andy Humberstone, 10 Greg Lound, 9 Isaac Green, 1 Charlie Capps, 2 Ali Thomson, 3 William Dennis, 4 Joe Makin ©, 5 Ed Falkingham, 6 Tom Cotterill, 7 James Sanderson, 8 Alex Torkington.
Replacements: 16 Ben Stephenson, 17 Dave Laverick, 18 Rikki Stout, 19 Stone Priestley-Nangle, 20 Adam Thomas.
Plymouth Albion: 15 Matt Shepherd, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Luke Flack, 12 Robbie Weeks, 11 Harrison Cully, 10 Dean Squire, 9 Cam Setter, 1 Will Norton, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 Lewis Pearson, 5 Dan Williams, 6 George Mills, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Herbie Stupple.
Replacements: 16 Luke Chapman, 17 Ben Phillips, 18 Devon Jewsbury, 19 Jordan Gott.
Hull Ionians: Minikin 2, Wilson
Plymouth Albion: Pullinger, Weeks
Hull Ionians: Green 2
Plymouth Albion: Shepherd 2
Hull Ionians: Green 3