Report by Rob Kershaw / Photography by David Cunningham
Plymouth Albion were unfortunate to fall to a narrow defeat at the hands of Sale on Saturday, but they did take 2 bonus points for their tremendous efforts and certainly showed their positive start to the season is now something to take note of. Last season the home team were rock bottom of National Division One for the first 5 games with no league points, after 3 games (including the teams that finished second and fourth last term) they sit pretty in the mid-table with 9 league points.
On a beautiful, warm Saturday afternoon in the Ocean City, Albion went into the day aiming to continue what had been a solid start to the season. Sale started well, maintaining good possession early doors, and Albion took some damage early when Tom Putt picked up a cut to the head. Most notable however was the energy of the Albion defence, where a real vigour to get off the defensive line and knock back the visitors was in abundance.
Eventually, Sale found a way through and picked up the lead through former Premiership flyer Neville Edwards following a call by the officials to send Phil Jones to the sin bin following multiple misdemeanours. It took less than a couple of minutes to Albion to respond. Sale were unable to claim the restart and from the resultant play, the Albion forwards drove hard before Jack Oulton was able to level things up after a sublime, jinking run.
In the absence of Putt, who was getting stitched up, Oulton added the conversion to his score, and Albion were deservedly in front.
The visitors kept a healthy amount of possession over the following minutes and maintained the pressure on a battling home side, who were keen to get the ball out of their half. On his 150th game, Dan Pullinger was prominent in the defensive effort, alongside his frontrow buddies Rukhadze and Wilkinson, making a sequence of bone-crunching hits as Albion’s defence held firm.
It was from a turnover in the defensive effort that Albion managed to extend their lead. On his 50th Albion appearance, Alex Ducker left defenders in his dust as he powered over to extend Albion’s advantage, before the restored Putt (also celebrating his 50th cap) slotted the conversion.
Albion now had their tails up and started to take the game by the scruff of the neck, with Putt showing real control guiding his pack to great effect. In full flow and looking to move up the field, a peculiar decision saw Sale awarded a penalty against the run of play. Being league title favourite, they needed no second invitation and from a well-rehearsed play, Edwards flew over for his second of the afternoon.
There is a new spirit to the home side however and Albion were in again when, under great pressure from Gardner and Mills, Sale failed to throw straight at a line-out. From the resultant scrum five metres out, the talismanic Herbie Stupple evaded the first tackler and barged over the second, reaching over the line to score Plymouth’s third.
Albion started the second half with some superb passages of play as they tried to get in behind a staunch defence, several scrums ensued on halfway as the Ocean Cities’ finest looked to assert some dominance and the home crowd began to sense a special day was in the offing. Having finished eleventh last year, not many had expected Albion to be taking the game to the team who finished second but they certainly were, and it got better…
Their bonus point try came after a fantastic passage of play when Jeremy To’a produced a fine offload for the ‘Prince of Plymouth’ Ducker, who did the rest by sprinting over again for his sixth try of the campaign putting Albion two scores in front with 20 to play.
Sale were clinging on but started to claw their way back in as their bench added extra impetus and, for a third time, Edwards was played in for his hattrick score. An already fascinating game was serving up a treat as the last fifteen minutes approached with the home side just in front.
Sadly, for the expectant home fans, the visitors hadn’t read the script as Callum Morris climbed over the line to put Sale in front, and Albion’s hard work had been cruelly undone. Sale held on for the victory after some late Albion pressure, but on another day, Damian Welch’s men might easily have taken the five points on Saturday.
950 fans were treated to a fine game of rugby that was on a knife edge throughout. With four tries in each of their first three games, nine points now on the board and a team spirit reminiscent of former Albion sides of old, Brickfields is beginning to sense a revival in fortune and tails will still be up as they head to Cinderford next weekend.
Ramaz Rukhadze, Harry Wilkinson, Dan Pullinger, Angus Hodges, Dan Collier, Torin Clarke, George Mills, Herbie Stupple, Jack Oulton, Tom Putt, Alex Ducker, Jeremy To’a, Oskar White, Frankie Nowell, Phil Jones
Jamie Salter, Tom Petty, Jake Clemson, Conrad Burne, Henry Clement
Dan Birchall, Josh Brown, Cal Ford, Alex Groves, Nick Gray, Jake Barron, Andrew Hughes, Stone Priestly-Nangle, Matt Bradley, James Robins, Sam Adu, Oshar Hirshyj-Douglas, Ferg Mulchrone, Nev Edwards, Dan Leake
Oli Longmore, Timmy Onasaya, Samir Tahruoui, Ben Ivory, Callum Morris
Don’t miss our next home game
Plymouth Albion v Esher Rugby – Saturday 1st October