A pinch of Salter adds to Albion’s winning recipe
It was all to play for with a resurgent Plymouth Albion visiting ‘the first rugby club’, Blackheath, on Saturday. Both teams had promised much early in the season but failed to deliver, and both were looking to back up rare wins. After a rollercoaster game, it was the Ocean Cities finest who emerged with a 5-point bonus-point win for their trip back to Devon as the momentum starts to build in their National League One campaign.
The game certainly didn’t start well for Albion, however, a bad kick-off receipt allowed Blackheath to score with less than a minute on the clock. Six minutes later the home side scored again, this time without a conversion, for a deserved 12-0 lead. Earlier in the term, this may well have been curtains for Albion but there is a spirit starting to develop in this group and a fightback wasn’t far off.
A midfield penalty allowed Albion to kick for the corner – the impressive Edd Scragg received the ball from the lineout and the maul cantered over with Jamie Salter emerging with the ball. Blackheath responded from the tee before Albion were back down in the home sides half. Spurning the chance to kick three points themselves, the Albion maul was backed again. Although they were repelled, the industrious Setareki Raumakita found space to score from the resultant breakdown.
A clumsy tackle from Shea Cornish on the air bound Blackheath fullback was lucky to only see a yellow card and led to a sequence of pressure that the team did well to not only repel but reverse. Indeed, it wasn’t too long until another Albion maul saw Tom Putt break blind to score a third and give Albion a 19-15 halftime advantage. Fans of the Graham Dawe era will certainly note how the pack have started to emerge as a potent weapon in the Albion arsenal again.
Into the second half, Alex Ducker ensured that Ryan Lamb’s backline are equally adept and the current vintage have real potential as he embarked on one of his trademark runs. Weaving around many would-be defenders, he embarrassed the home teams defence and secured the try-scoring bonus for only the third time this term. With the team having scored 26 points to Blackheath’s 3 since the first six minutes of the game, it looked like there would be only one direction the match would go. Unfortunately, a very big tackle from Jeremy To’a was adjudged to be a bit too powerful by official Calum Howard and the Swiss Samoan centre was dispatched to the sin bin.
With the numerical advantage for the second time, Blackheath seized the initiative, scored a try and converted a penalty in response to one from the boot of Putt to leave the score at 25-29 with a few minutes left on the clock. It was at this moment Blackheath looked to have won the game as a Crossfield kick was caught to see Packman score in the corner leaving the score at 30-29.
As mentioned before, this Albion team are starting to develop some real steel and they fought down the field to secure yet another short yard lineout. With seconds left on the clock, they landed the maul again and drove Salter over for a decisive score. The jubilant celebration was almost a touch premature though as Blackheath had one final chance to win it.
Two drives for the Albion line were halted illegally and the officials may have been considering a penalty try before the ball was spilled, Putt cleared his lines and full time called.
Speaking after the game head coach Damian Welch said, “We spoke about the importance of backing up a win at home with an away win in terms of our progression as a squad and to couple that with such resilience to grind out the win was especially pleasing”. He added “we are far from the finished article which is very exciting as there is plenty of room for progression. We are beginning to learn to create periods of pressure and there is some really good stuff being created by the boys. We ground out a win when Blackheath came back into the game which showed there’s a great team spirit building here”
Of special mention was the impact of the returning stalwart Jamie Salter. Losing young tyro Max Norey to a concussion would have been a major issue to many teams but Albion are blessed in the hooker department and the impact from the teacher certainly can’t be underestimated.
With the visit of Newly promoted Caldy this weekend, Albion are looking for a bumper crowd at the Brickfields and reminded fans that under 16’s go free as they aim to pack the park.
We hope you can join us for our next home fixture against Caldy RFC on Sat 30th October.
Albion’s starting lineup against Blackheath