Match report by Chris Bentley
This time last year, Plymouth Albion were nursing their wounds after being emphatically defeated 38-7 at home to Rosslyn Park. They were heading into their worst ever start to a league season, losing five on the bounce.
Once round the sun, and the Ocean City’s finest have reason to be a lot more buoyant after their league opener, taking two bonus points away to title contenders Cambridge.
Indeed, the team will be ruing what could have been after leaking 22 points in as many minutes to leave all but the hardiest of fans full of doubt.
Having started their day at 7 am and taken on a five-hour bus trip, it’s fair to say the Plymouth team were very much ‘still on the bus’ as they hardly saw the ball while their opponents ran riot.
Cambridge have made no bones about the fact they are aiming for the top of the table and boast one of the biggest packs in the National Leagues. Having run Championship side Nottingham close just last week, they took the Albion to task in the opening salvos, dominating the lineout and starving Albion of the ball as they raced into their justified lead.
However, Albion learned some harsh lessons last season and slowly started to work their way back into the game with Captain Herbie Stupple and powerhouse centre Jeremy To’a to the fore. The recovery started with a trademark try from Alex Ducker, who has lost none of his sniper’s instinct that saw him named in the leagues ‘team of the season’ last term.
Not to be outdone, the forwards, with new signing Angus Hodges very prominent, rumbled over right on the half; Harry Wilkinson emerged from the maul with the ball.
Five minutes into the second half, Frankie Nowell was next to score with Tom Putt slotting the extras to reduce the deficit to one point. Albion had turned the tables and the home crowd were silenced as the men from the South-West started to think the upset could be on.
Cambridge began to run their subs and it was Kwaku Asiedu, who had been on the pitch for about four minutes, who scored a well-worked try to secure the bonus point and take Cambridge seven points clear.
A losing bonus point was the least Albion deserved after overcoming the huge opening deficit but, with four minutes remaining, all looked lost as Cambridge scored their fifth try of the day.
Time was all but up when Albion were awarded a penalty in the opposition 22. A quick tap from Jack Oulton saw the Cornishman sneak in to score Albion’s fourth try and narrow the score. Tom Putt, flawless from the tee all day, converted to get it within seven.
That was the last action of an entertaining encounter that ended 34-28 in Cambridge’s favour, as Albion walked away with two fully deserved bonus points.
Speaking after the match, head coach Damian Welch said, “It was a really competitive game with two committed sides and we saw a lot of progress from this stage left year.
“The result could have been quite different if we’d started as we finished but unfortunately our slow start came back to haunt us. We were a bit tentative initially and I think that ultimately cost us against a good side.”
It took Albion 6 games to get their first league points last term, and they got them in 80 minutes this. Were it not for their tentative start, they may have taken their first win, but there is no doubt that if they keep the form shown at Volac Park, it won’t be long before they get their first W on the log.
With the local derby at Taunton, who narrowly defeated basement club Leeds, this coming weekend, expectation will be high that it may come sooner than later.
Don’t miss our first home against Sale, Saturday 17th September – 3 PM K/O