Plymouth Albion struggled to recreate their home form away from Brickfields as they lost to newly promoted Old Elthamians 16-12. Head coach Kieran Hallett said his team had “the effort and the endeavour without the result.”
Old Elthamians was always going be a tough fixture. The two teams drew 17-17 when they met at Brickfields last October and the Surrey side are, at sixth, the highest placed of the three teams to come up from National League Two (North and South) this season.
Albion started by giving away three penalties and a try in the first 20 minutes, leaving them 13-0 down. A try from Jack Owlett before halftime gave Albion some life but wasted opportunities meant the game finished 16-12.
Head coach Hallett summised: ‘We have done enough to win the game but to have the ball at the 5 metre line and not score is not good enough. If we are being honest we were not good enough. If you are not good at set pieces you are not going to win the game and, when you mix that with the conditions, it’s difficult.
“Scrums and line-outs have been such a good area for us this season but the last few weeks they haven’t been.’’
Hallett admitted his side missed the experience of fly-half Dan Mugford, sidelined with a ruptured tendon in his finger: ‘Harv (Harvey Skinner) played well, he obviously doesn’t have the experience of playing 10 that Dan has but I thought he did a very good job and was in the right areas for most of the game. Some of our multi-phase attack and defence was very good.”
The team coach left Plymouth at 5am to make the 2pm kick off, but hooker Rupert Freestone refused to blame their early start for the loss: “I don’t feel you can blame travel and external factors. We are paid to do a job and we expect to do a job. We do the best preparation we can, whether that’s travelling early or staying the night before. If we want to compete with the top of the league then we have to turn up and put in a performance regardless.”
“Given the conditions, you cannot throw the ball around as much and the ball in air time is cut down a lot so it becomes easier to defend. I think what’s key is that you retain the ball. In spells we did that really well today, but we didn’t do it enough.”
Old Elthamians number 10, Joe Carlisle, slotted away his team’s first penalty in the seventh minute and scored a second just four minutes later to take the score to 6-0.
The match was otherwise evenly contested in the first 15 minutes, before the home side number 12 Max Wilkins moved his way through two tackles and shows his strength to get past the line. Carlisle converted to make it 13-0
Half an hour in, the visitors finally started to take control and show some consistent quality and, on the stroke of half-time, prop Jack Owlett,was rewarded with a try on the right side of the posts. Skinner converted to take the score to 13-7.
Scrum-half Cameron Setter was first on the second half score sheet with an impressive chase down bringing Albion within a point of the home side 13-12.
On 59 minutes, Ed Holmes was yellow carded and Carlisle kicked the resulting penalty from a comfortable range putting Old Elthamians 16-12 ahead.
Albion had three remaining opportunities to take the lead – the biggest coming in the last minute with a line-out deep in the home 22 – but the referee called obstruction and the final whistle was blown.
Albion face another test against second-placed Darlington Mowden Park in their next match at Brickfields on Saturday, February 17 (KO 3pm).
15 Chris Surman, 14 Dominic Lespierre, 13 George Emmerson, 12 Max Wilkins, 11 Alex Brown, 10 Joe Carlisle, 9 Ollie Claxton, 1 Lewis Brown, 2 Nathan Rogers, 3 Alex Rogers, 4 Adam Preocanin, 5 Freddie Hosking, 6 George Messum, 7 Marmish Barton (Captain), 8 Ben King.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Roofe, 17 Jay Rudland-Thomas, 18 Harry Ledger, 19 Tom White, 20 Tom Parker.
Plymouth Albion: 15 Jordan Gott, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Tom Hendrickson, 11 Harrison Cully, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Cameron Setter, 1 Luke Chapman, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Jack Owlett, 4 Ed Holmes, 5 Dan Swain, 6 Eoghan Grace, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Herbie Stupple (Captain).
Replacements: 16 Will Norton, 17 Jamie Salter, 18 Dan Williams, 19 Matt Shepherd, 20 Joe Snow
Old Elthamians: Wilkins
Albion: Owlett, Setter
Old Elthamians: Carlisle
Old Elthamians: Carlisle 3
Old Elthamians: Adam Preocanin
Albion: Ed Holmes