Plymouth Albion’s reign over the ‘fortress Brickfields’ came to a crushing end Saturday, as the side lost to National League One’s newly crowned champions, Coventry.
Albion completed the entirety of 2017, and first three months of this year, undefeated at home, an impressive run of form which could only be broken by the league’s best team.
The game also coincided with St Luke’s ‘Men’s Day Out’ which drew in a season high crowd of nearly three thousand.
Full back, Matt Shepherd, took pride from playing a solid game in front of the large crowd. He said:
“As a collective, we came into the game with nothing to lose and I think we showed that.
“The game meant a lot today and we wanted to make a good account for the two thousand plus people that were here, credit where credits due to the boys that have come in who really put a shift in today.”
“Playing in front of the crowd was outstanding, they were never quiet.
“The boys said at half time, the crowd was like our 16th man, and credit to the St Luke’s boys for putting together the outstanding walk today.”
Head coach, Kieran Hallett, agreed the crowd played a big part in the game. He said:
“Oh yeah absolutely that crowd was a boost, it was great to see so many people back here and it’d be nice to get some of them back again and hit that two thousand attendance mark more regularly.”
After watching his side lose their homefield run to such a small margin, Hallett was full of praise for his squad’s effort. He said:
“To be honest I don’t want to talk much about Coventry, I thought our performance was outstanding.
“I thought the young guys who came in did an incredible job, Luke Flack’s try was outstanding, the amount of work rate Lewis Pearson got through was excellent.”
“I said to the guys at the end of the game, I was extremely proud of their performance, everything we asked them to do throughout the week they went and did in terms of physicality and desire.
“Yes, there were times we weren’t as accurate as we wanted to be, but that’s going to happen with the amount of squad changes.”
An Albion yellow card in the first half opened the scoring for Coventry, but Hallett thought the game was still winnable later in the second half. He said:
“We still had opportunities to win it in the second half but we couldn’t get a foot hold because we couldn’t win any set pieces, that’s where we lost control of the game.”
Both sides started with equal commitment, moving between the twenty two’s early at pace. For the first 10 minutes of play, Coventry held the ball well, cutting out any handling errors despite the muddied conditions.
Eventually, Albion secured the ball for the first time, and they made the most of it. Kicking for touch after winning a penalty, Albion won the ensuing lineout on Coventry’s 22, the ball was moved at speed to stand-in, Luke Flack, who punched a hole in Coventry’s defence, leaving him almost unopposed to the line. With a Shepherd conversion, the hosts were up 7-0 early.
Coventry immediately showed why they’re this year’s champions though, and came right back on the attack with more controlled possession.
Now at Albion’s five-metre line, Coventry’s forwards surged in waves, but found themselves repelled with Albion holding firm until, another call-up player, Robbie Weeks, purposefully knocked the ball on to receive a yellow card-something that would prove costly for the hosts.
With a man advantage, Coventry put on a clinical 10-minute passage of play, crossing over to score all three of their games tries before the 20th minute.
All three scores seemed a little too easy for the visitors as Albion had little response to any threat posed. The best of Coventry’s tries was their third, after Heath Stevens scored from a lineout, and a maul took Scott Tolmie in.
Missed tackles at the halfway line allowed Coventry’s Tom Jubb to bound through with support from James Stokes. With a couple of well-timed passes between each other, Cam Setter had no chance in stopping the tide, as Jubb took the final pass to cap off a great duo try.
Back at full strength again, Albion were able to bounce back from the large 21-7 deficit, scoring tries on both sides of the half. James Salter was first to convert as Albion became the dominant force in the maul once again.
Then, 10 minutes into the second period, it was Setareki Raumakita’s turn to touchdown, when he caught Coventry sleeping as they tried to retreat 10 metres after a penalty call. By the time Raumakita was in, Coventry could only gaze in disbelief as Albion had brought themselves level, and back into the game.
For much of the second half, Coventry employed an aggressive style of play similar to what Albion have done to opponents through the season.
This aggression would pay off for the deciding points of the game, as the boot of William Maisey put Coventry in the lead for the final time.
Albion seemed to crumble under the pressure in the last ten minutes, making a number of poor handling errors, which sealed the sides fate.
With six games remaining, four of which at home, Albion will hope to begin another long unbeaten run at Brickfields, to close out the season.
15 Matthew Shepherd, 14 Matthew Crosscombe, 13 Luke Flack, 12 Robbie Weeks, 11 Jordan Gott, 10 Dean Squire, 9 Cameron Setter, 1 Luke Chapman, 2 James Salter, 3 Daniel Pullinger, 4 Lewis Pearson, 5 Daniel Williams, 6 George Mills, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Herbie Stupple (C)
30 William Norton, 16 Rupert Freestone, 18 Flynn Elworthy, 19 Setareki Raumakita, 20 Devon Jewsbury
15 James Stokes, 14 Robert Knox, 13 Alexander Grove, 12 Heath Stevens, 11 Max Trimble, 10 William Maisey, 9 David Brazier, 1 Andrew Brown, 2 Scott Tolmie, 3 Philip Boulton, 4 George Oram, 5 Thomas Jubb, 6 Nile Dacres, 7 Jack Preece, 8 Brett Daynes
16 William Pristley, 17 James Litchfield, 18 Luke Narraway, 19 Banjamin Palmer, 20 Anthony Fenner
Albion: 3 (Flack, Salter, Raumakita)
Coventry: 3 (Stevens, Tolmie, Jubb)
Coventry: 1 (Maisey)
Albion: 3 (Shepherd)
Coventry: 3 (Maisey)
Yellow- Albion: 1 (Weeks)
Red – 0
Man of the Match: Luke Flack
Referee: Dan Parrott