Robert Tunley at Brickfields
Plymouth Albion returned to form in National League One following a chastening loss to Coventry, putting away Hull Ionians with ease at Brickfields.
Albion head coach Kieran Hallett admitted his team had to do some soul-searching during the week in the build-up to this crucial game, but it clearly paid off.
He said: “Training all week has been raw and emotional, we spoke some home truths and had some honesty with each other, and to produce a performance like this off the back of that is very pleasing.”
Despite his team’s dominance, especially in defence, Hallett still identified some weakness in his players.
“I think we could have been better than that, discipline let us down a little bit in the first half,” he said. “That was the only reason they [Hull] had a foothold in the game.
“There were still a couple of errors, but errors always happen, it’s how you react to them that counts and I think our reaction was a lot better this week.”
Albion’s skipper, Eoghan Grace, also recognised the importance of the team’s win.
He said: “This game was something we needed to be honest, we needed to stick together and get an 80-minute performance, to dig in deep and keep Hull to minimum points and show what we’re worth, really.
“I think we pulled it together and played quite well and kind of ticked those boxes, but obviously there’s always room to improve.”
Albion were desperate to bounce back from last week’s crushing defeat to the league leaders and, from the outset, they did not disappoint.
The home side found a way to quickly take the visitors out of the game. This was hammered home when, just four minutes in, Jack Arnott burst through Hull’s defence to carry two players across the line and score.
Whenever the visitors showed any signs of life throughout the game, Albion would quickly stifle them with impressive tackling and strong forward play, which often turned the ball over.
One of Hull’s limited opportunities almost paid off when Edward Falkingham took a free-kick quickly while Albion were recovering from a failed scrum. The No8 was soon across halfway and staring down the last Albion defender, which proved critical when he decided to pass instead of taking the side step, the ball was deemed forward and the attack stalled.
For much of the game it seemed Hull’s only touch of the ball was to put into scrums or throw into the line-out. Albion’s forwards proved a constant threat, bullying their counterparts off the ball for the backs to run between the two side-lines.
Often the ball found its way to wing Setareki Raumakita, who seemed to intimidate with bruising runs and off-shoulder support to his centres.
At one stage, after stopping Hull dead in their tracks, Raumakita opted to tackle the next man in line before he had even regained his footing, thus proving to be another weapon in Albion’s strong defence.
The game’s best try arrived midway through the first half. Matt Shepherd put a strong clearing kick downfield from his own 22 and, giving chase deep into Hull territory, Shepherd delivered a tackle which caused the ball to be fumbled into the path of wing Raumakita,
He continued the charge, offloading at the opportune moment for a crossfield kick into Dan Mugford’s grasp and an easy finish. Mugford would add another try in an extended first half to put the home side up 19-3.
Possibly spurred on by a half-time talk, Hull came out into the second half with notable spirit, gaining extended possession for the first time.
This strengthened attack did little to deter Albion, though, who maintained their tackling while showing fantastic hustle to any loose ball. Shepherd would again charge down the field in pursuit of his own clearance, but without a try on this occasion as Hull’s Gregory Lound replied with a run of his own.
The game of attrition soon took its toll on Hull though. Albion stunned the visitors off a line-out deep in their half. The ball was swung wide fast, leaving Dean Squire to run around his opposite number to score Albion’s crucial bonus point try.
Eight minutes later, super sub Joe Snow would finish Albion’s scoring on the day with a carbon copy try around Hull’s left flank. Demoralised and tired, Hull’s defence could only watch Albion’s numbers as they dived over their line.
Although down 26 points, Hull did mount one last push toward the home end which tested Albion’s strength, but like so many other times throughout the afternoon, the visitors were thwarted by knock-ons and penalties.
The game was fast-paced and flowing throughout the 80 minutes and Hallett believed his side’s pace was a factor in the win, saying: “A big part of our game plan is to play at a pace that makes other teams feel uncomfortable, we liked to put together high-tempo, multi-phase attacks, and this was the best we’ve attacked all season.”
The side’s eighth win of the season also marked Eoghan Grace’s 50th appearance for Albion, a milestone which meant a lot to the 30 year-old.
He said: “It’s been really good, it’s great to be back. It’s an honour to captain the boys out on my 50th cap, and I think the club is going in the right direction.
“I suppose I have a little bit of a different style to Herbie [Stupple], but Herbie’s a big unit who leads from the front. I’ve got the older head and it’s that little bit of experience that I try and at least rub off on the younger boys.
“Hopefully I’m doing enough to bring them on board and lead them to victory.”
15 Matthew Shepherd, 23 Jack Arnott, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Harvey Skinner, 11 Setareki Raumakita, 10 Daniel Mugford, 9 Cameron Setter, 1 Luke Chapman, 26 Jamie Salter, 3 Marcus Street, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 29 Daniel Collier, 6 George Mills, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Eoghan Grace [C]
Replacements (All Used): 30 Jack Owlett, 16 Rupert Freestone, 28 Daniel Swain, 27 Tom Hendrickson, 20 Joe Snow
15 Christopher Bell, 14 Samuel Wilson, 13 James Tincknell, 12 Andrew Humberstone, 11 Stephen Slingsby, 10 Gregory Lound, 9 Samuel Wolstenholme, 1 Richard Stout, 2 Benjamin Stephenson, 3 Benjamin Bell, 4 Joseph Makin, 5 Stuart Newman James, 6 Tom Cotterill, 7 Lewis Wilson, 8 Edward Falkingham
Replacements (All Used): 16 William Dennis, 17 Alistair Thomson, 18 Stone Priestley-Nangle, 19 Alexander Torkington, 20 Jacob Heath
Albion – Arnott, Mugford (2), Squire, Snow
Hull – 0
Albion – 0
Hull – 1: Bell
Albion: Mugford 2
Yellow & Red cards: 0
Man of the match: Eoghan Grace
Referee: Dan Parrott