Plymouth Albion 36 London Welsh 15
Saturday 1st February 2014
The monkey is off Plymouth Albion’s back. It has been a long time in coming but Albion’s first home league of the season was well worth waiting for.
In beating league leaders London Welsh by five tries to two, Plymouth Albion produced not only their best performance of the season but also their best performance for a number of seasons.
You can only play as well as your opponents let you and Albion produced the classic 80 minutes performance.
With the wind behind them in the first half Albion took every try scoring opportunity they created and into second half tackled like demons to keep Welsh scoreless.
London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said, “Well done Plymouth you wanted it more than we did today.”
Albion head coach James Shanahan, who has been away with the England Counties side most of the week said, “It is a relief to get that first home win of the season and I’m really pleased for the players. After every home game this season I have gone into the changing room and seen how disappointed they have been but today it was good to see them smiling.”
“I’m proud of the boys who produced an outstanding performance today. I said at half time that we had done the hard work and that we needed to kick on for the win.”
Shanahan added with a smile, “After being away for most of the week I have just told the boys to train well and I will see them at London Scottish next Saturday.”
Albion fielded a similar side that was selected to play against Bristol last weekend, a game that was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
Paul Rowley came in at scrum half with club captain Ruairi Cushion dropping to the bench, while in the front row there was a welcome return for dual registered Exeter Chiefs prop Lloyd Fairbrother.
Hooker Gareth Evans who last season played for London Welsh was named as an Albion replacement, while ex Albion men Mike Denbee and James Tideswell were listed as replacements for the visitors.
Albion with the strong wind behind them put Welsh under pressure from the kick off and after a series of forward drives centre Heath Stevens off loaded out of the tackle to right wing Tom Bowen who went over for his 10th league try of the season.
Fly half Declan Cusack converted with a fine kick from wide out.
When Albion were penalised for standing up in a scrum Welsh fly half Gordon Ross opened the visitors account with the resultant penalty.
Albion’s second try soon followed and after the pack attempted a catch and drive Cusack put through a neat grubber kick that was seized on by centre Toby Howley-Berridge who scored under the posts making the conversion a formality for Cusack.
A shell shocked Welsh side then conceded a third try that was scored from close range by flanker Sam Matavesi after Bowen had been tackled inches short of the line.
Cusack in good kicking form added the conversion before Welsh got their first try scored from a catch and drive that was claimed by prop Nathan Trevett.
Ross missed the conversion but it was Albion who were next on the scoresheet.
Quick hands enabled Cusack to put Bowen clear on the overlap and the winger ran behind the posts to make the conversion a formality for his fly half.
Back came Welsh who concluded the first half scoring when wing Seb Stegmann crossed and Ross added the conversion.
With the elements in their favour most people expected Welsh to take the game to Albion but it was the home side who played the game on the front foot.
After Welsh lock Ian Nimmo was penalised at a ruck Cusack stretched Albion’s lead to 16 points with the resultant penalty.
The game was then held up for 10 minutes while Welsh scrum half Chris Cook received attention on the pitch for a serious leg injury before being stretchered off.
Deep in injury time Albion’s Elder put the icing on the cake with the final try that Dan Mugford was unable to convert.
The final whistle was well received by the crowd who departed to the bars to watch the England game.
Plymouth Albion: D Mugford, T Bowen, T Howley-Berridge, H Stevens, B Woods (L Warner 38), D Cusack (C Elder 69), P Rowley, M Rice (D Morton 80), D McGregor (G Evans 69), L Fairbrother (T Harrison 80), B Beukeboom, R Oakley capt, R Langley, S Matavesi, S-M Stephen (I Ascroft- Leigh 80) rep not used R Cushion
Tries: Bowen 2, Howley-Berridge, Matavesi, Elder
Cons: Cusack 4
London Welsh: A Awcock, S Stegmann, J Ticknell, S Parker, N Scott, G Ross (W robinson 76), C Cook (O Frost 52), N Trevett (A Hepburn 69), N Vella (N Morris 60), P Edwards (J Tideswell 69), I Nimmo (B Pienaar 47), P Browne, M Lees, C Kirwan capt, R Thorpe (M Denbee 80)
Tries: Trevett, Stegmann
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keyes (RFU)