Plymouth Albion 22 Nottingham 12
Friday 28th February 2014
After waiting five months for their first home league win of the season, Plymouth Albion now have two in succession.
After the heavy defeat at Bristol this game, the last under floodlights this season, was crucial for Albion who have aspirations to finish in the top six of the Championship.
With both defences on top this wasn’t a great advert for Championship rugby with both teams making far too many mistakes.
Albion deserved the victory as they were the only side who looked like scoring tries.
Nottingham are strong in the set scrum and have a very good drive line out but apart from that they offer very little.
Pick of the Albion players was No 8 Sean-Michael Stephen and fly half Declan Cusack who kicked six from seven for a personal haul of 17 points.
A relieved Albion head coach James Shanahan, who was an unused replacement said, “I’m obviously please to get the win but we made hard work of it. In the first half we turned the ball over ten times and in the second half we didn’t get the field positions we talked about in the interval.
“Saying that our defence, particularly our drive defence was very good and after conceding 13 tries in our last two games it was pleasing to shut Nottingham out.
“The key thing tonight was the victory but at times we looked a little nervous out there. We can now move on and look forward to the trip to Bedford next weekend.”
Albion who had a five day turn around made seven changes, two of them positional, from the side that was beaten by Bristol at the Memorial Stadium.
Dan Mugford moved from fly half to full back with Irishman Cusack selected in the No 10 jersey.
In the centre Heath Stevens came in for Toby Howley-Berridge, who picked up a lower leg injury at Bristol.
Ben Woods recovered from injury to reclaim his spot on the left wing while in the front row Tom Harrison came in for Dave Morton who dropped to the bench.
Skipper Rhys Oakley, one of Albion’s try scorers at Bristol, moved into the second row with Canadian international Stephen returning at No 8.
Nottingham included for Albion hooker Jon Vickers on their bench.
Nottingham fly half Matthew Jarvis opened the scoring with a huge penalty from inside his own half after Albion were pulled up for offside.
Cusack hit an upright with his first kick at goal before Jarvis doubled Nottingham’s lead with another long range kick.
Albion then wasted a great opportunity to score the opening try when centre Stevens, after slicing through the visitors defence failed to pass to unmarked winger Woods.
Cusack got Albion up and running with a penalty on the half hour given for a deliberate knock on.
Another penalty from Cusack shortly afterwards got Albion level before Nottingham were reduced to 14 when flanker Rupert Cooper was yellow carded for a professional foul.
Cusack kicked the resultant penalty for a 9-6 Albion lead at the interval.
Albion took advantage of the extra man shortly after the interval when after good work from the forwards, Stevens picked up and drove over for what turned out to be the only try of the game.
Cusack converted from the touchline before Jarvis got three points back for the visitors.
Cusack and Jarvis then exchanged penalties, which kept Albion seven points ahead.
A well place kick by Cusack in behind the Nottingham defence should have produced a second try but flanker Rob Langley knocked on with the try line at his mercy.
In stoppage time a loose kick by Nottingham gave Mugford the opportunity to counter attack and the full back made a great break which produced a penalty right in front of the posts.
With the last kick of the game Cusack added his fifth penalty of the match to deny Nottingham the losing bonus point.
Plymouth Albion: D Mugford, T Bowen, H Stevens, P Nonu (C Elder 53), B Woods, D Cusack, R Cushion, T Harrison (D Morton 61), J Saunders (G Evans 60), L Fairbrother, (M Rice 67) B Beukeboom, R Oakley capt, R Langley, E Grace, S-M Stephen reps not used H Tovey, R Bolt, J Shanahan
Pens: Cusack 5
Nottingham: E Styles (R Lynn 45), H Purdy, G Catchpole, J Munro, O Woodburn, M Jarvis, S Romans (H Lee-Everton 76), R Bower (C Ma’afu 60), A Walker (J Vickers 60), M Holford, T Freeman, D Montagu capt (T Price 62), R Cooper, W Skuse (J Burton 76), A Shaw rep not used A Molloy
Pens: Jarvis 4
Yellow card: Cooper
Referee: Steve Lee (RFU)