By Tim March
Plymouth Albion head coach Kieran Hallett thought his team “pressed the self-destruct button” after needing a last-minute try to save a draw against mid-table Rosslyn Park in National League One.
They could have even snatched the win their early play deserved, but with the last kick of the game Dan Mugford hit an upright with his conversion attempt and Albion had to settle for a second draw of the season.
In a match Albion were winning 14-0 after just 15 minutes, it took them until the last 10 to reassert themselves as Rosslyn Park took the game by the scruff of the neck and their confidence grew and grew.
The result sees Albion slip to fourth in the table, after Ampthill & District moved second with a 33-7 home defeat of Old Elthamians, and again ruing missed chances in a tight game.
Hallett said: “I think if we had made that conversion at the end we probably would have stolen it, first half we were very good but second half we were poor, probably the poorest we have been this season, if not since I took over.
“We just seemed to press the self-destruct button, we went completely off script, there was no energy and we were giving away easy penalties.”
Hallett felt there was at least one major issue which put his side at a disadvantage, when Rosslyn lost both their props to injury and scrums became uncontested.
“Certainly going to uncontested scrums was a big turning point in the game,” said Hallett.
“It’s frustrating, but there isn’t really anything I can say in those situations. The reason we were flat and had no energy was an individual thing.
“I can’t make the boys want it any more, now I don’t really think that’s the case, I think we have got to be mentally tougher. And when things don’t go our way, we snap ourselves out of it a bit quicker.
“Our attack in the last two minutes when we needed to get a result was fantastic and my question to them is, why can’t we attack like that for the whole 80 minutes?”
Albion opened the scoring with a try from Dan Collier following a catch-and-drive from a line out five metres out. Mugford started the day strongly, scoring his first kick after seven minutes.
And eight minutes in they did the same again as Collier scored his second of the day; with Mugford kicking the extras it looked like Albion could be on to a cruising win.
But Rosslyn Park responded quickly, going over the line under the posts and with the easy conversion were seven points behind before the 20-minute mark.
The home side then started to force the game, putting Albion under pressure which resulted in a penalty just outside their 22. Although they missed, it felt like a sign of things to come.
Continued pressure from the home team produced a poor lineout from Albion, from which Collier received a yellow card for a high tackle.
The break in play allowed both sides a breather, but it proved to be of little relief to Albion as Jamie Salter received a yellow card, leaving the visitors down to 13 men.
But despite their numerical disadvantage, Albion produced another catch and drive try, this time carried over by Ed Holmes and with the conversion they took a 21-7 lead into half-time.
The game was full of big hits, which kept both medical teams working over time, and there was no let up after the break as Rosslyn Park continued to put relentless pressure on Albion.
It eventually told following yet another lineout and drive for try for the home side. And just like that Albion had only a seven-point lead.
As the home team grew in confidence, another strong lineout saw them crash through the middle resulting in a try and a simple conversion to make the score level at 21-21, 68 minutes in.
But they weren’t finished there, as another lineout move resulted in their fourth try – this time, though, the conversion attempt hit the post as Rosslyn took a 26-21 lead for the first time in the match.
With just 10 minutes to go Albion decided to throw everything at it, but it took until the 79th minute for the breakthrough as captain Eoghan Grace brought the game to a thrilling end, touching down under the posts to tie the scores at 26-26.
Not for the first time this season, it all came down to Mugford having to add a vital score with the last kick of the game. This time it was not to be and once again Albion had seen an early lead turn into a draw.
Hallett’s side are going to have to sharpen up for their crucial next game at home to Ampthill, before they take on unbeaten leaders Coventry away.
Rosslyn Park: 15 Henry Robinson, 14 Bennie Marfo, 13 Oli Grove, 12 Dan Barnes, 11 Andrew Henderson, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Rory Brand, 1 Maurice Nwakor, 2 Owen Hughes, 3 Nick Lovell, 4 Matt Macpherson, 5 Paul Spivey, 6 Frank Taggart, 7 Harry Hudson, 8 Henry Spencer
Replacements: 16 Tom Vaughan-Edwards, 17 Conner McGrath, 18 Mike MacFarlane, 19 Will Crow, 20 Jacob Atkins.
Plymouth Albion: 15 Jack Arnott, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Harvey Skinner, 11 Seta Raumakita, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Joe Snow, 1 Will Norton, 2 Jamie Salter, 3 Jack Owlett, 4 Dan Swain, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 6 Ed Holmes, 7 Eoghan Grace, 8 John Kelly.
Replacements: 16 Dan Pullinger, 17 Rupert Freestone, 18 Jordon Gott, 19 Cameron Setter, 20 Matt Shepherd
Man of the match: Jack Arnott