By Tobi Koiki
An irresistible second-half performance from Albion blew away helpless Blaydon 45-0 to record a bonus-point win in front of the highest crowd to grace Brickfields this season.
Blaydon held their own in the first-half with a mere try from Michael Stupple the only score separating the sides, but a Matthew Crosscombe double along with tries from Samuel Holmes, Nile Dacres, Harvey Skinner and Matthew Shepherd entertained the bumper crowd at Brickfields as Albion cruised to victory.
St.Luke’s had hosted the Men’s Day Out, which had over a thousand men doing a walk which finished at Brickfields in time to watch Kieran Hallett’s men march to their ninth win in a row and take their winning tally for the season to 20.
Hallett’s team included himself at fly-half, having missed the last two games to injury. His inclusion meant that Skinner swapped from fly-half to inside centre. Shepherd was named to play at scrum-half again after his impressive performance at Birmingham Moseley, with Cameron Setter still suffering with a knock. Stupple returned to his number 8 role after his stint as an inside centre against Moseley.
Prior to kick-off, there was a minutes silence for those killed and injured in the Westminster attacks.
On a windy day at Brickfields, Albion began the game passing the ball through their backs. With 10 minutes gone Albion’s kicking gave way to the conditions as multiple kicks to the corner were missed and they were unable to convert penalties into points. This made for a more even opening period than expected.
Albion settled into the game and almost got over the line just a few minutes later when a great reverse pass from Hallett set Crosscombe free before being stopped by Blaydon’s fullback James Cooney.
Hallett’s men finally broke the deadlock in the with just over 20 minutes played. A penalty against Blaydon for holding on led to a dangerous line out. Number 8 Stupple drove over the line to give Albion the lead, but Shepherd couldn’t add to this and the conversion was screwed wide.
After a penalty was awarded to Blaydon for an infringement at the breakdown, their substitute scrum-half Max Connon broke free of Albion’s defence but was stopped in his tracks by Albion full back Dan Powell. A few short phases of Blaydon play concluded the first half, with the score still tight.
Albion started the second half on the front foot with some dangerous moves through their backs. Just five minutes into the second-half, Albion managed to stretch their slender advantage. A knock-on from Blaydon in the middle of the pitch led to a series of passes before second-row Sam Holmes crashed over the line for a try that was later converted.
Just minutes later more backs play from Albion led to their third try of the game. Dean Squire passed to Shepherd before he broke the line with some fancy footwork and kicked for Crosscombe to dive over the white wash. The conversion missed rebounding off the post.
Albion sort to further deepen Blaydon’s troubles with 15 minutes to play, as a long spell of Albion possession in the opposition half led to a try. Dacres wriggled free from a pick and drive at the breakdown to score the converted try just under the posts to give Albion the bonus point.
Four minutes later, fly-half Hallett hit an irresistible kick down the line from his own half. Winger Crosscombe raced after it, kicked the ball again and caught it and then jumped over the line to score his second try of the game, which Shepherd converted.
Soon after the kick-off, Albion substitute George Mills was sin binned after he was penalised for not using his arms in the tackle, but Albion weren’t deterred from stretching their advantage. Blaydon’s back line began to tire and it became evident why they are in a troubling league position, as Albion scored a late flurry of tries in the final 10 minutes.
Firstly, a sloppy pass into their own 22 was intercepted by centre Skinner who scored under the posts for a converted try. Then, Blaydon finished the match in disappointing fashion when a simple pass at their five yard line was made a mess of which allowed man of the match Shepherd the opportunity to get a well deserved first try of the match. He duly converted the kick to make the final score 45 -0 to Albion.
Hallett’s men have won nine on the bounce now and don’t show any signs of slowing up soon. Seven tries from six different scorers and no tries conceded bodes well for the end of season run-in.
Macclesfield away, next.
First team: 15 Daniel Powell, 14 Matthew Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Harvey Skinner, 11 Robin Wedlake, 10 Kieran Hallett, 9 Matthew Shepherd, 1 Samuel Nixon, 2 James Salter, 3 Daniel Pullinger, 4 Nile Dacres, 5 Samuel Holmes, 6 Daniel Williams, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Michael Stupple (c).
Replacements: 16 William Norton, 17 Tom Cowan-Dickie, 18 Rupert Cooper, 19 George Mills, 20 Harry Strong.
T: Michael Stupple 23, Samuel Holmes 43, Matthew Crosscombe 47, 69, Nile Dacres 65, Harvey Skinner 73, Matthew Shepherd 82.
C: Matthew Shepherd 46, 66, 70, 74, 83.
First team: 15 James Cooney, 14 Daniel Marshall, 13 Thomas Bramwell, 12 Andrew Baggett, 11 Thomas Grimes, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Nathan Horsfall, 1 Joseph Melia, 2/25? Matthew Thompson, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Chris Wearmouth 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Andrew Archibald, 7 Jack Davison, 8 Jason Smithson.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Bell, 17 Jack Beckwith, 18 Matthew Charlton, 19 Maxwell Connon, 20 Ryan Foreman.