Stern test to kick start preseason – “Great to now have a marker”

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Albion’s 1st preseason test saw victory for the hosts in a tough encounter at Goldington Road. There were plenty of positives to be taken according to Plymouth Albion Head Coach Kieran Hallett and Strength & Conditioning Coach James Earp. 

On reflection, Kieran Hallett was upbeat about his Ablion teams performance, “I thought the game was a good test for us. We were found wanting in a few areas but we managed to stick with them for 50-60mins which was pleasing.” His comments refer to Albion’s fighting spirit in the first half which saw them hold their championship opponents to a slender 12-7 lead at half time.

Albion were quick out of the blocks with an early try scoring opportunity for Dan Powell who narrowly missed out on a clever chip ahead from scrum half Cam Setter. It was, however, Bedford Blues that struck first with a try from Howard Packman after 6 minutes. The conversion was missed and when play resumed it entered a period of early season errors which saw both teams giving up easy possession. A positive outcome of the the period was that Albion’s scrum showed that it could hold its own against the Championship outfit.

A penalty from a scrum saw Dan Mugford kick to the corner where a driving lineout edged Albion closer to the hosts line. From the collapse a number of pick an go plays saw our captain Herbie Stupple power over the line to dot down. Mugford’s conversion made it 5-7 to Albion with just over 15 minutes to go in the half.

The restarting kick off resulted in a quick break from Bedford’s Rich Lane who darted over for a punishing 5 pointer with the ensuing conversion comfortably dealt with by Will Hooley (12-7). Albion’s men didn’t back down and finished the half strongly with some good play from Robin Wedlake, Dan Mugford and Jack Arnott.

The sides changed ends and it wasn’t long before Bedford crossed the try line for their third try of the game. Hooley missed the conversion leaving it at 17-7 with a two score gap between the two sides. Substitutions from both sides rolled on and off with the hosts squad size showing.

On the 46th minute Bedford crossed again bringing the score to 24-7. Bursts of positive play from Albion with only the last pass faltering left the side fighting hard to stay in contention. Bedfords pace and fresh legs showed with 4 more tries before the end leaving the final score 43-7.

“They were very sharp and with the fresh legs they brought on punished us in the last 20. Big positives were that we created opportunities to score without really playing at the level we know we can and that we have areas we know we can improve on now”. Hallett’s words after an insightful first game of the new campaign.

On next week Hallett seemed excited to be back at Brickfields and wants the side to add to this weeks performance, “I just want to see us continue to go up a level and improve on Saturdays performance.”

It was also apparent that Albion’s head of strength & conditioning, James Earp, was happy with the teams performance on the day, “Really happy with where we are physically. It was a real test for us in this department. We had them on the rack at the end of the first half and we looked reasonably comfortable. The changes that they were able to make eventually took its toll, but again, in true Albion fashion, we were still going come 80 minutes against a very tough, very organised and well established championship side on their home patch.”

Earp believes that the team has worked hard and was definite in his belief that Albion is getting to a consistent level. “Physically I don’t think we are very far away from being able to play and sustain championship tempo. This gave us an insight in what is required conditioning wise at that level and it’s great to now have a marker. We have another 3 weeks of pre season to continue to develop what we have been doing ‘fitness’ wise. The mood in camp was positive and the boys felt they could sustain that tempo so I’m happy.”

Plenty to take away from this weekend. Onward and upwards.

Next Fixture:  2nd preseason friendly at home (Brickfields) Sun 20th Aug vs Redruth (KO 1PM).

We look forward to seeing all the Albion faithful for a great days rugby.