PLYMOUTH Albion may not have been able to end Worcester Warriors’ six-month winning run, but they returned to Devon with pride after a battling display at Sixways.
Bottom side Albion really made Worcester work hard for their four-try win, which returned them to the summit of the Championship.
The visitors only trailed 7-3 at the break and after the interval they went 8-7 in front with a try by centre Ben Woods.
However, the game was decided when Albion had flanker Sam Simmonds sin-binned in the 47th minute and while he was off the field Worcester, whose only defeat came on the opening day of the season at Bristol, scored two converted tries, including one from England full-back Chris Pennell.
They then added a fourth in the 62nd minute through Ben Howard.
But Albion, cheered by an impressive number of travelling fans, then had a good spell that should have led to at least one if not two tries.
Worcester did find themselves down to 13 players for the final 10 minutes but Albion could not take advantage.
However, the spirit and defensive determination Albion showed should give them confidence for their remaining five matches, which will decide their future.
They currently sit four points behind second-from-bottom Moseley, who they still have to play.
Albion made three changes to their team that had beaten Jersey by one point in their last outing two weeks’ earlier – one in the backs and two in the pack.
Jake Henry came in on the wing in place of dual-registered Worcester wing Josh Watkins, who was not allowed to play against his parent club, while in the pack, Ted Stagg replaced Tom Cowan-Dickie at hooker and Iain Grieve took over from Rhys Oakley at number eight.
Worcester attacked straight from kick-off and came so close to scoring in the left corner. Albion stopped them, but illegally according to referee Ian Tempest, who awarded them a penalty.
The home side went for a five-metre line-out but they made a mess off it and Plymouth were able to clear the danger.
Worcester had another great chance in the 11th minute after good pressure from a line-out. It looked like they were going to score on the left, but Albion did brilliantly to turn them over right on the line and kick clear.
The home side just could not seem to find a way to score in the opening period but on 20 minutes they did thanks to an Albion mistake. The visitors lost a line-out 25 metres from their own line and home scrum-half Charlie Mulchrone collected the over-throw and ran in unopposed to score. Centre Andy Symons added the conversion to make it 7-0.
However, the Warriors were unable to add any more points in the first half, despite plenty of possession and territory.
Albion did defend really well but the home side wasted a couple of good chances.
They did think they had scored a second try in the 29th minute when captain GJ Van Velze broke through but the referee ruled it out for a forward pass. Worcester did get a penalty for an earlier infringement and they went for the corner but they lost the line-out.
Albion lost Grieve when he suffered a nasty bang to the head in the 35th minute. He was down on the floor for a number of minutes receiving treatment before eventually getting up and walking off the field. He was replaced by Tom Jubb.
Three minute after play resumed, Albion got a penalty just inside Worcester’s half and Cusack went for goal. Despite the tough angle and long distance, the Irishman put the ball over the posts to cut the gap to just four points.
That was how it stayed until half-time, much to the frustration of the home fans.
Albion shocked Worcester at the start of the second period by taking the lead in the 42nd minute when Irishman Woods scored after a kick forward by Jack Arnott. Cusack was unable to convert but Albion led 8-7.
Worcester nearly hit back straight away but Plymouth pushed them into touch two-metres from the try line.
The home side kept the pressure on. Albion defending brilliantly but just when it looked like they had survived the referee gave Worcester a penalty and sin-binned Sam Simmonds.
While Simmonds was off, Worcester scored two converted tries.
The first came in the 51st minute when England full-back Pennell went over on the right after Albion just ran out of numbers.
And three minutes later centre Max Stelling added a third try. It has looked like Albion had survived Worcester’s onslaught after turning them over on the line, but their clearing kick fell straight to Stelling, who ran in on the left.
Albion made changes, bringing on three replacements, and within seconds Worcester got the all-important bonus point. The Warriors took a quick tap penalty and caught the visitors cold, with winger Howard crossing. Symons missed the conversion this time.
Plymouth then had a good spell of pressure and should have scored after Worcester lost a line-out.
It looked like Devon side had got themselves a second try but the referee ruled they had been held up and only awarded them a five-metre scrum and from it they were penalised.
Albion, though, did keep the pressure on and they produced a great drive on 69 minutes. It looked like they were going to score but the Warriors stopped it illegally just short of the line. The referee opted against awarding a penalty try but he did sin-bin Van Velze.
Plymouth went for the corner and Worcester pulled it down which resulted in lock Mike Williams also being shown a yellow card.
The visitors this time opted for a scrum and after a couple of re-sets they were eventually penalised and Worcester were able to clear the danger.
The 13-man Warriors got out of their half and won a penalty, which Symons put over.
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Ben Howard, 13 Max Stelling, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Sam Smith 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Nick Schonert, 4 Mike Williams, 5 Jonathan Thomas, 6 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Sam Lewis, 8 GJ Van Velze (capt). Reps: Niall Annett, Mike Daniels, Darren O’Shea, Matt Cox, Jonny Arr, Ravai Fatiaki, Tom Biggs.
Albion: 15 Lawrence Rayner, 14 Jack Arnott, 13 Ben Woods, 12 Toby Howley-Berridge, 11 Jake Henry, 10 Declan Cusack (capt), 9 Josh Davies, 1 Tom Fidler, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Andrew Tiedemann, 4 Neale Patrick, 5 Tom Hicks, 6 Eoghan Grace, 7 Sam Simmonds, 8 Iain Grieve. Reps: Sam Matavesi, Tom Heard, Luke Chapman, Tom Jubb, Mark Kohler, Cameron Setter, Ben Foley.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Scorers: Worcester: Tries: Mulchrone, Pennell, Stelling, Howard; Cons: Symons; Pen: Symons
Albion: Try: Woods; Pen: Cusack
Yellow Cards: Worcester: Van Velze, Williams: Albion: Simmonds