“WHERE there is life, there is hope,” was Graham Dawe’s response when asked if Plymouth Albion could somehow stay in the Championship after their record-breaking loss to Bristol on Saturday.
Albion managed to stave off relegation to National One for at least one more week, despite suffering a 65-7 defeat at the hands of the league leaders.
That was the club’s heaviest ever reverse at Brickfields, but they live to fight another day in English rugby’s second tier, where they have spent the last 13 years, after second-from-bottom Moseley also lost.
Had their rivals from Birmingham drawn or won against Bedford then troubled Albion would have been down, but the Blues came from behind at Goldington Road to win 31-21.
Plymouth now travel to Moseley this coming weekend, knowing that a victory at Billesley Common would mean the fight to avoid the drop would go down to the final weekend of the season, when Albion entertain Doncaster and Moseley travel to Jersey.
The odds are in Moseley’s favour, with them sitting seven points ahead, but Dawe, who recently returned to Brickfields with the club rock bottom of the league and facing a number of off-the-field problems, says Albion cannot give up.
“Where there is life there is hope,” said Dawe. “The Albion heart is still ticking.”
He added: “I have massive believe, but I have had believe all my life in rugby that if you work hard, train and prepare well then you will get your just rewards.
“But you have to give it everything you’ve got. There’s no cruising in life.”
Bristol, though, gave the impression of cruising to their 10-try victory at Brickfields.
They scored five tries in each half, with Ollie Robinson, son of Bristol’s director of rugby Andy, collecting four of them.
Albion’s only response was a second half converted touch-down by Irish flanker Eoghan Grace.
Dawe admitted Plymouth did not make it hard enough for Bristol, who did include British Lions stars Ryan Jones and Dwayne Peel in their starting line-up, alongside fellow internationals like Matthew Morgan and David Lemi.
“The thing about Saturday was that we never really challenged them at all,” said Dawe.
“We never got our wingers into the game, which was our intention.
“We never controlled enough possession first half and then the scoreboard built.
“The penalty count was massive against us first half – we didn’t get anything. I think our first penalty was in the second half.
“But they got their four tries real quick. They found holes in and around the ruck with inside balls. It was a tough day defensively for our fringe defenders.”
He added: “They (Bristol) were very organised and drove well, but we didn’t hit them early enough.”
Albion, who failed to win one of their opening 10 league matches, have now lost their last four games, but they know they cannot afford another defeat with two fixtures to go.
On what Plymouth have to put right for next week’s make-or-break game at Billesley Common, Dawe said: “Well, we are not playing Bristol next week, we are playing Moseley. But they are pretty organised club.
“They have themselves a reasonable scrum and a pretty sharp back-row. We have to challenge them in the tackle area, around the fringes and then we can hopefully try and challenge them in the scrum and on the scoreboard.
“But I’m sure Moseley are going to be well up for it. They will be saying they can just kill us off and do the job.”
Saturday was the second time this season, Albion have conceded 10 tries in a league game, having been beaten 64-16 away at London Scottish in October. They also conceded nine in a 59-26 British & Irish Cup defeat against Leinster A in December.
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