PLYMOUTH Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe felt his team put up a good show against Championship side Jersey, despite losing 43-15 at St Peter.
Dawe’s new-look side had given Jersey a shock by dominating the opening 20 minutes and racing into a 15-0 lead courtesy of tries by summer signings Nile Dacres and Ethan Ford and five points from the boot of trialist Elliot Bale.
But the home club, who finished seventh in the Championship last season, dug deep and used their drive game to good effect to take a 19-15 half-time lead and then run in four unanswered second half tries, including two in the final two minutes.
Dawe, though, felt there were plenty of positives for this side on a boiling hot day in Jersey.
“It was certainly a tough encounter against a well-organised and confident Jersey side,” said the Albion boss, who was without five players due to injury and overseas trips.
“I thought we put a good show up.
“If we can maintain that sort of continuity with our shape, collisions and distribution then I think we will hopefully win a few games this season.”
Dawe, though, felt his young team just need to learn to play a bit smarter.
“We played a bit too much and did not respect the scoreboard,” he said. “We chased a little bit in our own half and paid the ultimate price.
“We had a good start, but we gave away penalties at the set piece and they milked the points.”
Albion handed debuts to Ford, Robin Wedlake, Jake Murphy, Tom Bedford, Seti Raumakita, Bale, Ed Holmes, Dacres and Jarrad Hayler in their starting line-up.
Dan Collier and Rupert Freestone were also back in an Albion shirt after an absence of three seasons.
Jersey, who finished seventh in the Championship last season, included Nick Selway, who once played a cup game for Albion as a prop, at hooker.
Albion, despite an early morning coach journey and flight, started the game brilliantly.
They dominated the first 20 minutes, scoring two tries and could have had more. Forwards Dacres, Collier and Hayler all stood out early on, as did pacy backs Ford and Wedlake.
Plymouth opened the scoring in the sixth minute. After being held up over the line from a dive, they attacked from the resultant five-metre scrum. They went left and captain for the day, Cameron Setter, fed Dacres, who powered his way over the line.
Trialist fly-half Bale missed the conversion, but he kicked a penalty five minutes later after Jersey had wasted a great chance by knocking on over the line at the other end.
It got better for Albion when Australian summer signing Ford showed his pace to run in from 45 metres after beating a Jersey play to a loose ball. Bale converted to make it 15-0.
The visitors nearly scored again when they broke from the restart but Raumakita just could not gather the ball on the wing.
Ford was also close down the other wing, but was stopped five-metres from the line.
But after that it started to go wrong for Albion. They started giving away too many penalties and Jersey made them pay.
The home side got back into the match when number eight Tommy Spinks was driven over from a catch-and-drive move. Cope converted to make it 15-7.
Four minutes later Jersey scored a second. They took advantage from another penalty to drive before going wide and winger Ross Adair was there to go over to make it 15-12.
And just before the break, Jersey scored again after Albion gave away a penalty. The home side went for the corner and Spinks was there to touch down again. Cope converted to make the half-time score 19-15.
Plymouth struggled in the second half as Jersey got on top in the set piece, but the visitors did still show encouraging moments.
Albion kept Jersey out for nearly 20 minutes after the break but a Charlie Butterworth try from another maul proved the game’s turning point.
Dawe made replacements and Ben Hawley broke to the 22 but Albion could not take advantage.
After that it was all Jersey, who add three more tries.
Replacement Tom Howe got their fifth after Albion, who had Bedford down injured, were turned over attacking and Jersey broke at pace. Lewis Robling converted to make it 31-15.
It looked like that might be the final scoreline but Jersey rubbed salt into Albion’s wounds with tries by Nick Campbell and a last-gasp one from Jack Burroughs after a stunning 70-metre break by Rich Lane.
Jersey: Jack Burroughs, Ross Adair, Ollie Evans, Lewis Robling, Ed Dawson, Brendan Cope, Joel Dudley, Sean McCarthy, Nick Selway, Danny Herriott, Dave Markham, Nick Campbell, Alex Rae (capt), Charlie Butterworth, Tommy Spinks. Reps: Nacho Saenz-Lancuba, Cosma Garfagnoli, Pearce Philips, James Freeman, Nick Haining, Jack Moates, Marc McCrea, Tom Howe, Richard Lane.
Albion: Ethan Ford (Billy Searle 60), Robin Wedlake, Jake Murphy, Tom Bedford, Seti Raumakita (George de Mendonca 74), Elliot Bale (Tom Putt 74), Cameron Setter (capt), Rupert Freestone (Ross Crang79), James Penman (Dean Brooker 79), Dan Pullinger (Christian Judge 31), Ed Holmes, Dan Collier (Ben Hawley 63), Nile Dacres, Jarrard Hayler, Herbie Stupple (Chris Courtier 74). Reps: Andy Chesters.
Scores: Jersey: Tries: Spinks 2, Adair, Butterworth, Howe, Campbell, Burroughs; Cons: Cope 2, Robling 2.
Albion: Tries: Dacres, Ford; Con: Bale; Pen: Bale.
Referee: Simon Harding.