PLYMOUTH Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe was given plenty of food for thought after his new-look side were beaten 45-18 by Championship outfit Bedford Blues at Brickfields.
It was a similar sized defeat to what Albion suffered at the hands of fellow Championship side Jersey two weeks ago, but Plymouth’s defence on Saturday night was not as good as it was in the Channel Islands.
In the first half on Saturday, Bedford, looking really sharp, exposed Albion a number of times, while the home side also struggled in the set piece.
But second period, Dawe’s team did tighten up and looked much more solid.
Bedford are a good side, as Albion have found out to their cost on a host of previous occasions. They have suffered bigger defeats at the hands of the Blues than they did on Saturday while still in the same league.
And Dawe did use the game to have a look at a number of players. He will have a much better idea now of who is up to National One level.
Probably the Albion boss’ biggest worry will be a serious-looking ankle injury to star full-back Ethan Ford. The Australian helped make Plymouth’s first try against the Blues but in the process got injured.
But what would have pleased Dawe most is that his team never gave up and they did produce some good moments and could have scored more than the two tries they did collect on a day that started in bright sunshine but ended in torrential rain.
Albion handed first starts to Ivybridge winger George de Mendonca, hooker Dean Brooker, South African lock David Fisher, teenage fly-half Billy Searle and prop Christian Judge.
And the home side made a good start with young number 10 Searle kicking a penalty.
Fisher then came close to scoring a try but he was stopped five metres out and Albion were penalised for holding on.
But then Bedford took hold of the game with two tries in four minutes.
First, scrum-half Peter White went over under the posts after Albion were turned over at a scrum in their own 22. Former Exeter back-row Joel Conlon did the damage before feeding White.
Albion’s defence was cut open again minutes later when another former Chief, Myles Dorrian, took advantage of some poor tackling to run in under the posts for a try he converted.
To their credit, the home side hit-back with a try by Seti Raumakita after Australian back Ford showed a really good turn of pace to cut through Bedford’s line. He was stopped just short but Royal Navy player Raumakita was there to get the ball over the whitewash.
Ford was injured making the try and was replaced by fellow Australian Marc Koteczky.
Albion will be hoping his injury is not too serious as he is expected to be one of the club’s key players.
Dawe would not have been happy to see him limp off or with some of his side’s tackling.
Bedford scored a third try on 24 minutes when new Bedford winger George Perkins ran in from halfway after Albion were turned over.
That made it 19-8, but Searle did reduce the gap with a penalty.
The Blues, though, looked dangerous every time they attacked. At times it looked like they had an extra man on the field and it was no surprise when White went over for a second try – and Bedford’s fourth -from close range.
Dorrian converted to make it 26-11, which was how it stayed until the break, with Albion, finding life tough in the set piece, losing a five-metre line-out right at the end of the half.
Albion, who had already brought on Dan Collier, made a host of changes at the break, bringing on James Penman, Robin Wedlake, Tom Putt and Mounga Molosi.
The home side did have a good spell after the restart and Jake Murphy broke but he just did not have the legs too go all the way.
But eventually Bedford, who changed 14 of their players at the interval, got back on top with two more tries in four minutes, just like in the first half.
Number eight Hayden Thompson-Stinger went over on 50 minutes from a five-metre catch-and-drive move.
That made it 31-11, but that soon became 38-11 when scrum-half Jordan Burns cut right through the middle to score under the posts after taking a quick tap penalty.
But Albion, who by-and-large were stronger defensively second period, did not let their heads drop and Cameron Setter cut the deficit with a try from his own quick tap penalty.
Teenage replacement Putt, who had an assured debut, brilliantly converted to make it 38-18.
Albion defended well after that, but two minutes from time Bedford prop Camilo Parilli-Ocampo forced his way over from close range following a line-out. Sharp converted.
Albion did have one last chance to score after Dacres did well from the back of the scrum and flankers Hayler and Ben Hawley were there to support but the home side knocked on close to the line.
Albion: Ethan Ford (Marc Koteczky 26), Seti Raumakita (Mounga Molisi h/t-66), Jake Murphy, Tom Bedford, George de Mendonca (Robin Wedlake h/t), Billy Searle (Tom Putt h/t), Cameron Setter, Rupert Freestone (Ollie Dawe 62), Dean Brooker (James Penman h/t), Christian Judge (Dan Pullinger 46), David Fisher (Ed Holmes 53), Ed Holmes (Dan Collier 28), Herbie Stupple (Jarrad Hayler 70), Jarrad Hayler (Ben Hawley 53), Nile Dacres (capt).
Bedford first half: Piers O’Conor, George Perkins, Henry Staff, Ollie Dodge, Sam Blanchet, Myles Dorrian, Peter White, Jack Culverhouse, Sam James, James Currie, Paul Tupai (capt), Henry Wells, Brian Tuilagi, Josh Buggea, Joel Conlon.
Bedford second half: Steffan Jones, Pat Tapley, Michael Le Bourgeois, Ollie Dodge, Dean Adamson, Jake Sharp, Jordan Burns, Camilo Parillo-Ocampo, Charlie Clare, Phil Boulton, Mike Howard, Mark Flanagan, Justin Blanchet, Nick Fenton-Wells (capt), Hayden Thompson-Stinger.
Scorers: Albion: Tries: Raumakita, Setter; Con: Putt; pens: Searle (2)
Bedford: Tries: White 2, Dorrian, Perkins, Thompson-Stringer, Burns, Parillio-Ocampo; Cons: 5