PLYMOUTH Albion’s backs ran riot as they beat National Three South West side Newton Abbot 64-27 at Brickfields on Friday night in their final pre-season match.
The Devon All Whites, led by player-coach and former Albion favourite Colin Stewart, more than held their own up front, scoring three impressive drive tries, but they had no answer to the home side’s speedy backs.
Matt Shepherd, back from Thailand, impressed on his first appearance for Albion, scoring a try, while there was also first tries in Plymouth colours for fellow backs Robin Wedlake, George de Mendonca and Elliot Bale.
However, it was teenager Tom Putt who stole the show on his first Albion start against his ‘home’ club.
Putt, who will play for Newton Abbot if not needed by Albion, scored two tries and had a hand a number of others.
Ollie Dawe, Rupert Freestone, Seti Raumakita and Dan Pullinger completed the try-scoring for Plymouth.
Newton Abbot, however, gave the young Albion side a much tougher test than the final scoreline shows.
They were only 24-20 down after 45 minutes after coming back from being 24-3 behind.
National One side Albion will know they will need to defend driving mauls much better when it comes to the league, which starts next Saturday.
Albion, who rested the likes of Herbie Stupple, Dan Collier, Cameron Setter, handed first starts to Cornwall duo Shepherd and Jon Dawe and youngsters Putt, Ollie Dawe and Ben Hawley.
Newton Abbot had been keen to include Putt themselves, but Albion wanted to have another look at the teenager after encouraging replacement appearances against Bedford and Jersey.
Albion, though, did allow prop Tom Brown to feature for the visitors, who, as well as ex-Albion lock Stewart, also included former Plymouth development players Rob Avery-Wright, Dean Avery and Martin Browne in their starting line-up.
Albion had some good early pressure but then gave away a penalty and the visitors pressed. Plymouth defended well inside their 22 for three minutes but eventually gave away another penalty, this time in front of the posts, which Avery-Wright kicked to put his side 3-0 up.
But Albion responded well. First, Searle and De Mendonca nearly put Jarrad Hayler over in the left corner before they did score through prop Ollie Dawe, who barged across the line from close range. Searle added the conversion to make it 7-3.
And it got better nine minutes later when they added a second through debutant Shepherd, who dived over from a few metres out. It came after Royal Navy flanker Hayler, who was heavily involved in the opening period, had nearly scored on the left. Searle added the conversion.
Albion’s confidence was up after that and almost immediately they added a third try through prop Freestone, who produced a good dummy after crisp passing by Searle and Putt created an overlap on the left.
Plymouth’s backs were looking very sharp, with Shepherd dictating play, and it was no surprise when they added a fourth, this time courtesy of wing De Mendonca. The Ivybridge winger had a simple job of running in unopposed from just five metres out after some more good backs play.
Albion suffered a blow five minutes before half-time when South African forward had to go off with a leg injury.
And following his departure, Newton Abbot’s powerful pack scored two quick drive tries, which Albion just could not stop.
The first came courtesy of number eight Browne before prop Will Cole added another in injury-time. Avery-Wright converted both to leave just seven points behind at the break.
Plymouth made a host of changes at the break, but it was Newton Abbot who got the first points of the second period when Avery-Wright kicked a simple penalty.
Albion, though, hit back quickly with a try by Wedlake, who had moved to the wing from centre for the second half. His score came seconds after replacement Tom Bedford should have gone over the whitewash following good play by Putt and Bale.
Bale, who came on for Searle at the break, added the conversion from out wide to give Albion an 11-point cushion.
Putt had impressed the whole game and he capped a fine night with a great try from 25 metres out, which Bale converted to put Albion 38-20 up.
The home side had their tails up and replacement Raumakita got his second try in two games in the 62nd minute. Bale, looking in fine form with the boot, converted to give his side a 25-point lead.
The impressive Putt added another try in the 65th minute after a great pass by Bale.
Putt, who had moved to full-back in the second half, was at the centre of everything and he made a try for replacement prop Dan Pullinger. Bale converted to make it 57-20.
Newton Abbot’s only real weapon was their driving maul and they used it to full effect in the 75th minute to get a penalty try.
However, Albion were not finished and Bale, who again impressed, crossed on the left two minutes later, which he also converted to make it 64-27.
Albion: Jake Murphy, Jon Dawe (Tom Bedford h/t), Robin Wedlake, Tom Putt, George de Mendonca, Billy Searle (Elliot Bale h/t), Matt Shepherd, (Dan Goldstone 67) Ollie Dawe (Ross Crang 67), James Penman (capt, Dean Brooker 52), Rupert Freestone (Dan Pullinger 52), David Fisher (Paul Hamber 35), Jim Massey (Cameron Thompson h/t), Ben Hawley, Jarrad Hayler (Seti Raumakita h/t, Massey 72), Chris Courtier (Andy Chesters h/t).
Newton Abbot: Will Castleton, Callum Gill, Josh Smith, Kevin Dennis, Jack Bond, Rob Avery-Wright, Tom Brown, Dean Avery, Will Cole, Matt Templeton, Colin Stewart, Ben Smith, Alex Moore, Martin Browne. Reps: Lloyd Radford, Ian Milton, Josh Vickridge, Sam Gibbins.
Referee: Charlie Osborne (Devon RFU).
Scores: Albion: Tries: Putt 2, Ollie Dawe, Shepherd, Freestone, De Mendonca, Wedlake, Raumakita, Pullinger, Bale; Cons: Bale 5, Searle 2;
Newton Abbot: Tries: Browne, Cole, Penalty; Cons: Avery-Wright 3; Pens: Avery-Wright 2