PLYMOUTH ALBION 33 RICHMOND 20
THERE were plenty of smiles on faces at Brickfields on Saturday as Plymouth Albion made a winning start to life in National One.
No-one really knew what to expect from Graham Dawe’s new-look young side, but they certainly proved a point in front of a vocal crowd and against a Richmond outfit who have finished seventh for the past two seasons.
New signings Jake Murphy and Elliot Bale scored first half tries, with Herbie Stupple, the longest-serving player in the squad, adding another in the second half, much to the delighted the home fans.
New fly-half Bale also kicked 18 points to finish with a 23-point haul and a sponsor’s man-of-the-match award.
The Plymouth players, looking fit and determined, tackled their hearts out and Richmond could not score in open play. Their two tries came from set pieces.
There were lots of positives from the team, but also from the Brickfields crowd, who really got behind the side. The attendance might not have been as large as club hoped but they really made themselves heard and they all went away happy.
It had been a long time since there were so many smiles and happy faces at the ground.
However, no-one in the Albion camp will be getting carried away by one win. They will know there are much tougher tests ahead, particularly next weekend when favourites Rosslyn Park visit.
Rossyln Park hammered newly-promoted Henley 62-12 in their opening game. But Albion will have gained confidence from Saturday’s win.
It was particularly nice to see physical forwards Stupple and Dan Collier playing a full 80 minutes and looking fit after injury-plagued careers.
Albion handed 11 players full debuts – Ethan Ford, Harrison Cully, Murphy, Tom Bedford, Robin Wedlake, Bale, Ollie Dawe, Christian Judge, Ed Holmes, Jarrad Hayler and Nile Dacres. Three of their 20-man squad were 18 year-olds.
But they were missing overseas pair Marc Koteczky and David Fisher due to injuries.
Albion, playing in red as their new white kit has not arrived yet, took an early lead when Bale kicked a long-range penalty after less than two minutes.
The home side lost their first three line-outs, but Richmond, making their first visit to Brickfields, were unable to take advantage.
It looked like Richmond were going to pay for a poor line-out in the 10th minute. They went for touch from a penalty but their line-out five metres out was ruled not straight.
However, it ended up working in the visitors’ favour as they pushed Albion off the resultant scrum and number eight Chris Davies picked the ball up and dived over. Full-back Rob Kirby brilliantly converted from the touchline to give his side a 7-3 lead.
Bale kicked another long-range penalty for Albion on 16 minutes to close the gap to one point before Kirby added one of his own straight from the re-start after Ford was adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball on right in front of the posts.
Ford was sin-binned but Richmond only had numerical advantage for two minutes as they had prop Seb Adeniran-Olule yellow carded for an off-the-ball incident.
Albion went for the corner from the penalty but were unable to make the five-metre line-out tell.
Slowly Plymouth got into their stride. Their set piece improved and their backs started to get more into the game.
Bale, looking very composed with the boot, added another penalty on 27 minutes to put his side back to within a point.
And five minutes later Albion scored their first try of the season – and it was an impressive one. The home side threw the ball across the line and Ford, back on the field after his sin-binning, found a gap in Richmond’s defence before off-loading to his captain Murphy to touch down. Bale converted to make it 16-10.
And it got better for Albion when Bale scored a try under the posts after his half-back partner Cameron Setter put him through. He converted his own score to make it 26-10.
However, with the last play of the half, Richmond scored a drive try through flanker Jack Allcock. Kirby converted to make the score at the break 26-17.
Richmond came out well and Albion had to defend for a good seven minutes, including two five-metre line-outs and a scrum, before the home side gave away a penalty in front of the posts, which Kirby kicked to reduce the gap to six points.
But after that Albion showed some really good handling and had a lot of pressure.
However, it looked like their chance had gone but they kept Richmond pinned in their 22 and Stupple changed down a kick to score. The crowd loved the moment and broke into shouts of ‘Herbie, Herbie..”. Bale converted to make it 33-20.
Debutant Bale missed a penalty on 73 minutes but it did not matter as Albion comfortably hung on for the win.
Albion: Ethan Ford, Harrison Cully, Jake Murphy (capt), Tom Bedford, Robin Wedlake, Elliot Bale, Cameron Setter, Ollie Dawe, James Penman, Christian Judge, Dan Collier, Ed Holmes, Herbie Stupple, Jarrad Hayler, Nile Dacres. Reps: Rupert Freestone, Dan Pullinger, Andy Chesters, Tom Putt, Matt Shepherd.
Richmond: Rob Kirby, Charles Broughton, Cameron Mitchell, Ronnie McLean, Will Browne, Ross Jones-Davies, Sam Stuart, Seb Adeniran-Olule, Ross Grimstone, Ali Lyon, Will Warden (capt), Tom Jewers, Ben Lonegan, Jack Allcock, Chris Davies. Reps: Igino Corradi, Alex Wood, Tom Sargeant, Jamie Gibbs, Chris Reakes.
Referee: Dan Parrot (RFU)
Scorers: Albion: Tries: Murphy, Bale, Stupple, Cons: Bale 3; Pens: Bale 4
Richmond: Tries: Davies, Allcock; Cons: Kirby 2; Pens: Kirby 2
Cards: Albion: Ford (yellow 18); Richmond: Adreniran-Olule (yellow 21), Lonergan (yellow 38)