PLYMOUTH ALBION 15 ROSSLYN PARK 16
PLYMOUTH Albion came from 13-0 down to nearly beat last season’s runners-up Rosslyn Park at Brickfields on Saturday.
Graham Dawe’s side, who had opened their season with a 33-20 victory over Richmond, struggled for territory in the first half, but they finished the game really strongly and in the end where left ruing mistakes that cost them victory by just one point.
Both Rosslyn Park’s two tries came from Albion errors, while the home side also missed a penalty, a conversion and a drop-goal.
But to come so close to beating the team that has finished second for the past two seasons, only losing four matches in each campaign, should give Dawe’s young side further belief that they can challenge in National One.
Former Launceston duo Matt Shepherd and Jake Murphy scored Albion’s tries, while Alex MacKenzie and Andrew Henderson touched down for Park.
Albion, watched by a crowd of 1,243, handed a first league start to 18-year-old full-back Tom Putt, while 20-year-old Dan Pullinger came into the starting line-up for only his second league start for the club.
Rosslyn Park, who had hammered Henley 62-12 the week before, included ex-Albion back Mark Kohler in their starting line-up and former development player Tom Whelan on the bench.
Albion had the chance to take the lead in the first minute when they were awarded a penalty just inside Rosslyn Park’s half. Bale went for the long-range kick, but unlike last week, he was unable to put it over.
After that it was all Park for the next 25 minutes. Albion found it hard to get out of their half. They were not helped by their set-piece which they struggled with early on, particularly their line-out.
Park scored their first try on 10 minutes after Albion made two costly mistakes in the build-up. First they threw ball straight out trying to play out of their 22. The home side defended Park’s line-out well and looked to have escaped when they won a line-out of their own. But they lost the set piece on their own line and MacKenzie collected and got the ball down in the left corner. Sam Stanley, on loan from Ealing, missed the conversion.
But Stanley did kick a penalty 10 minutes later to make it 8-0 after the visitors had enjoyed a good spell of possession.
After that Albion did finally have some possession and forced Park back into their 22. They stole one of their line-outs close to the line and Bale just missed with a drop-goal.
Park, dominating the first period, had a good chance in the 32nd minute but they knocked on close to the line.
However, Albion finished the half strongly and should have scored. James Penman, Tom Bedford, Herbie Stupple, Nile Dacres and Murphy all came within inches of scoring as the home side camped on the visitors’ line. But try as they might Albion could not get the ball over the whitewash and eventually went into touch, which ended the half.
It looked like they might score but a bad pass inside the 22 and then a poor kick gave possession back to Park, who went right up the other end and scored through Andrew Henderson. That made it 13-0.
But Albion’s heads did not go down. Bale cut their lead to 10 points with a penalty and after that they really took the game to their visitors.
A cleaver chip kick was taken well by Ford, who was just stopped 22 metres out. Then 20-year-old flanker Jarrad Hayler, who had another fine game, made a good break before Albion did finally get the try they threatened.
Albion went left and Robin Wedlake, another player to impress, did really well before putting his Cornwall team-mate Shepherd in to score out wide. With Bale off the field having been left stunned by a dangerous-looking tackle by Kohler, Putt took the conversion, but his kick just fell short.
Park increased their lead to 16-8 when replacement scrum-half Tom Whiteley kicked a penalty in front of the posts.
But Albion were not done and captain Murphy scored a good try on the left after good backs play involving Bale, who, having come back on to the field, converted to leave his side just one point behind.
The referee, who did not make himself too popular with Albion fans, said there was still time to play, but Albion could not get in a position to get the win.
Albion: Tom Putt, Ethan Ford, Jake Murphy, Tom Bedford, Robin Wedlake, Elliot Bale, Cameron Setter, Ollie Dawe, James Penman, Dan Pullinger, Dan Collier, Ed Holmes, Nile Dacres, Jarrad Hayler, Herbie Stupple. Reps; Rupert Freestone, Christian Judge, Andy Chesters, Marc Koteczky, Matt Shepherd.
Rosslyn Park: Henry Robinson, Paul Mackey, Marc Kohler, Adam Field, Andrew Henderson, Sam Stanley, Jack Gash, Harry Elrington, Adam Bellamy, Alex MacKenzie, Ed Milne, Richard Boyle, Dan Browne, Michael MacFarlane, Hugo Ellis. Reps: Charles Piper, Lovejoy Chawatama, Adam Frampton, Tom Whiteley, Tom Whelan.
Referee: Shane Lewis (RFU)
Scorers: Albion: Tries: Shepherd, Murphy; Con: Bale; Pen: Bale
Rosslyn Park: Tries: MacKenzie, Henderson; Pens: Stanley, Whiteley