PLYMOUTH ALBION 31 FYLDE 24
PLYMOUTH Albion returned to winning ways in National One with a hard-earned 31-24 victory over Fylde at Brickfields.
After narrow defeats against Hull and Rosslyn Park, Graham Dawe’s side were desperate for four points but Fylde, who have finished in the top four for the last two seasons, really tested their defence.
The Lancashire side had a really good spell in the first half, with their backs causing lots of problems, but Albion somehow only conceded one try to lead 23-10 at the break.
Marc Koteczky and Nile Dacres scored first half tries, with 18-year-old full-back Tom Putt kicking 13 points.
After the interval, though, Fylde managed to close to within two points before Albion won the game with a try from popular number eight Herbie Stupple to move up to eighth in the table.
Albion were able to welcome back second-row Dan Collier after he missed the trip to Hull with a groin injury.
However, they were still without fellow forwards James Penman and David Fisher with injury and winger Robin Wedlake.
In Wedlake’s absence, Matt Shepherd moved to the wing from scrum-half, with Cameron Setter coming back in at nine and Koteczky taking over at fly-half from Elliot Bale.
Albion, who had clearly done a lot of work on their set piece after their defeat at Hull, made a promising start and Ethan Ford was close to scoring in the right corner on seven minutes.
Although he was not able to cross, Albion did get a five-metre line-out. They were unable to drive initially but they used their forwards well to pick-and-go before the ball went to Koteczky, who drove over under the posts for the opening try. Putt converted to make it 7-0.
But after that Fylde, who were without their head coach Paul Arnold due to RFU commitments in the North West, had a really strong 15 minutes where they scored 10 points, but could – and maybe should – have had more.
Chris Johnson got their first points on the board with a penalty on 10 minutes.
Powerful centre Scott Rawlings, who had a big game, then thought he had scored in the right corner but the referee ruled Shepherd had somehow prevented him grounding the ball.
However, the try the visitors threatened came from the resultant five-metre scrum. Fylde pressed and eventually centre Ralph Dowds went over under the posts after Albion failed with an interception and the ball fell perfectly for him. That was only the second try Albion had conceded in open play this season. It was easily converted by Johnson.
The Lancashire side, with Namibian international Ryan de la Harpe pulling the strings in front of some of his countrymen, were finding gaps in Albion’s defence that have not been there this season. They were unlucky on 21 minutes when they had a try disallowed for a forward pass.
But Albion weathered the storm and on 23 minutes Putt levelled the match with a penalty and then six minutes later Dawe’s side went in front again with a try by Dacres after good play by Stupple and Koteczky. Putt converted to make it 17-10.
Young Putt added another penalty on 31 minutes before Albion found themselves down to 14 men when lock Collier was harshly sin-binned as the home side defended a five-metre line-out.
However, Albion, with four teenagers in their 20-man squad, did well while a man down and increased their lead further on the stroke of half-time when Putt kicked a penalty from the halfway line.
Fylde, though, came out strongly after the interval and cut the cap to six points with a try from lock Nick Gray after the visitors counterattacked from an Albion move. It had looked like Fylde had knocked on in their own 22 at the beginning of the move but the referee did not give it and the Woodlands outfit took advantage.
Teeange replacement Billy Searle edged Albion 26-17 in front with a penalty just two minutes after coming on for fellow youngster Putt, but back came Fylde, who scored a third try courtesy of captain Chris Briers, which Johnson converted.
That left the visitors just two points behind. Albion, though, responded well.
After Searle had surprisingly missed a penalty almost in front of the posts, Dawe’s side camped in Fylde’s 22.
They thought they had scored from pressure following a line-out but it was ruled out.
However, the referee had spotted an earlier infringement and awarded Albion a penalty and sin-binned Royal Navy number eight David Fairbrother, who has been based in Plymouth.
Albion opted for a scrum from the penalty and from it, after pressure, Stupple scored his second home try of the season. Searle could not add the conversion so Fylde were still within a score.
It looked like Albion were going to secure the bonus point and seal the win in the 78th minute when Jake Murphy and Tom Bedford did really well to cut Fylde open and feed Searle, but he was just pushed into touch a metre away from the try line.
Late on Fylde threatened but a great tackle by replacement Seti Raumkita and some strong work in the ruck by his Navy team-mate Jarrad Hayler resulted in crucial turnovers.
Albion: Tom Putt, Ethan Ford, Jake Murphy (capt), Tom Bedford, Matt Shepherd, Marc Koteczky, Cameron Setter, Ollie Dawe, Rupert Freestone, Christian Judge, Dan Collier, Ed Holmes, Nile Dacres, Jarrad Hayler, Herbie Stupple. Reps: Dean Brooker, Dan Pullinger, Andy Chesters, Seti Raumakita, Billy Searle.
Fylde: Chris Briers, Jordan Dorrington, Ralph Dowds, Scott Rawlings, Oli Brennand, Chris Johnson, Ryan de la Harpe, Dan Birchall, Phil Mills, Simon Griffiths, Nickola Gray, Todd Prisk, Mark Goodman, Ben Vernon, David Fairbrother. Reps: Adam Lewis, Adam Maher, Dom Moon, Greg Nicholls, Lewis Allen.
Referee: Shane Lewis (RFU).
Scorers: Albion: Tries: Koteczky, Dacres, Stupple; Cons: Putt 2; Pens: Putt 3; Searle
Fylde: Tries: Dowds, Gray, Briers; cons: Johnson 3; Pen; Johnson
Cards: Albion: Collier (yellow 34); Fylde: Fairbrother (yellow 68)