Coventry 26 Plymouth Albion 19
PLYMOUTH Albion suffered heartbreak at Coventry’s Butts Park Arena on Saturday.
Graham Dawe’s side had comeback from 13-0 down to level the match at 19-19 with tries by Herbie Stupple, Ethan Ford and Nile Dacres.
But the National One game was decided in controversial fashion in the last minute of normal time with a try under the posts by Coventry replacement Jacques Le Roux.
Initially, referee Phil Davies appeared to have disallowed the try for a forward pass, but after speaking to his touch-judge he decided to award it, much to the anger of Albion’s players who were convinced it was forward.
Plymouth, who have not won a league game away from home since March 2014, did out-score Coventry three tries to two and did pick up a losing bonus, but that was little consolation to the team, whose frustration was obvious as they left the field.
Albion, missing Royal Navy players Jarrad Hayler and Seti Raumakita, handed a debut to French flanker Gregory Sebastien.
The visitors made the worst possible starts. They knocked on from the kick-off and from the resultant scrum 25 metres out Coventry scored in the left corner through Peter Weightman after some good pressure. Fly-half Matthew Jones brilliantly converted from the touchline.
Coventry, who finished third last season, then blew two really good chances to increase their lead with knock-ons close to the line.
It took Albion until the 15th minute to get into Coventry’s half but they then had quite a bit of possession.
They won a penalty on 19 minutes but Tom Putt just missed the target with the kick.
Albion then suffered a blow two minutes later as they were attacking. A poor pass saw them forced back into their own half and referee Phil Davies penalised them for holding on. Jones stepped up and kicked the penalty to put his side 10-0 up.
The visitors shot themselves in the foot again on 28 minutes while attacking from a scrum. Albion lost the ball when they went inside and then were penalised again by referee Davies and Jones added the kick to make it 13-0.
However, Albion hit back. They got a penalty and went for the corner. They were so close to scoring before getting another penalty. This one was almost in front of the posts, but they turned down an almost guaranteed three points to go for the corner.
They pressed from the line-out before Coventry were penalised again. The home side had lock Tom Poole sin-binned and Albion opted for a scrum. From the set piece, Stupple powered over for his third try of the season, which Putt converted.
But Albion went in at the break 16-7 down after Jones kicked another penalty after the visitors were adjudged to be offside.
Dawe’s side were frustrated on the stroke of half-time when they were penalised for a forward pass on halfway that was not forward.
Plymouth, whose set piece was impressive, made a great start to the second half with Australian Ethan Ford scoring in the right corner after less than two minutes. It had looked like the visitors had lost the ball 10 metres out but they won it back and Ford did really well to get it down in the corner. Coventry’s crowd were convinced there had been a knock-on earlier in the move but the referee did not give it.
Putt was unable to convert from the touchline and a minute later Ford had to go off after getting injured in the process of scoring.
On 51 minutes, Jones kicked another penalty after Albion were caught offside to make it 19-12.
But straight away Albion pulled level. Coventry made a mess of gathering the restart kick and Albion picked up and the impressive Dacres ran in to touch down for his second try in two games. Putt converted.
The game became quite energy-sapping after that with both teams trying to attack at every opportunity.
In the 77th minute Coventry were awarded a penalty. Jones stepped up but his kick bounced off the post, however, Albion knocked on trying to gather, giving Coventry a five-metre scrum, which led to Le Roux’s controversial winning score.
Albion did have a chance in injury-time to score a fourth try and maybe claim three points when they won a penalty. They went for the corner but could not drive over and then were penalised in possession by the referee.
Dawe’s side have picked up at least a point in every one of their five games this season and have not been out-scored yet on tries. They will look to bounce back next Saturday against Esher at home.
Coventry: R Caolan, D Lespierre, C MacBurnie, S Smith, P Weightman, M Jones, W Evans (capt, H Lee-Everton 45), A Brown, D Hope (M Price 36), A Parkins, T Poole, B Thomas, A Woodburn (J Le Roux 30), G Oliver, S Pailor. Not used: T Sigley, N Baker.
Albion: T Putt (E Bale 71), E Ford (B Seale 45), J Murphy (capt), T Bedford, M Shepherd, M Koteczky, C Setter, O Dawe (J Penman 57), R Freestone (D Pullinger 81), C Judge, D Collier, E Holmes, N Dacres, G Sebastien (A Chesters 53), H Stupple.
Referee: Philip Davies (RFU)
Scorers: Coventry: Tries: Weightman, Le Roux; Cons: Jones 2; Pens: Jones 3
Albion: Tries: Stupple, Ford, Dacres; Cons: Putt 2
Cards: Coventry: Poole (yellow 35); Albion: None