PLYMOUTH ALBION 12 ESHER 38
PLYMOUTH Albion suffered their biggest defeat of the season on Saturday as Esher out-played them at Brickfields.
The Surrey visitors, who have always been one of Albion’s bogey teams, scored five tries to become the first team to pick up a try-scoring bonus point against Graham Dawe’s side this term.
Albion had not been out-scored on tries or failed to pick up a point in any of their opening five matches but they were well-beaten on Saturday.
They could only managed two second half tries courtesy of Herbie Stupple and Marc Koteczky.
Albion, who had been hoping to honour the memory of former chairman Vernon Pinches, just could not get their line-out going and had no answer to Esher’s physicality and skilful backs.
Former Plymouth player Paul Roberts, who was surprisingly released by Albion in 2013, was on top form for Esher, kicking five conversions and a penalty and having a hand in a number of the visitors tries.
Having produced their worst performance of the season, Albion now have to pick themselves up for their longest trip of the campaign next weekend to Blaydon.
The home side handed a debut to Cornwall winger Jon Dawe, while James Penman and Dan Pullinger came back into the front-row.
Cameron Setter, Ollie Dawe and Christian Judge dropped down to the bench.
Albion included former Esher centre Tom Bedford in their starting line-up, while Esher had ex-Plymouth fly-half Roberts at 10 for them.
The home side, watched by their biggest crowd of the season, had the first chance to go in front when they were awarded a penalty after good pressure inside the 22. Shepherd, who had moved to scrum-half from the wing, took the tough kick but he missed.
Esher had their own chance to put some points on the board in the 11th minute when they got a penalty. They went for a five-metre line-out and drove. Albion were penalised again but Esher knocked on the next line-out – one of their only errors all game.
However, Albion struggled to clear their lines from the scrum and from a poor kick Esher ran it back and flanker Cameron Gentles broke through to get the visitors into the 22. They pressed and eventually went left and there was centre Ross Neale to go over for a good try. Roberts converted.
Albion could not seem to get hold of the ball. They struggled to win their line-outs and kept giving away penalties.
And it was no surprise that Esher scored a second try on 29 minutes when scrum-half Andy Garner went over from close range after good pressure. Roberts again converted to make it 14-0.
Esher continued to dominate and they got a third try on 36 minutes when number eight Harrison Collins powered over under the posts after a good break by Roberts, who looked inspired against his former club. The fly-half added the conversion to make sure his side went in at the break 21-0 up.
Albion, who brought on Cameron Thompson for his debut at the break, made a good start to the second half and Esher had hooker Neil Sweeney sin-binned for use of the boot as the home side pressed. But Plymouth could not make the penalty tell and Esher eventually went up the field and scored a fourth try through replacement Liam Nichols, which Roberts converted.
The home side did hit back with a try from Stupple – his fourth of the season on his 50th league and cup appearance for the club. Shepherd, though, could not convert.
Albion thought they had added a second on 57 minutes but the referee ruled they were held up over the line and the home side could not make the five-metre scrum tell.
On 65 minutes, Esher scored a fifth try courtesy of Devonian Andy Wright, who was a late call-up into their starting line-up. It was his sixth try of the season. Roberts, having a really good game, converted to make the score 35-5.
Albion were better in the second half – it would have been hard not to have been – and they added a second try courtesy of Koteczky after James Penman had wasted a good chance seconds earlier. Shepherd converted.
But from the restart, Albion were penalised for offside and Roberts, who finished with a 100 per cent record, kicked to make it 38-12.
Albion did finish strongly. Replacement Elliot Bale came within inches of scoring and Albion were stopped from getting quick ball, which led to Harrison Collins picking up a yellow card.
In the last seconds Ethan Ford thought he had scored but the touch-judged ruled he had put a foot into touch before getting the ball down.
Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe said afterwards: “It’s not an ideal scenario losing at home and not being competitive on the scoreboard come the final whistle. That’s not how we hoped it would end up.
“Credit to Esher, they played very well. I think you could count their errors on one hand.
“We have to address certain issues and move forward.”
Albion: Tom Putt, Ethan Ford, Jake Murphy (capt), Tom Bedford, Jon Dawe, Marc Koteczky, Matt Shepherd, James Penman, Rupert Freestone, Dan Pullinger, Dan Collier, Ed Holmes, Nile Dacres, Gregory Sebastien, Herbie Stupple. Reps: Ollie Dawe, Christian Judge, Cameron Thompson, Elliot Bale, Cameron Setter.
Esher: Ali Chisholm, Andy Wright, Ross Neale, Tom Cheeseman (capt), Spencer Sutherland, Paul Roberts, Andy Garner, Oliver Mines, Neil Sweeney, Cameron Zeiss, Peter Daly, Stan South, Cameron Gentles, Tom Yellowlees, Harrison Collins. Reps: Liam Nichols, Kevin Davis, Peter Synott, Robbie Nairn, Calum Waters.
Referee: Mike Hudson (RFU)
Scorers: Albion: Tries: Stupple, Koteczky; Con: Shepherd
Esher: Tries: Neale, Garner, Collins, Nichols, Wright; Cons: Roberts 5; Pen: Roberts.
Cards: Albion: None; Esher: Sweeney (yellow 42), Collins (yellow 80+2)