EXMOUTH A 21 PLYMOUTH ALBION DEVELOPMENT 19
BILLY SEARLE came agonisingly close to helping a young Plymouth Albion development team to victory over Exmouth A at the Imperial Ground on Tuesday evening.
The 19-year-old, who scored Albion’s opening try, thought he had won the game late on with what looked like another touch-down near the posts, but the referee ruled the teenager had knocked the ball on as a grounded it.
Searle then just missed with a penalty attempt in the 79th minute. Up until then Albion had refused all kicks at goal, including two in front of the posts.
Albion had led 19-7 at half-time with tries from Searle, 18-year-old scrum-half Jack Maunder and 20-year-old lock Shek Sherrif.
But an equally young Exmouth side, impressing at the break down and in the scrums, came back after the break as Albion made changes to their team to give everyone a run-out.
In the end just one extra conversion decided the competitive fixture, played on Exmouth’s second-team pitch.
Although he would have liked his team to have won, Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe insisted the match was more about giving players game-time.
“It was a good work-out against a pretty physical Exmouth team,” said Dawe. “They wouldn’t have invited us up here if they didn’t have quite a good team.
“It was a hard-graft game and it was unfortunate we did not come away with a win, but it was a close game.
“It is always nice to get a victory, but I think our players got a lot out of it.
“It was a chance for some players that needed it to get some game-time and also answered a few questions for us and caused a few as well.”
Exmouth, looking fired up for the match, made a good start and scored after four minutes when Albion failed to deal with a long, hopeful kick up field and eventually George Mears touched down for the home side. Dan Powell converted.
But Albion were level four minutes later when Searle scored a fine individual effort from the halfway line following a scrum. He also added the conversion.
Exmouth, playing with lots of intensity and showing plenty of spirit, had chances before Albion scored a second try courtesy of Maunder, who was making his first appearance for Albion. The youngster burrowed over from close range following some good forward work.
And just before the break, the visitors added a third try when Sierra Leone-born lock Sherrif showed good power to force his way over the whitewash, with Searle converting.
Albion showed some really good defence at the start of the second half but eventually Exmouth’s pressure led to them scoring a second try courtesy of Dave Bargent from a five-metre scrum. It came after Albion had lost a scrum on their own 22 a minute earlier.
The visitors responded with good pressure that led to Exmouth having a player sin-binned but Plymouth could not make two five-metre line-outs tell, although on one occasion they could not have been closer to scoring.
Albion were then reduced to 14 men when flanker Cameron Thompson was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Almost immediately Exmouth scored a third try when Bargent went over again, with Powell crucially converting to put his side two points in front.
Albion tried everything to score. Chance after chance went begging on the line before the referee blew up for full-time.
Albion: 15 Eamon Rees, 14 Jordan Shakespeare, 13 Jon Dawe, 12 Chris Swash, 11 Ian Davidson, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Jack Maunder, 1 Curtis Reynolds, 2 Dean Brooker, 3 Tom Brown, 4 Paul Hamber, 5 Shek Sherrif, 6 Cameron Thompson, 7 Andy Chesters (capt), 8 Jim Massey. Reps: Rory Briers, Will Slater, Luke Mingo, Noah Nash, Dan Goldstone, George Hodgson
Jack Maunder has been named in the England Under-20 Elite Player Squad for 2016.