Blaydon 33 Plymouth Albion 38
PLYMOUTH Albion claimed their first league away win for 19 months when they withheld a late fight-back from bottom club Blaydon.
Albion’s players had said when they arrived in the North East after an 11-hour coach trip that they were determined not to return home without a victory. And they showed that determination and resolve late on to claim a much-needed five points, despite being hampered by injuries.
Albion were already without Robin Wedlake, Jon Dawe, Harrison Cully, Andy Chesters, Jarrad Hayler, Seti Raumakita and David Fisher and then suffered another blow before kick-off losing fly-half Elliot Bale in the warm-up and then Ethan Ford and Dan Collier during the match.
But some of the club’s young players stood up in the North East, with full debutant Billy Searle, a late call-up into the starting line-up, scoring two of their five tries and fellow teenager Tom Putt kicking five out of five conversions and a penalty.
Albion’s other try scorers were Tom Bedford, Nile Dacres and Ford.
But the visitors, who were twice 14 points up, were hanging on at the end against a Blaydon side with an almost unstoppable driving maul.
Blaydon took the lead in the sixth minute after Albion knocked on a line-out on the halfway line. The home side attacked from the resultant scrum with the dangerous Nathan Bailey finding a gap before his centre partner Andrew Baggett put winger Tom Grimes in to score on the left. Fly-half Brett Connon added the coversion.
But Albion, whose last away league win had come at Bedford in March 2014, hit back quickly when an impressive individual effort from full debutant Searle. The teenager saw a gap 30 metres out and went for it and was rewarded with a try. Fellow teenager Putt converted.
Albion seemed to grow in confidence after that and they really should have had a second try just minutes later. Australian Ethan Ford came within inches of touching down in the left corner before the visitors camped for two minutes on Blaydon’s line before knocking on.
However, a second try did come on 20 minutes when Bedford, who used to play down the road at Newcastle, crossed on the right after Dacres broke through before off-loading to his colleague when tackled by the last man. Putt again converted.
Albion looked in control then but they gave away a penalty and Blaydon went for the corner and flanker Jason Smithson broke off the maul to dive over, with Connon converting to level the match.
Six minutes later, though, Dawe’s side were back in front with a great team try started in their own 22. The visitors picked off a Blaydon line-out and attacked with purpose. Marc Koteczky did really well down the left before play went back right where Herbie Stupple put his back-row colleague Dacres into score. Putt again converted.
Albion were close to adding a fourth try on 30 minutes when Ford was stopped just short before they got a really good drive going from a line-out. Blaydon pulled it down illegally and had scrum-half Ruaridh Dawsom sin-binned.
Two minutes later Albion then went 14 points in front and claimed their first try-scoring bonus point of the season when Searle did well to stretch out backwards to get his second converted try of the match.
Blaydon’s major weapon was their maul and they scored a third try this way just before half-time when Albion gave away a penalty and the home side went for the corner, with Smithson again going over.
It meant Albion were only seven points ahead at the break when they should have been more.
After the interval, Putt missed with a penalty from nearly the halfway line – his only failure of the day.
But Albion did regain their 14-point advantage when Australian Ford scored a converted try he had been threatening after good work by Stupple.
Ford, though, could not continue and was replaced by Matt Shepherd, who had travelled despite struggling with a knee injury. He was added to the bench when Bale pulled out.
Albion responded and good pressure got them a penalty in front of the posts, which Putt kicked to crucially put his side 10 points up.
But the visitors were left to see out a nervous few minutes of injury-time after Smithson completed his hat-trick of drive tries in the 79th minute.
Blaydon: J Conney, F Wilson, N Bailey, A Baggett, T Grimes, B Connon, R Dawson (N Horsefall 75), S White (T Davison h/t), D Nelson, R Kalbraien, C Wearmouth, A Archibald (S English 45), K Laughlin, J Smithson, G Jones (C Chick 53).
Albion: T Putt, T Bedford, J Murphy (capt), M Koteczky, E Ford (M Shepherd 58), B Searle, C Setter, O Dawe, J Penman, C Judge, D Collier (G Sebastien 67), E Holmes, N Dacres, C Thompson, H Stupple. Reps not used: Pullinger, Freestone, Maunder
Scorers: Blaydon: Tries: Smithson 3, Grimes, Laughlin; Cons: Connon 4.
Albion: Tries: Searle 2, Bedford, Dacres, Ford; Cons: Putt 5; Pen: Putt
Cards: Blaydon: Dawson (yellow 32); Albion None