MATT SHEPHERD scored all Plymouth Albion’s points as they beat Taunton 18-10 at Hyde Park on Tuesday night in a development fixture.
Shepherd claimed two tries, kicked one conversion and added two penalties under the Somerset club’s floodlights.
The Cornwall scrum-half was one of a number of Plymouth players having a run-out following injury.
David Fisher, Robin Wedlake and Elliot Bale, like Shepherd, also got 80 minutes under their belts against a Taunton team that included Exeter Chiefs’ high-profile cross-code signing from St Helens Josh Jones.
“We were keen for Dave to get 80 minutes,” said Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe. “He just needs to keep playing and moving around.”
With no league match this coming weekend due to the World Cup final, both Albion and National Two South high-flyers Taunton took the opportunity to include players in or around their first teams.
“It was a great fixture to have, although it wasn’t the easiest of nights to play rugby with the moisture,” said Albion’s director of rugby Graham Dawe.
“But it gave us a good in-sight into where some of our young players are in their stage of development and whether they are ready to get some game-time in the first team.
“There were also some first team players out there who, for one reason or another, are not starting and it’s always good for players to play a game of rugby, especially when there is no weekend game.
“These fixtures are all part of Plymouth Albion’s development going forward. If we can get a few more of these games during the season it is going to help with team selection going forward.”
On Shepherd’s performance, Dawe added: “Matt kicked well. The game was littered with penalties but he banged them into the corner or through the posts. He’s hungry to get back into the first team.”
Shepherd gave Albion an early lead when he touched down on the right after joining a maul following a line-out.
The Cornwall scrum-half, though, was unable to convert and five minutes later Taunton were back on level terms when flanker Jon Roberts also scored from a catch-and-drive move. Young fly-half Joe Simmonds, who has featured for Exeter this season in the Premiership Sevens and West Country Challenge Cup, missed the conversion.
But after that Albion dominated the rest of the half, with their scrum particularly impressing in the first 40 minutes, while Shepherd and Bale looked lively in the half-back roles.
The visitors had four line-outs inside the 22 from penalties but were unable to make them tell.
However, in the 30th minute they did get the second try they threatened when Shepherd took a quick tap from another penalty and dived over. He also converted to make it 12-5.
Albion had two great chances to increase their lead before the break. First, University of Plymouth winger Ian Davidson intercepted a pass just inside his own half but he just did not have the pace to go all the way.
Then three minutes from time, Chris Courtier charged down a Taunton kick inside their 22. He picked up and dived over the line but the referee ruled he had knocked the ball on as he landed and disallowed the score.
Straight after the break, Taunton hit back with Albion still settling into the half having made a number of changes. The home side surprisingly pushed Albion off a scrum and then passed it well across the line before winger Jimmy Hole dived over in the left corner. Simmonds was unable to convert.
Albion wasted another good line-out before they had Plymouth University centre Conrad Anderson sin-binned for playing the ball in the ruck. However, the visitors were able to hold out with 14 men and just before he returned Shepherd kicked a penalty to edge his side five points in front.
Prior to that 72nd minute kick, Albion had opted against going for goal from penalties and instead had gone for the corner on every other occasion.
Four minutes from time, Albion got another penalty and Shepherd kicked it to edge his side two scores in front.
Taunton finished on the attack and Plymouth had Rupert Freestone sin-binned in injury-time but the home side were unable to score.
Although they won, Albion will have been disappointed at not making so many line-outs inside the 22 tell.
“Our execution was not the greatest, but it was a difficult night,” said Dawe. “It is something we have to accept and work on.”
Taunton: 15 Alex Brown, 14 Harry Strong, 13 Freddie Fraser, 12 Josh Jones, 11 Jimmy Hole, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Oli Massey-Birch, 1 Tom Claydon, 2 Dan Frost, 3 George Cooper, 4 Duncan Hales, 5 Jack Sturton, 6 David Edwards, 7 Jon Roberts, 8 Matthew Eliet. Reps: Paul Davies, Jack Owlett, Sam Adcock, Charlie Blair-Walker, Jordan Cooper, Tim Thompson, Stu Heal.
Albion: 15 Jordan Shakespeare (Dan Goldstone 68), 14 Robin Wedlake, 13 Conrad Anderson, 12 Eamon Rees (George Hodgson 68), 11 Ian Davidson (Jack Maunder h/t), 10 Elliot Bale, 9 Matt Shepherd, 1 Dean Brooker (Curtis Reynolds 60), 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Dan Pullinger (Rory Briers 79), 4 David Fisher, 5 Shek Sherrif (Paul Hamber 68), 6 Gregory Sebastien (Ben Hawley h/t), 7 Andy Chesters (capt, Will Slater 79), 8 Chris Courtier (Jim Massey h/t).