WHARFEDALE 9 PLYMOUTH ALBION 12
MATT SHEPHERD rescued an important away win for Plymouth Albion with a last-gasp try in nasty conditions at Wharfedale.
The home side, with just two wins to their name this season, led 9-7 going into the final minute of normal time, with Albion having missed four second-half kicks at goal.
But just when it looked like Albion might once again suffer a shock defeat at the North Yorkshire club, Shepherd slid over on the right following a five-metre scrum on the left.
It was certainly a hard-earned four points for Albion in really tough conditions.
The game nearly did not go ahead. Heavy overnight rain had left the Wharfeside Avenue pitch covered in water, but hard work by club officials removed quite a lot of it and both captains agreed to play.
However, during the match both teams had to put up with a gale-force wind and driving rain.
It was impossible to kick into the wind, while playing with it was also tricky, as Albion found out in the second half.
Plymouth, who had famously lost their 41-game National League record run at Wharfedale in 2001, were forced to make two personnel changes to their team that had beaten Ampthill the week before, with lock Ed Holmes unavailable to travel and centre Marc Koteczky injured.
Nile Dacres moved from flanker to second-row, with Jarrad Hayler, back from Royal Navy duties, coming in for his first start since the end of September.
In the backs, Tom Bedford moved to centre from the wing, with Robin Wedlake taking over at 14 in what was his first start since the third match of the season due to injury.
Conditions were really tough and Albion had to play into the wind and rain first half.
Both teams struggled early on to get used to the wind, rain and slippy footing, but on 10 minutes Wharedale took the lead when Jamie Guy kicked a penalty.
Albion did go up the other end after that and came within inches of scoring but were penalised right on the line.
On their second foray into Albion’s 22, Wharfedale got another penalty that Guy put over to make it 6-0.
After that the home side started to use the strong wind they had in their favour to keep Albion pinned in their half.
But Plymouth got a vital try just before half-time. Following a series of penalties, Albion got a scrum seven metres out. From that they got another penalty and Stupple tapped it and forced his way over. Searle converted despite a deflection off a Wharfedale player.
The home side pressed in injury-time but Albion kept them out to go in at the break just two points behind.
Searle tried a long-range penalty five minutes after the interval but his kick just went wide.
Albion’s fly-half also just missed with another effort on 54 minutes.
Wharfedale played really well second period. They had come out early at half-time to practice playing into the wind and they did it brilliantly and dominated possession.
Albion brought on Cameron Setter, Elliot Bale and Gregory Sebastien going into the final 15 minutes.
Bale had the chance to put Albion in front when he opted for goal from a penalty on the right in the 75th minute. But, just like Searle, he just missed the target.
Albion then got a penalty 22 metres out just the left of the posts in the 78th minute. Bale went for goal again but much to the surprise of everyone he missed again.
The impressive following of Plymouth supporters must have thought that was it, but in the last minute of normal time, Albion won a five-metre scrum after a good kick by Setter and from it the visitors went right and there was Shepherd to slide over.
Wharfedale: M Labesse, R Wellock, H Morgan, M V Setima, W Davidson, J Guy, W Bell, J Atham (M Beesley 67), S Graham (D Stockdale 60), C Steel (A Wade 41), G Hedgley, S Willet, A Powell (M Beesley 29-43), J Burridge (capt), R Baldwin. Reps not used: T Whyte, H Bullough.
Albion: E Ford, R Wedlake (C Setter 65), J Murphy (capt), T Bedford, H Cully, B Searle (E Bale 65), M Shepherd, O Dawe, J Penman, C Judge, D Collier, N Dacres, J Hayler (G Sebastien 67), S Matavesi, H Stupple. Reps not used: R Freestone, D Pullinger.
Referee: J Leahy (RFU)
Scorers: Wharfedale: Pens: Guy 3
Albion: Tries: Stupple, Shepherd; Con: Searle