Plymouth Albion / Rugby

In-form Albion show their spirit to claim victory at Hartpury College

Albion's players celebrate on the final whistle (picture by Tom Sandberg/Pinnacle)

Albion’s players celebrate on the final whistle (picture by Tom Sandberg/Pinnacle)


INJURY-hit Plymouth Albion produced a tremendous performance to beat high-flying Hartpury College and end 2015 on a massive high.

The victory was Albion’s fourth in a row and their seventh in nine games.

Graham Dawe’s young side were missing five key players – James Penman, Ollie Dawe, Dan Collier, Jake Murphy and Tom Putt – but the 15 that started and played the full 80 minutes really stepped up to the mark in Gloucestershire.

Albion got their tactics spot on at Hartpury and kept their hosts pinned in their half for long periods of time.

The visitors’ tackling and determination really shone through against a Hartpury side, who had started the day in second spot and unbeaten at home this season.

Albion led 14-10 at the break with converted tries by 18-year-old Harrison Cully and captain for the day Herbie Stupple.

After the interval a Billy Searle penalty and a Ed Holmes try put them 22-10 up before they had to survive a late Hartpury fightback, led by 35-year-old former Albion skipper and player-coach Rhys Oakley.

But Albion, cheered on by a large and vocal away following, dug deep to hang on and return home with four valuable points.

The Devon side had the first real chance of the game when a grubber kick by Shepherd was knocked on by Hartpury. Albion got to the loose ball first and 19-year-old lock Holmes kicked it forward but he put too much power on it. However, the referee went back for the scrum and from it Albion got a penalty. They went for the corner but were unable to make it tell.

Albion, with Dan Pullinger, Rupert Freestone, Holmes and Marc Koteczky coming into their starting line-up, had made a promising start and they got another penalty on eight minutes. This time they went for goal, but Searle was unable to make the kick from the left tell.

The visitors had enjoyed most of the territory but on 16 minutes Hartpury got into Albion’s half thanks to a penalty. They then got another one and went for goal but Gareth Thompson missed.

But two minutes later Hartpury scored a try. They got a line-out on the right and from it they threw the ball at pace across the line and there was full-back Gareth Thompson to dive over in the corner and give his side a 5-0 lead.

Albion, though, hit back straight away. They pressed from the restart and after good pressure by the forwards on the try line, the ball was swung wide and there was 18-year-old Cully to go over for his first in Plymouth colours.

Searle, who spent a pre-season with Hartpury in 2014, kicked the conversion to put his side in front.

The game really came to life after that with Harpury scoring a second three minutes later. Albion gave away a penalty and the home side went for the corner and from the catch-and-drive move Jake Polledri scored for the hosts. Thompson, like with the first try, was unable to convert.

There was some really good rugby played by both teams and on 35 minutes Albion went back in front. They pinned Hartpury into their 22 with a good kick and then stole their line-out. Freestone and Tom Bedford both came close to scoring before Stupple forced his way over on the left.

Teenage fly-half Searle again converted to make it 14-10, which was how it stayed until half-time.

Albion went seven points up nine minutes into the second period when Searle kicked a penalty.

After that Plymouth kept Hartpury pinned deep in their half for nearly 20 minutes with some great kicking, chasing and pressure.

That was highlighted by a stunning tackle by Seti Raumakita.

Their determined was rewarded with a tremendous counterattack try on 69 minutes. Sam Matavesi, who had a superb game, stole the ball off a Hartpury player on the halfway line. He then put Nile Dacres away. The ball went through a couple more hands before it finally came to Holmes, who dived over for his first Albion try.

That put Plymouth 22-10 up but suddenly Hartpury came life. Albion had to defend hard but Hartpury got back into the game with a try by Oakley from close range, which Thompson converted to make it a one-score game.

Hartpury threw everything at Albion in the dying minutes but Dawe’s young side dug deep and held out for their biggest win of the season.

Hartpury: Gareth Thompson, James Neal, Steven Leonard, George Boulton, Jona Mikalcius, Jake Perry, Ben Vellacott, Des Merrey, Wil Tanner, Tim Brockett, Steve Pape, Joe Dancer, Tom MacDonald, Jake Polledri, Rhys Oakley (capt). Reps: Nathan Taylor, Mike Flook, Wayne Thompson, George Evans, Robbie Shaw.

Albion: Ethan Ford, Seti Raumakita, Tom Bedford, Marc Koteczky, Harrison Cully, Billy Searle, Matt Shepherd, Dan Pullinger, Rupert Freestone, Christian Judge, Ed Holmes, Nile Dacres, Jarrad Hayler, Sam Matavesi, Herbie Stupple (capt). Reps: Dean Brooker, Jim Massey, Gregory Sebastien, Cameron Setter, Elliot Bale.

Referee: Shane Lewis (RFU)

Scorers: Hartpury: Tries: G Thompson, Polledri; Oakley; Con: Thompson

Albion: Tries: Cully, Stupple, Holmes; Cons: Searle 2; Pen: Searle


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