PLYMOUTH ALBION 29 COVENTRY 18
PLYMOUTH Albion scored five tries for the second week running to claim their first home win of 2016.
Captain Jake Murphy led the way with a hat-trick of touch-downs, with fellow backs Matt Shepherd and Marc Koteczky also going over as Albion secured their seventh National One victory in eight games.
However, it could – and maybe should – have been a much easier. They out-scored Coventry five tries to two but missed three conversions and two penalty kicks at goal.
Graham Dawe’s side led 19-3 after 35 minutes, but Coventry, who had controversially won 26-19 at Butts Park in October, gradually got back into the game and by the 65th minute they were only six points behind at 24-18.
Albion, though, were determined not to lose on their own pitch again after going down to Hull in their last outing at Brickfields and they sealed the game with a try by Koteczky.
Injury-hit Coventry were making their eighth visit to Brickfields but it has not been a happy hunting ground for them, with just one win at the Devonport venue.
Albion, who have now won as many home games as away matches this season, made one personnel change to their team that had come from behind to beat Fylde 38-26 the previous week, with Cameron Setter coming in for Harrison Cully.
Setter took over at scrum-half with Shepherd switching from nine to left wing, which is where he finished the game at Fylde.
Albion started off well and had four line-outs inside Coventry’s 22 within the first 10 minutes but could not score.
And it was the visitors who got the first points on the board in the 16th minute when fly-half Caolan Ryan kicked a penalty after Albion were penalised trying to run the ball out of the 22.
But the home side hit back straight away. From the restart, Albion kicked deep and chased well. Coventry’s Uruguay full-back Gaston Mieres fumbled the ball initially trying to gather and by the time he had got hold of it three Albion players were almost on top of him. He tried to kick clear but Murphy charged it down and picked up the ball to score. Shepherd converted to put Albion 7-3 up.
Albion then scored two tries in three minutes to take a firm hold of the game.
Murphy added his and Plymouth’s second on 31 minutes following a good line-out move. The ball went quickly from the set piece to Shepherd, who broke through. He could have maybe gone himself but Murphy came charging on his right and his Cornwall team-mate fed him to score. Shepherd was denied the conversion by the thickness of the left post.
Shepherd then got a try himself after good play by forwards Dacres, Matavesi and Stupple, who put him clear down the left. Shepherd converted to make it 19-3.
Coventry closed the gap to 13 points just before half-time with a Ryan penalty before cutting the deficit to just eight points after the interval with a converted try from a lineout by hooker Matt Price, who is the Midlands club’s top scorer.
Albion, however, hit back six minutes later when Murphy scored his hat-trick with a cleaver run from 20 metres out. Shepherd could not convert – he hit the crossbar on his occasion.
The Cornwall player then missed a penalty almost in front of the posts.
And Coventry, who had struggled to get going, suddenly got Albion’s fans nervous by scoring a second try through another catch-and-drive move. Dan Wright was the man who was given the score but it could have been anyone. Ryan again converted to make it 24-18.
Albion’s nerves increased when Shepherd missed another penalty on 68 minutes, which would have given the team some breathing space.
But they sealed the game in the 75th minute when Koteczky gathered a high ball and run in to score.
Albion: Ethan Ford, Tom Bedford (Seti Raumakita 54), Jake Murphy (capt), Marc Koteczky, Billy Searle, Cameron Setter (Elliot Bale 62), Ollie Dawe (Dan Pullinger 76), Rupert Freestone, Christian Judge, Dan Collier (Ed Holmes 70), Nile Dacres, Gregory Sebastien (Jarrad Hayler 50), Sam Matavesi, Herbie Stupple.
Coventry: Gaston Mieres, Ryan Hough, Rory Hutchinson (Callum MacBurnie 69), James Tincknell, Peter Weightman (Dom Lespierre 59), Caolan Ryan, Wayne Evans, Tipiloma Kivalu, Matt Price (Devlin Hope 71), Adam Parkins, Dan Wright, Sam Pailor, Haloti Molitika (Martin Wolfenden 71), Dan Carpo, Tom Preece. Rep not used: Joe Foreman
Referee: Darren Gamage (RFU).
Scorers: Albion: Tries: Murphy 3, Shepherd, Koteczky; Cons: Shepherd 2
Coventry: Tries: Price, Wright; Cons: Ryan 2; Pens: Ryan 2