Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Albion survive late scare to move up to third in the table


Nile Dacres celebrates his try (picture courtesy of Sean Hernon/Pinnacle)


PLYMOUTH Albion moved up to third in the National One table after former player Freddie Gabbitass missed a last-gasp penalty that could have won the game for Blackheath.

Albion, who played really well, were eight points up going into injury-time against their London visitors, but it all nearly went wrong for them in the added-on time.

They gifted Blackheath a converted try after dropping the ball and then referee Veryan Boscawen penalised them right on the visitors line for holding on as they looked to hit back. With time up, Blackheath tapped the penalty and they got over halfway and were awarded another penalty, which was then moved 10 metres further up and Dan Pullinger was sin-binned, much to the anger of the majority of the 1,680 crowd.

The visitors, who had beaten Albion 34-3 earlier in the season, went for the goal and Gabbitass, son of former Albion favourite Charlie, could have won the game for his side, but his kick just went inches to the left of the near upright.

It was a massive relief for Albion, who would have felt robbed had they not won the game and kept their amazing run going. They dominated most of the game. They impressed in the scrums and line-outs and produced some great moves, but just could not get the scores their play deserved.

Albion suffered a blow before kick-off with front-row forwards James Penman and Ollie Dawe failing fitness tests, which left them short of options on the bench.

As well as Gabbitass, Blackheath included another former Albion player in their starting line-out in the form of Geoff Griffiths.

After a cagey opening it looked like Plymouth might score when Blackheath lost the ball in Albion’s half. Matt Shepherd picked it up and looked like he was going to run all the way down the left wing but referee Boscawen pulled play back saying there had been an Albion obstruction.

Plymouth were really tackling hard and putting Blackheath under pressure.

The home side won a penalty at a scrum, an area they were dominating, in the 19th minutes but Shepherd just missed with the kick at goal.

However, they did take the lead four minutes later when Nile Dacres scored his 11th try of the season. Albion collected a clever kick on the right wing and Dacres was in support to cut through and run in near the posts. Shepherd converted.

Blackheath got a five-metre line-out nearly straight from the restart but Albion defended it well.

The home side could have had another try following a great break by Billy Searle from a line-out. Albion went right, but Ethan Ford, playing his final game for the club, could not gather the final ball and collect a memorable score.

Albion thought they had scored on 32 minutes from a drive following a line-out but the referee ruled them had been stopped on the line and gave Blackheath the scurm.

But Plymouth did increase their lead to 10 points when Shepherd kicked a penalty on 37 minutes.

Albion, though, suffered a real blow with the last play of the half. They had been attacking but lost the ball and Blackheath broke and after former player Griffiths had been stopped short the ball came to prop Aston Croall, who somehow managed to get it down under a couple of bodies.

Gabbitass converted to make the half-time score 10-7. That was tough on Graham Dawe’s side, who had been the dominant team in the opening 40 minutes.

After the break, Albion should have scored when they pushed Blackheath off a scrum in the middle of the field and Stupple broke. He put Murphy away. Albion’s captain had Ford outside him but went for the line himself but was stopped one-metre out by a great tackle.

But the try they threatened did come from that move as they got a five-metre scrum and attacked from it and eventually Collier went over near the posts and Shepherd converted his effort to make it 17-7.

However, straight from the restart Blackheath attacked. Albion defended really well but gave away penalty. The visitors went for a line-out but Plymouth again defended well. They turned the ball over but were then tackled inside the in-goal area, giving the visitors a scrum.

From the set-piece, Blackheath went wide quickly and replacement Dan Hamilton scored with his first touch. Gabbitass could not convert, so Albion were five points up.

The home team should have scored on 65 minutes. Setter made a great break but was stopped just one metre out. Albion got a penalty in front of the posts but referee Boscawen reversed the decision for something replacement Seti Raumakita did.

The referee then missed two obvious Blackheath knock-ons which upset the crowd.

The home support really started to get behind their side and Shepherd gave them something to shout about with a stunning try-saving tackle on Hamilton.

Shepherd then kicked a penalty on 77 minute to put his side crucially two scores up.

But three minutes into injury-time Albion gifted Blackheath a lifeline by dropping the ball attacking. It was picked up by visiting winger Tom Chapman, who ran in unopposed to score near the posts and Gabbitass converted to put his side just one point behind.

Albion attacked from the restart. They got a penalty and went for touch. The ref said there was still time to play and the home team attacked. They were close to scoring but were penalised for holding on close to the line.

Blackheath tapped the penalty and kept the ball alive for four minutes. It looked like they had knocked on but the referee did not give it and as soon as the visitors got over halfway they were awarded a penalty. Blackheath tapped it but Dan Pullinger tackled him when he was not 10 metres away and he was sin-binned and the penalty moved 10 metres closer to the posts.

Gabbitass went for goal and it looked like it was heading between the posts but right at the last minute it went left, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Albion: Matt Shepherd, Ethan Ford, Jake Murphy, Tom Bedford, Robin Wedlake, Billy Searle, Cameron Setter, Dan Pullinger, Rupert Freestone, Christian Judge, Dan Collier, Ed Holmes, Nile Dacres, Sam Matavesi, Herbie Stupple. Reps: Dean Brooker, Gregory Sebastien, Andy Chesters, Seti Raumakita, Marc Koteczky.

Blackheath: Freddie Gabbitass, Geoff Griffiths, Markus Burcham, Leo Fielding, Tom Chapman, Simon Whatling, Sam Eydmann, Aston Croall, Harry Fry, Kieron Scutt, Devin Montgomery, Shaun English, Issac Ajayi, Tom Ellis, Tom Baldwin. Reps: Scott Wright, Terry Read, Andres Nilsson, Jack Walsh, Dan Hamilton.

Referee: Veryan Boscawen (RFU)

Scorers: Albion: Tries: Dacres, Collier; Cons: Shepherd 2; Pens: Shepherd 2

Blackheath: Tries: Croall, Hamilton, Chapman; Cons: Gabbitass

Attendance: 1,680

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