Match report by Rob Kershaw / Photography by David Cunningham
Plymouth Albion tasted defeat at home to Cinderford in National League One after a robust performance from the visitors turned out to be a little too much for a brave home side.
Cinderford entered the afternoon fourth in the table, having taken 12 wins from their opening 18 fixtures, but just three had come away from home – so opportunity beckoned as Albion sought to avenge their defeat in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.
The home side were on a high, having claimed a significant sixth victory of the campaign against Leeds Tykes in the rearranged fixture last weekend.
As a result Albion were sat four points behind ninth-placed Bishop’s Stortford with a game in hand, meaning a win here would be priceless in their bid to avoid relegation.
And, while it was nowhere near the quagmire against Bishop’s Stortford a few weeks back, the players ventured out on to a mud bath with steady rain belting down on Brickfields.
The home side actually made a promising start, earning a scrum within the first two minutes before Cinderford began to find their feet.
Shortly thereafter, they were on the board. A penalty conceded by Albion gave Reece Boughton a chance close to the posts, and he slotted for the first three points of a soggy afternoon.
The response was rapid though, and Plymouth earned a kick of their own just two minutes after they had gone behind from which Tom Putt made absolutely no mistake.
With the inclement weather playing havoc with ball control, the penalty count was always going to prove vital – and while Cinderford were at times clumsy, Albion gave away plenty more as they struggled to create momentum.
They were ultimately punished when James Williams powered through the home defence and scored the opening try of the day, before Boughton slotted the conversion.
It was a cruel blow to end the first period, but it no less than Cinderford had deserved after their tremendous efforts in the opening 40 minutes.
Fifteen minutes and several slippery half-time challenge kicks later, the teams were back out of the sheds, and a massive second half was needed from Albion, who were still very much in the game – but they got off to the worst possible start.
Cinderford brilliantly charged down a box kick from a defensive ruck, which led to Matthew Lane falling on to the ball and placing it over the line for a perfect start to the second period from the visitors’ perspective.
The early blow rattled Albion, who were shortly penalised by the referee for failing to throw straight from a lineout.
From there, home attacking opportunities were sparse as the penalty count continued to rise and, coupled with an increasingly dominant visiting performance in challenging conditions, Albion were unable to gain any momentum.
Though it was turning into a strenuous day, a lift could be found in the form of the return of Brickfields hero Wayne Sprangle, whose introduction sadly came as a result of a nasty looking head injury to Shek Sheriff.
The pause in play did not arrest Cinderford’s momentum, though, and Nathan Taylor went over the line to extend the disparity between the sides, with Boughton sticking the conversion between the sticks.
While it took a huge effort at the back to stop their opponents going over for the bonus try, Albion eventually produced a surge on Cinderford’s 22 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Dan Pullinger powered over the line before Putt converted, and a penalty for a high tackle gave the No10 the opportunity to secure the losing bonus.
Albion could have few complaints about the end result, but the losing bonus point could be crucial come the end of the National League One season.
The defeat keeps Albion 12th in the table following Darlington Mowden’s defeat, and they travel to Birmingham Mosely next week before returning to Brickfields on 26th when they take on Blackheath.
Craig Duncan, Shea Cornish, Phil Jones, Jeremy Toa, Alex Ducker, Tom Putt, Henry Clement, Dan Pullinger, Harry Wilkinson, Danny Southworth, Dan Collier, Shek Sheriff, Jake Clemson, George Mills, Herbie Stupple
Replacements: Jamie Salter, Wayne Sprangle, Ayden Hurst, Ramaz Rukhadze, Seta Raumakita
Try: Pullinger; Pens: Putt 2
Michael Wilcox, William Baldwin, James Forrester, George Boulton, Edward Sheldon, Reece Boughton, Michael Austin, George Porter, Natha Taylor, James Elliott, Matthew Gilbert, George Evans, Matthew Lane, Jack Preece, Harry Hone
Replacements: Timothy Brockett, Tyler Jerrum, Joseph Dancer, Joe Mullis, James Williams
Tries: Williams, Lane, Taylor; Con: Boughton; Pen: Boughton