Report by Chris Bentley / Photography by David Cunningham
Albion crush Titans and secure Division one standing in try fest at Brickfields
Starting the day just outside the relegation spots, Plymouth Albion would have been forgiven for playing a very nervy and conservative gameplan against nearest rivals Taunton Titans. Needing three league points to confirm their league status, and with a visit to promotion-chasing Rosslyn Park next week, the stakes were certainly high going into the game. Around the ground, many supporters were discussing how none would like the trip to London next week if the team still needed to get more points.
Instead, Damian Welch’s charges gave a flavour of just what can be achieved at the Brickfields with a resounding victory that invoked memories of the dominant teams of yore. With a full squad, in front of a record attendance and playing with real intensity, Albion made light work of the newly-promoted side scoring eight tries to the visitor’s three.
On a bright and slightly blustery day, tensions were certainly high as the Albion crowd was swelled by over 1700 returning St Luke’s men’s walkers taking the attendance to a season best of 2862. Before the match kicked off, the crowd impeccably observed a minute’s silence for life member, club legend and southwest rugby stalwart William ‘Nick’ Southern who passed away last week.
The tone for the game was set in the early exchanges with both teams looking to move the ball and challenge defences at every opportunity. For the first five minutes, it was the defences that won out as the game remained scoreless. However, this changed when Albion were awarded a penalty and took a kick to the corner. Over the last few weeks, the driving maul has become a real weapon for the Ocean Cities’ finest and the pack were able to drive over and settle some of the early nerves. After scoring four tries last week it was no surprise to see Jamie Salter emerge from the melee as he scored the first of his three tries.
Taunton, to their credit, and playing safely in the knowledge their place in the national league was secure, were certainly looking to make a spectacle and Ratu Vakalutukali had an exciting runner who drew the best out of Albion’s scrambling defence. The next two scores came from the home side before the Titans deservedly scored just on the break.
Leading by 14, Albion took no time in getting the fourth score at the start of the second half with a trademark run from ‘the Prince of Plymouth’ Alex Ducker splitting the defence from distance. Any lingering nerves were settled as a fifth try soon followed. Tom Putt was irresistible from the tee ensuring that every five pointer became seven with a nigh on faultless display from the tee.
The Titans responded with a couple of scores as both teams started to run replacements. Albion were not done and replied with a further two scores to leave the final score at 54-17. To a man, this was a top display from Albion and will have left the faithful support with a warm glow as the club concluded their home fixture programme. After the game, the festival atmosphere was heightened as Club owner Dave Venables presented Luke Chapman his 50th cap, Wayne Sprangle his 100th and Herbie Stuple and Dan Collier for their 150th.
Speaking post game, head coach Damian Welch added “It’s really satisfying to be able to put together such a complete performance for the last home game in front of such a big crowd especially so when you factor in the stakes that the boys were playing for. We knew that Taunton would be a good test for us defensively and it was pleasing to see a real combination of forward dominance and then outstanding work from our backline as the game progressed. We can go to Rosslyn Park with the only pressure on us being the boys natural desire to perform for themselves, the club and the travelling fans”
Indeed, Albion now close their season with a trip to Rosslyn Park and, if they can maintain their performance level, there is no doubt they can look to repeat the heroics of their last visit to London where they emerged victorious.