Report by Rob Kershaw
Plymouth Albion were forced to settle for a four-try bonus point despite a very strong first-half display at the Forest of Dean-based outfit Cinderford on Saturday afternoon.
Playing with a slight breeze and on a clear and bright day, Albion started with some solid early possession in the hosts half. Cinderford responded and made their way back up the pitch with some well worked line-outs drives in a competitive opening 10 minutes.
Things looked positive for the visitors as they got into the final five metres 15 minutes in, but they were penalised by the referee, allowing breathing room for a hard-working Cinderford side.
Undeterred, Albion doubled down and their hard work paid off though when Harry Wilkinson bundled over after a line-out. In no time at all the Bude bulldozer Angus Hodges powered his way through to double the advantage shortly after.
The Welsh wizard Phil Jones was on excellent form, slotting both conversions, and the Ocean Cities’ finest were looking comfortable at 14-0.
The lead was further extended when playing out of position, Henry Clement spotted a hole as he returned a kick from fullback. From 40, out he flew over, and the Gloucestershire outfit looked unable to live with the intensity of Albion as they went 21-0 up.
Cinderford are nothing if not a tough old bunch and they soon started to battle back after some very strong forward drives. As the half drew to a close, two tries in quick succession narrowed the gap, with Harry Hone and then Nathan Taylor crossing the whitewash with the final play.
Mike Austin’s first input into the score line emerged after the first try as he slotted an impressive conversion into the breeze and from the corner. Strangely enough, missing the second one almost seemed to galvanise the scrum-half.
Carrying on as they finished the half, Cinderford scored through that man Austin as he went over immediately after the restart, and that was followed by a try for Will Baldwin. The hosts had exploded out of the blocks, and Albion were in desperate need of a reply.
Moments after Austin put a penalty through the posts, Albion posted a sensational reply as Jones put up a pinpoint restart. Hodges leapt like a salmon to claim the ball from the jaws of the Cinderford pack, shrugged off two defenders and offered a deft offload to his locking partner Jake Clemson who needed no invitation to sprint over from 30, earning the Plymouth side a four-try bonus point and narrowly edge Albion back in front.
However, there was a further strong riposte from Cinderford, as Baldwin’s try put them six points clear. It had been a hugely entertaining game and it appeared that Albion would be taking two points from what had been a very competitive afternoon and a dazzling advert for National League rugby.
One of them was cruelly taken away when Albion were caught just short of halfway. The ball was placed at the back of the ruck and Austin showed some exceptional awareness, picking up on a loose ball, and running over for one last score for Cinderford. It was a cruel blow to Albion and bamboozled a few of the team who felt the ball was still in the breakdown.
It was certainly a tough end for an Albion side that had started so well, but it was a game that just ran away from them. However, the first four games of the season have yielded 10 points – 10 more than this time last year, and there is plenty of optimism to be taken from another fighting performance.
Albion were buoyed by the emergence of wingers Tom Davies and Kyle Spear, while the juggernaut Shek Sheriff made his return to action as the squad starts to increase in strength. With the expected return of Dan Collier, Setareki Raumakita and Alex Ducker next week, things are certainly not all doom and gloom at the Brickfields as the team prepares to face Esher for only their second home game of the season this Saturday.
Join us next weekend – BOOK NOW
George Gladding, Will Baldwin, Jamie Forrester, George Boulton, Will Hendy, Mike Wilcox, Mike Austin, George Porter, Nathan Taylor, Shaun Knight, Tyler Jerrum, Jack Shields, Matthew Lane, Declan Fissenden, Harry Hone
Replacements: Tom Brockett, Joe Mullis, Danny Hodge, Aaron Ryan, Mason Tonks
Ramaz Rukhadze, Harry Wilkinson, Dan Pullinger, Angus Hodges, Jake Clemson, Torin Clarke, George Mills, Herbie Stupple, Jack Oulton, Phil Jones, Conrad Burne, Jeremy To’a, Oskar White, Tom Davies, Henry Clement
Replacements: Jamie Salter, Tom Petty, Shek Sheriff, Olly Mulberry, Kyle Speare