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Albion left to rue slow start up north

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Report by Chris Bentley / Photography Darlington Mowden Park

If the score after first twenty minutes of a rugby game didn’t count, Plymouth Albion would have taken 9 league points from their last 2 games. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and, for the second week on the bounce, the Ocean City’s finest will be left to rue conceding 19 points in as many minutes with their 33-26 defeat at Darlington Mowden Park.

After making the second biggest journey in English rugby to the 22,000 seat Darlington Arena, Ryan Lamb’s men were facing a team on a three-game winning run and the hosts were first out the blocks scoring through huge winger Morgan Passman in the 7th minute. The former Newcastle Falcon was a thorn in the side of Albion through the afternoon with some bulldozing runs and he was involved in the second score on 13 minutes.

At 14 nil down, it was the home side who scored again as fly half Minogue neatly linked with Passman to take a 21-0 lead. This seemed to wake Albion up and they began to claw their way back into the game. For all the sleepiness of the first 20, the tenacity of the next was something to behold as Albion began to claw their way back into the game.

Benefitting from a high tackle by the DMP number 8, Tom Putt kicked to the corner and a trademark drive was stopped by the transgressor illegally. The referee didn’t hesitate to award a penalty try and dispatch him to the sin bin.

With the man advantage, Albion began to take the game on, running from deep and challenging Darlington across the park. They were help up over the line from another drive but were not to be denied a few minutes later as a Jamie Salter got onto the back of yet another dominant maul, Tom Putt adding the extras.

Just 7 points behind and in the ascendancy, Albion confounded the hosts when they broke from a maul and Connor Eastgate threw a spectacular pass to feed Kyle Speare out wide for their third try of the half. With the final action of the first 40, Tom Putt slotted the conversion to leave things all square at 21-21.

Having gifted a lead in the first half, Albion were equally generous to the hosts at the start of the second. Failing to take the restart, they gifted a penalty allowing Darlington to kick the corner. From the maul, the officials noted another offence and DMP opted for a scrum where a well worked move allowed Minogue to dot down his second.

Another break from the impressive Passman ten minutes later saw Will Jones link up to get the 5th score for Darlington and take them 33-21 in front. This time the Albion response was nearly instant. With stalwart prop Dan Pullinger back in action after a 6 week absence, Harry Wilkinson moved across to hooker and he was the beneficiary as a third maul led to a try.

With 20 minutes left in the game Albion pushed for a score to level things up but some strong defence from the hosts was enough to keep the team at bay. Then with time up, a penalty was awarded, and Albion opted for the tried and tested in the corner. The maul was set but Darlington threw the kitchen sink into defending it, play broke off the side and stalled in midfield with the officials adjudging the ball dead and calling time.

After a tough opening, it was a solid showing from Albion who were deserving of the 2 league points, but they will rue their second soft start in two weeks. With the visit of league leaders Rams to the Brickfields next weekend, as well as the St Luke’s Men’s Day Out, Albion will need to be at their very best to ensure their strong home record of 7 wins continues to grow.

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Saturday 11th March, 3 PM K/O – BOOK NOW

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