By Kevin Westlake
Plymouth Albion has had something of a resurgence in recent weeks, with four wins from four in 2020 so far, but a tough trip to Sale was one match too far for the Plymouth men.
Head Coach James Scaysbrook made a number of changes to his side, including the return of winger Josh Skelcey in favour of injured Sam Morley and Pete Ingoldsby replacing skipper George Mills in the back row. They also welcomed the return of front row pairing Dan Pullinger and James Kenny to the bench after long term injuries.
Albion’s weekend did not start well, with transport issues on Friday night, which led to very late arrival at the team hotel. Problems aside, the Plymouth side were looking to maintain their great form this year against a Sale team sitting just below Albion in the National One league table.
The game started with both teams trying to work out the conditions, with a strong blustery wind and a moist playing surface, it was Albion who struck first. A Connor Eastgate penalty giving the away team the lead after 12 minutes after Sale were punished for infringements at the line-out close to their own try line.
Sale were next on the scoreboard, with a try in the corner by winger Jack Moorhouse after a 5-metre line-out on the other side of the pitch. Fly-Half Chris Johnson missed the extras. Another Sale try followed closely after, with centre John Leota crossing the whitewash after a period of sustained pressure in the Albion red zone, with a successful conversion, Sale were leading 12-3.
Less than five minutes later, Albion chalked up their first try of the afternoon through Number 8 John Kelly, who pounced over the line after some hard work from his forward comrades. Eastgate missed the conversion.
The next score was on the stroke of half-time as Skelcey raced in from his own 22m line after capitalising on a Sale mistake. Eastgate missed the extras to give Albion a slender advantage at the break.
The second half started with some slick handling from the Sale backline. Moorhouse skidding in for his second of the afternoon. The conversion was good from Johnson and Albion were trailing again.
Top try scorer Jamie Salter responded for the visitors in the best possible way, taking advantage of a missed throw at the line-out to barge his way over the try line for his 11th try this season. Again, Eastgate missed the difficult conversion.
On 62 minutes, it was Albion on the front-foot with Skelcey adding his second of the afternoon. Sale charged down an Eastgate kick, deep in Albion territory, but it bounced kindly and Skelcey raced away with blistering pace to give the Brickfields side the lead. Eastgate converted.
It was Sale who had the final word though, with flanker Jake Barron who barrelled his way over from a 5-metre line-out. In the final scoring of the match, Johnson gave the Manchester side the lead with the conversion.
Albion will rue the missed kicks, which was ultimately the difference between the two teams. However, two league points on the road was enough to keep Albion in the top half of the National One league table with another tough away trip to Blackheath next weekend.