It has been a busy few weeks at Brickfields with the departure of Ben Gulliver and the appointment of his successor, James Scaysbrook. The new Head Coach and former Exeter Chiefs Back-Row forward got to meet the squad for the first time this week. His first the selection included newcomer Shea Cornish on the wing and talismanic skipper Herbie Stupple returning to the replacements bench after an enforced injury break.
Round 15 in National One marks the halfway point of the season, and with only Rams left to play, Albion took to the road searching for a performance to emulate the comeback at Richmond two weeks ago and to set down a marker for their shirts under the new regime. Rams have been in good form this term, since their promotion from National 2 South in April, so far, they have only lost 4 games and occupy third place in the league table. Albion, on the other hand, have been struggling to maintain consistency, especially away from Brickfields, and find themselves in a mid-table tussle in a league that will be very tight come April 2020.
Albion started slowly at Old Bath Road, it took centre Connor Heyhew less than 4 minutes to barge through the Plymouth defence and cross out wide. The conversion was missed by Fly-Half Andrew Humberstone.
On eleven minutes, Albion was penalised and punished with Humberstone kicking to touch deep into Albion territory. From the resulting lineout, a galloping run from flanker Jamie Gutteridge doubled the home sides advantage, scoring Rams second. The conversion was missed by Humberstone.
With 19 minutes gone, Rams were crossing the whitewash again through full-back Kieran Leicester, who dashed in just wide of the uprights. Humberstone didn’t miss the extras this time and Albion was down 22 – 0.
Albion’s slow start continued, as Gutteridge bagged his second of the afternoon and secured the bonus point for the home team. The conversion was missed. Albion didn’t start the scoreboard ticking until the half-hour mark, when hooker Jamie Salter, Albion’s top try-scorer this term, crossed the whitewash after a forward tussle on the Rams try-line. Connor Eastgate added the conversion.
The half ended as both sides made a variety of mistakes and struggled to maintain possession. The Half Time score, 22 – 7 to Rams. Head Coach Scaysbrook made changes at half-time, with Stupple replacing England U20 Rusi Tuima and Sam Morley making way for Cameron Setter. However, the second half began much the same as the first had, with Rams adding to their scoreline soon after the restart. Second Row Connor Stapley dotting down after the home side were camped on the try-line. Albion’s defence eventually ran out of men, and couldn’t hold them out. Humberstone added the extras.
The Albion pack then worked hard to get a foothold back in the game. After multiple phases close to the Rams line, George Mills popped up and scored the Plymouth sides second touchdown of the afternoon. Eastgate converted with ease. On the 50 minute mark, skipper Herbie Stupple limped off to be replaced by Peter Ingoldsby and a minute later Dan Pullinger was replaced by Ashlee Crouch in the front row. The changes didn’t take effect in time to stop Rams executing some incisive and clinical plays to extend their lead, which was compounded with a yellow card for Albion’s George Mills. Two tries in two minutes killed the game off with Vooght and Bryant scoring. Humberstone missed both kicks at goal.
The final word went to Rams flanker Tom Vooght, who crossed for his second and the home sides 8th try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed by replacement Louis Ellis. Albion now sits in 10th position in the National One league table after 15 games. It’s early days in the James Scaysbrook era and a transitional period is to be expected. The Plymouth players will have a lot to adapt to, as with new management there are always new ideas and styles of play, however with a busy schedule in early 2020, supporters will want to see improvements in performance for Albion’s final game of 2019 next Saturday against a resilient Cinderford side.
By Kevin Westlake