Match report by Chris Bentley / Photography by David Cunningham
The relentless nature of National Division One caught up with Plymouth Albion on Saturday in a ding-dong battle at Billesley Common. Shorn of their dual-registered players from Exeter Chiefs and Cornish Pirates, a reduced squad of 18 players made the journey to the midlands to face mid-table Birmingham Moseley.
Even missing a full bench there was optimism in the Albion rank that another double could be on the cards against the team they had dispatched 34-12 back in October. Indeed, after 10 minutes of the game, there wouldn’t be many who would disagree, with the Ocean Cities’ finest completely dominating possession and leading thanks to tries from Torin Clarke and Jamie Salter leaving them 0-10 to the good.
Playing into a very strong wind, Albion’s multi-phase game and lineout drive were causing Moseley all manor of problems with the aforementioned Clarke and Jake Clemson prominent upfront and the livewire Shea Cornish constantly causing the home side trouble. Sadly, despite such a strong start, the home side started to battle back.
With livewire scrum Jack Coombes to the fore, Moseley began to use the wind to get field position and scored their first try after a loose Albion clearance kick gifted them a lineout on the 22-metre line. Within a minute of the restart, Moseley kicked long and forced a goalline dropout where they scored following another momentary lapse in the Albion defensive line.
After such a strong start, to be 12-10 behind certainly wasn’t a fair reflection on the first 15 minutes of the game but showed how Moseley were willing to punish any mistakes the visitors made. Albion dusted themselves off and battled back up field with both wingers making big gains around the ruck. On both occasions, the hosts went beyond the rules to strong Albion’s momentum and conceded penalties which Tom Putt duly converted to restore Albion’s lead 12-16.
The pendulum swung back in the favour of Moseley soon after when a quick tap from a scrum penalty opened the Albion defence and, following neat interplay, the 18-year-old son of former Albion legend Kenny Fisilau, Greg, dotted down. Playing into the wind, Albion were certainly making a strong fist of things but a high tackle in the midfield once again gifted Moseley a lineout deep in their territory and they scored extending the lead to 26-16.
With time almost up, Albion fought their way up the field and were on full attack when the game really spun on its head. After multiple phases on the goal line, the ball was dropped, and the home side kicked long down the field. Under a fair bit of pressure, Alex Ducker fumbled the ball, Moseley regathered, and wing Sam Pointon scored a try that concluded the half.
In what was a cruel 14-point swing, Albion went into the changing rooms 33-16 down in a half where they had performed courageously and were an inch away from being closing the score to 26-22! Things got even worse when less than a minute into the second half Moseley scored again to take an unassailable 38-16 lead. The score was not a fair reflection of the match to this point but certainly ended the game as a contest.
With the effort of the first half starting to take a toll on the team, Albion ran the bench where they could with Ben Parsons replacing a valiant Shea Cornish who had played on with a very obvious hamstring pull. Props Luke Chapman and James Macfarlane also replaced Dan Pullinger and centre Jeremy To’a with Herbie Stupple moving into the centre to cover!
As they adapted to the positional changes, Moseley went on the attack and new arrival Parsons was unfortunate to have been adjudged to have committed a deliberate knock on and dispatched to the sin bin. Moseley duly scored a try t take a 45-16 lead.
Against all the odds, Albion began to show some real steel, with warhorses Dan Collier and Wayne Sprangle clearly battling through obvious bangs to inspire the vocal visiting support to get behind them. On the back of a dominant scrum, Henry Clemet sniped in to get a score and, with time almost up, a restored Parsons showed great skill to dot down in the corner, taking the score to 45-28 and confirming a four try bonus for Albion.
In trying circumstances, the losing bonus saw Albion move one space up the table and certainly leaves the team with some hope for the run in. In glimpses, Damien Welches charges really do show just how good they can be. Their challenge over the next 6 games is to deliver an 80-minute performance and realise the growing potential of the squad.
Next up is the visit to fourth place Cambridge and, with the Chiefs contingent restored, there is an opportunity to push for more crucial league points.
- Gates open at 12:00 pm
- Happy hour from 1:30 ‘till 2:30 pm with selected pints at just £3.50
- K/O 3:00 pm
- Dartmoor Brewery supporter challenge and the Plymouth Cheerleaders perform at half-time
- Angel Flukes sings after the game