By Jack Guthrie
Plymouth Albion were able to claw back from what seemed to be an inevitable loss at half time to get their second bonus point win of the season against Kent side Canterbury on Saturday afternoon, as the home side romped to a 41-20 win, despite an abundance of first half set-backs.
Albion coach Ben Gulliver described the game as bewildering, commenting; “I don’t think I’ve been involved in a game where you have two tries disallowed in the first 15 minutes, your fly-half breaks his leg, your loose-head snaps his Achilles, and to top it all off we get a red card.”
That was only the first half. In the second period, Albion looked a rejuvenated team, with the away side slowly drifting out of control. Gulliver put this down to inside centre Connor Eastgate who was pivotal in their second half dominance: “he [Connor Eastgate] used outstanding game-management and managed to get us an 8-point lead with his drop goal, we then got ourselves comfortable and we were able to finish off with a bonus point try.”
Both sides took time to grow into the game, feeling each other out will long clearing kicks from end-to-end. Albion were first to threaten in the match on 15 minutes where a chase-down try from Fly-half Dan Mugford was disallowed after impeding the defender from reaching the ball.
A minute later and the hosts were in again, but a forward pass from John Kelly to Cameron Setter was called back as he dived over the try-line.
The first major injury in the game was to Dan Mugford, who received attention for over five minutes before being stretchered off, with a suspected broken leg. Aside from this the pressure was still coming from the home side, forcing a penalty which Connor Eastgate scored for a 3-point lead.
Shortly after the restart a box kick from Scrum-half Setter was caught by his opposite number Kyan Braithwaite, but a tackle in the air from renowned try-scorer Josh Skelcey saw him see straight red, leaving the hosts with 14 men for the remaining 50 minutes.
Canterbury capitalised instantly on their advantage, scoring through fullback Charlie Grimes, with Harvey Young converting his try. Within a minute after this score, they added a penalty for a high tackle after a turnover, Young again on target.
The Kent side unceasingly forced Albion into mistakes, with nothing working in defence to ease the pressure. A handling error from Albion saw electric winger Ricky Mackintosh, through for an easy 5 points, handing off excellently in the process.
Young again converted and Albion had another man on the floor, this time Prop Luke Chapman who was also stretchered off with a suspected torn Achilles Tendon.
Before the half ended, Albion scored a try from a simple passing play which found second row Lewis Pearson open on the wing to run home, with the narrow miss from Eastgate sending the hosts into half time on the back foot, trailing by nine points.
The multitude of setbacks didn’t seem to bother Plymouth, as they started the second half much like the first.
Captain Sam Daly scored two tries within the first five minutes of the restart, leading by example and showing initiative to score from a quick free-kick for his first, and using a dummy pass to get open and storm under the posts for his second. Eastgate converted on both attempts and for the first time the home side looked to have a foothold in the game.
More ill discipline from Albion’s tackling allowed Young another go for the posts, with John Kelly getting a talking to before the penalty was converted, reducing the gap to two points.
Just when the fans around The Brickfields thought their nightmare was over, they gave the away side an even larger advantage as full-back Sam Morley was booked, reducing them to 13.
Albion were truly under the cosh, but an excellent display from Eastgate in those 10 minutes saw the hosts dominate in their disadvantage, pinning the opposition back with searching kicks from hand and pressing them high with their defence.
Eastgate proceeded to score a succession of kicks, with two penalties and a pinpoint drop goal, stretching the lead to 11, with just shy of 15 minutes left of play.
Sam Morley returned from the bin and helped to add an extra spark to the already firing outfit. The away players were noticeably fatigued and their poor game management was a result of this. Another penalty was conceded and the inside-centre easily notched his fourth before converting Sam Morley’s bonus point try minutes later.
The final whistle ended the contest, with both sets of fans confused, elation on the faces of Albion’s players and heavy hearts as Canterbury left the pitch.
This is Albion’s first game of the season where there hasn’t been one score between the sides, capping off their excellent display in the last 40 minutes with a comfortable win in the end. The spirit shown in this game will definitely be a point of focus to be transferred into their next outing, away at Rosslyn Park.
Those of you who were in attendance yesterday, would have seen that we suffered a couple of serious injuries to two very popular players, Dan Mugford & Luke Chapman, what we we can tell you at this stage is that they are both in good spirits despite their injury’s and would like to thank the supporters for all their well wishes.
By way of an update, Dan Mugford has suffered a fracture to his fibula just above the ankle and along with the fracture there is some ligament damage. Dan will undergo further investigation over the coming days and we will keep you up to date on his progress.
Luke Chapman, who also suffered injury during the game, has initially been diagnosed with a Achilles tendon rupture and will undergo further scan this week to identify the extend of the damage, again, we’ll keep you updated on Luke’s progress over the coming days & weeks.
We wish them both well and a speedy recovery.
15.S. Morley 14.J. Skelcey 13.D. Squire 12.C. Eastgate 11.A. Ducker 10.D. Mugford 9.C. Setter 1.L. Chapman 2.J. Salter 3.D. Pullinger 4.S. Makepeace 5.L. Pearson 8.J. Kelley 7.G. Mills 6.S. Daly
16.K. Britton 17.D. Swain 18.T. Putt 19.J. Higgins 20.O. Mulberry
Tries: L. Pearson, S. Daly (2), S. Morley
Conversions: C. Eastgate (3)
Penalties: C. Eastgate (4)
Drop Goals: C. Eastgate
15.C. Grimes 14.R. Mackintosh 13.F. Morgan 12.H. Young 11.D. Corcoran 10.M. Craven 9.K. Braithwaite 1.J. Dever 2.J. Otto 3.S. Kenny 4.R. Cadman 5.M. Corker 6.G. Micans 7.S. Rogers 8.S. Roche
16.D. Smart 17.T. King 18.C. Connolly 19.C. Kingsman 20.A. Cooper
Tries: M. Craven, R. Mackintosh
Conversions: H. Young (2)
Penalties: H. Young (2)