Plymouth Albion fightback earns bonus point at Leeds
Plymouth Albion's decision to appeal against their 34-16 defeat at Leeds last month proved worthwhile as they returned with a valuable bonus point from the replay at West Park yesterday.
Albion lodged a formal complaint over last month's result after the Championship match went to uncontested scrums on 13 minutes due to the state of the Headingley pitch.
Despite Leeds winning by four tries to one, the Rugby Football Union felt the game had been affected by removing scrums out of the contested, and quashed the result and ordered the West Yorkshire club to pay for Albion to make another trip.
The Devon side claimed a bonus point for finishing within a score of their opponents yesterday.
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However, Albion could so easily have returned with five points. Having been 21-6 down after 29 minutes, Nat Saumi's team came back were so close to snatching the win at the end in windy conditions.
Tom Bowen nearly ran the length of the field in the dying seconds but he was stopped by the last man.
Plymouth scored three tries and they played a lot better than in their other games since the turn of the year. They have fallen into the bottom four with this defeat, but at least Doncaster, currently in the one relegation spot, also failed to win this weekend, so Albion stay 12 points ahead of them with eight games to go.
Leeds, playing up the slope at West Park's ground, took the game to Albion straight away and they scored a try after less than five minutes.
From a penalty, the home side went for the corner and produced a great catch-and-drive move with Ryan Burrows getting the ball down. Joe Ford converted from the touchline.
Albion did not get into Leeds half with the ball until the 30th minute, but they managed to close the gap to 7-6 after the home side were twice penalised in possession in their own half and Paul Roberts made them pay.
Leeds' pack looked really up for the game early on and they kept turning down kicks at goal to try to go for tries.
In the 17th and 20th minutes they could not have come closer to scoring from five-metre line-outs but somehow Albion held them out.
On the second occasion Leeds knocked on right on the line, but then destroyed Albion at the scrum and won the ball back. The home got a penalty and Albion's Bevon Armitage was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Leeds made Albion pay immediately by going wide from the line-out and finding Steve McColl, who powered in to score near the posts. Ford added the conversion to make it 14-6.
That quickly became 21-6. Albion messed up the restart and Leeds nearly scored. Albion had to give away a 22-drop-out and from it the home side ran the ball back to score a third try. McColl made the first break before putting David Doherty clear on the halfway. The former Cornish Pirates man showed great speed and timing to cut through Albion's defence and score a great individual try. Ford added the conversion.
Albion had not been inside Leeds half with the ball, but the first time they managed it they scored a try.
From a line-out Albion won the ball – something they found hard to do generally in the first half – and pressed. They were five metres out when the game was stopped for a head injury to Herbie Stupple. He had to go off but his replacement Aaron Carpenter came on and scored from the resulting five-metre scrum.
Leeds finished the half strongly but could not add a fourth try and Ford missed a penalty with the last kick of the period.
And after half-time there was only one team in it, with Albion dominating as Leeds totally lost their way.
The visitors pulled to within five points when hooker Jon Vickers went over from a good drive in the 46th minute. Roberts, as in the first half, could not add the conversion.
Albion then won penalty after penalty. Each time they went for the corner, but on every occasion they lost the ball.
Leeds had hooker Phil Nilsen sin-binned in the 59th minute. Eventually Albion opted to go for goal from a penalty and Roberts put it over to make it 21-19.
The home crowd were getting on the backs of the Leeds players, but they thought they had the game won when Doherty scored another great try in the 75th minute. Ford, crucially, converted from the touchline to put his side nine points in front.
But Albion refused to give up and in the last minute of normal time Sean-Michael Stephen scored after Bowen had put him in. Roberts converted to set up a thrilling five minutes of injury-time.
It looked like Albion might win when Bowen broke through, but he was stopped 22 metres out.
Albion kept attacking but Leeds eventually turned them over only for them to fail to find touch with the kick.
Plymouth, with replacement Paul Bailey heavily involved, had one last chance, but Sam Matavesi was penalised for crossing.