Controversial decision costs defeated Plymouth Albion
Plymouth Albion left Leeds' Headingley Stadium angry and pointless yesterday after a controversial Championship defeat.
Albion, desperate to make a winning start to 2013 after six league defeats out of seven at the end of 2012, were 3-0 up when referee Matt Carley decided to go to uncontested scrums. Only 15 minutes of the match had gone, but it was clear straight away that Leeds' new £1 million pitch was not standing up to the pressures of scrums.
The pitch cut up at every scrum. Albion, though, were adapting the best to it and dominating that part of the game, but the referee clearly felt it was unsafe to continue with the set plays. He called both captains together, but he did not discuss it with the coaching staff of either side.
Although Albion did go 6-0 in front, Leeds hit back and took a grip on the game with three quick tries to go in at the break 27-9 up. Plymouth did play far better in the second half and dominated possession and territory, but could only score one late try after Leeds had been reduced to 14 men.
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The Devon side are now in danger of dropping to the bottom four and would be there already had London Scottish not been docked three points for failing to re-register a player they had sent on loan to a lower league side.
Ninth-placed Scottish are now just two points behind Albion, having beaten Bedford at the weekend, and Moseley also closed the gap with a narrow win over Jersey.
Albion's next league match at the end of this month against Moseley now takes on greater importance.
Plymouth made a good start at Leeds and they took the lead with a Paul Roberts penalty in the fifth minute. Leeds nearly hit back straight from the re-start when they forced Albion into touch 22 metres out and attacked from the lineout. It looked like they were going to score a try but they knocked on right on the line.
Albion took immediate advantage of the uncontested scrums ruling on 15 minutes and attacked from the scrum they had. They were rewarded with a penalty that Roberts kicked to make it 6-0.
All of a sudden Leeds got into the game. Fly-half Rory Clegg, on loan from Premiership club Harlequins, got them on the way with a penalty on 17 minutes and then they scored two converted tries in the space of three minutes.
The first came after Albion lost a lineout on their own 22. Leeds went left and then right before lock Dominic Barrow squeezed over in the corner for Clegg to convert. Leeds scored again almost immediately. They forced Albion into touch from the restart and scored from the lineout. They went wide and former Cornish Pirates wing David Doherty powered over in the left corner. Clegg converted from the touchline to make it 17-6.
It got worse for Saumi's side in the 33rd minute when they conceded a third try after losing the ball on halfway. Leeds picked up, put a hopeful kick forward and chased. Rhodri McAtee was fooled by the bounce and Josh Griffiths was there to pick up and dive over under the posts. Clegg converted to make it 24-6.
Roberts added a penalty from the restart but Leeds responded with one of their own to make it 27-9.
Albion came out for the second half much better and dominated the opening stages but they could not add any points. They camped on Leeds' line for five minutes but could not get the ball down over the whitewash as Leeds defended brilliantly.
Four minutes from time Leeds had Barrow sin-binned and Albion, who had been held up over the line three times, took full advantage to score from a five-metre scrum with Aaron Carpenter getting over the line. Roberts converted to make it 27-16.
They nearly scored again from the restart, but they were pushed into touch 22 metres out. As it was, it was Leeds who went right up the other end and scored a fourth try. Replacement Bevon Armitage denied Leeds a try from a kick forward but he was forced to give away a five-metre scrum, and from it home captain Jacob Rowan dived over for Clegg to convert.