Plymouth Albion impress in loss at Premiership Gloucester
Gloucester XV…22 Plymouth Albion…13
PLYMOUTH Albion may have lost their first match under new coach James Shanahan, but they produced an encouraging display at Kingsholm against a Gloucester XV.
This was certainly the test Albion wanted ahead of their 2013/14 Championship campaign after Worcester had pulled out of a game last week.
Although it was basically Gloucester’s second string – their first team played Scarlets immediately after the Albion match – their side did have plenty of experience within it.
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Former Albion favourite Will James, ex-England captain Mike Tindall, experienced Premiership forward Andy Hazell and former Championship stars Tim Molenaar, Jonny Bentley and Dan George all featured for Gloucester.
Albion, whose set piece was excellent, probably had more possession than their hosts, but Gloucester had that extra bit of finishing power, although the hosts did blow two chances that you would not expect from players at any level.
There were, however, lots of pluses for Albion, who had not really been tested in their other pre-season matches against Redruth, Exmouth and Aberavon.
Gloucester took the lead in the fifth minute when prop Dan Murphy went over from close range after good forward pressure.
Former Pirates star Bentley was unable to add the conversion but he did add a penalty seven minutes later after opposite number Dan Mugford missed one at the other end.
Albion did have quite a bit of possession in Gloucester’s half but errors at the wrong times cost them the chance to really put the Premiership club under pressure in the first 20 minutes.
The visitors’ set plays were good against a strong home pack, but they just gave away too many penalties.
However, Gloucester did not take advantage of them. The hosts wasted two deep line-outs, one when Bentley somehow knocked on as he tried to ground the ball.
Gloucester were also guilty of giving away penalties and these allowed Shanahan’s side to get their first points on the board in the 28th minute.
The home side gave away one penalty on halfway before Albion won a free-kick from the line-out on the 22. Cushion took the free-kick quickly and tried a chip over but he was blocked and Albion won a penalty that Mugford kicked over to make it 8-3.
Gloucester hit back almost straight away.
Albion centre Pale Nonu was sin-binned in the 34th minute for stopping the home team scoring and the Premiership side immediately took advantage of the extra man to score from a line-out.
After a good drive, scrum-half Jimmy Cowan broke off and dived over next to the posts. Bentley added the conversion to make it 15-3.
Albion had probably had more possession than Gloucester but they just could not get the try they deserved.
In the dying minutes of the half it looked like they were going to score in the left corner when Herbie Stupple put Jamie Davies away, but Gloucester did brilliantly to push the Welsh winger into touch before he could ground the ball.
Shanahan’s side started the second half really well.
They came within inches of scoring when Toby Howley-Berridge charged down a Gloucester kick and won the race for the ball. But somehow Gloucester got back and stopped him grounding the ball.
Albion were awarded a five-metre scrum and they won three consecutive penalties at the set piece but didn’t get the penalty try and eventually Albion got pushed into touch.
The visitors kept the pressure on and in the 50th minute they were awarded a penalty that Mugford kicked to make it 15-6.
Albion then opted to make wholesales changes and within seconds of doing that they conceded a third try. Gloucester took a quick free-kick and full-back Martyn Thomas showed great speed to score the best try of the night.
Bentley converted to give his side a 16 point cushion.
But the visitors were not giving up. They continued to dominate possession and finally got the try they deserved in the 64th minute.
After intense pressure on Gloucester’s line replacement Heath Stevens eventually crossed the whitewash. Chris Elder, taking over kicking duties after Mugford had been replaced by Shanahan, added the conversion.
Both side wasted glorious chances in the dying minutes. Albion lost the ball a yard from the line after good pressure before Gloucester were guilty of an even bigger error at the other end – two players getting in each other’s way when all one had to do was catch the ball to score.
Albion: 15 Chris Elder, 14 Jack Arnott, 13 Toby Howley-Berridge, 13 Pale Nonu, 11 Jamie Davies, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Ruairi Cushion, 1 David Morton, 2 Davy McGregor (Gareth Evans 39), 3 Matt Shields, 4 Ien Ascroft-Leigh, 5 Brett Beukeboom, 6 Herbie Stupple, 7 Eoghan Grace, 8 Rhys Oakley (capt, Sean-Michael Stephen 36). Reps: Gareth Evans, Ben Rogers, Tom Harrison, Sean-Michael Stephen, Sam Matavesi, Paul Rowley, Rob Langley, Heath Stevens, Lewis Warner, James Shanahan.
Gloucester: 15 Martyn Thomas; 14 Steph Reynolds, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Drew Cheshire; 10 Jonny Bentley, 9 Jimmy Cowan; 1 Dan Murphy, 2 Dan George, 3 Tom Heard; 4 Elliott Stooke, 5 Will James; 6 Matt Cox, 7 Andy Hazell (capt), 6 Gareth Evans. Reps: Koree Britton, James Gibbons, Yann Thomas, Tom Hicks, Lewis Ludlow, Reece Boughton, Billy Burns, Jaryd Robinson, Will Haywood.
Scores: Gloucester: Tries: Murphy, Cowan, Thomas; Cons: Bentley 2; Pen: Bentley
Albion: Tries: Steven, Con: Elder; Pens: Mugford 2
Cards: Nonu (yellow)