Plymouth Albion make winning start against Jersey: Match Report
PLYMOUTH ALBION 41 JERSEY 27
PLYMOUTH Albion opened the new Championship season with a five-point win in front of the television cameras at Exeter’s Sandy Park.
Albion came from behind at half-time to beat Jersey 41-27, but the game was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests.
The sides were level at 27-27 with just 12 minutes to go and with seconds to go Jersey were just seven points behind James Shanahan’s side and camped right on their line.
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Jersey won a penalty in front on the posts in the dying seconds and Albion had replacement Rob Langley sin-binned, but the Channel Islands side wasted the penalty and Plymouth went up the other end and scored to seal the game.
Albion scored five tries in total, four coming in the second half, but the crucial one came from last season’s top scorer Tom Bowen, who ran in from 60 metres on 55 minutes to put his side in front for the first time since the 17th minute.
Jersey had been on top up until that point and had led 21-13, but Bowen’s try proved the turning point of the game.
New signing Chris Elder went on to score twice, to add to Ien Ascroft-Leigh’s first half effort, and there was also a touch down for fellow new face Langley.
Summer fly-half signing Dan Mugford also finished with a 100 per cent goallkicking record as Albion beat Jersey for the first time in Shanahan’s first match in charge.
Albion included seven summer signings in their starting line-up – Elder, Pale Nonu, Mugford, Matt Shields, Davy McGregor, Eoghan Grace and Rhys Oakley.
It would have been eight, but winger Jamie Davies was forced out with injury, as was fellow winger Jack Arnott and flanker Herbie Stupple.
Albion were also unable to call on forwards Lloyd Fairbrother, Tom Cowan-Dickie and Harrison Tovey and backs Declan Cusack and Ben Woods due to injuries. With Cusack injured, Shanahan was on the bench.
Jersey were one of only three teams to finish below Albion last season.
The Channel Islands side came second-from-bottom in their first year in the Championship, winning just one game on their travels – at Plymouth.
Although Jersey lost star back-row forward Guy Thompson to Premiership club Wasps during the summer, they did bring in a number of new players including former Pirates players Grant Pointer, Aaron Penberthy, Drew Locke and Ben Maidment and ex-Bedford forward Alex Rae, who has taken over their captaincy.
Jersey handed starts to seven debutants and former Chiefs back Mark Foster, who completed a permanent move to the Islanders in the summer after finishing last term there on loan.
Fly-half Penberthy had not been due to start but he was a late replacement into Jersey’s team after fellow new signing Niall O’Connor suffered an injury in their final training session.
Albion made a good start and took the lead in the first minute when they won a penalty in front of the posts and Mugford, playing in his home city, made no mistake with the kick.
After their slow start, Jersey got going and good play by Nicky Griffith got them inside the 22. They pressed before getting a penalty. They went for a five-metre line-out and they won another penalty.
They went for another line-out and this time they scored the game’s opening try when number eight Tom Brown touched down at the back of the maul. Penberthy could not add the conversion.
Albion hit straight back with a try from a driving maul themselves. Lock Ien Ascroft-Leigh was the man who scored it after the referee had gone to the television official to confirm he had grounded the ball.
Mugford added the conversion to put Albion back in front after 17 minutes.
But Jersey did not let their heads go down after that score. Good kicking got them a line-out on Albion’s 22. After their drive was stopped they re-grouped and flanker Fred Silcock did brilliantly to cut through and then, with the try-line within sight, he off-loaded to winger Ed Dawson, who ran in from the left corner to score under the posts. Penberthy converted to make it 15-10.
Albion reduced the gap to two points with a Mugford penalty four minutes later.
Jersey should have scored a third try on 35 minutes. Foster did well and the try line was within sight but it looked like Albion deliberately knocked on their final pass five-metres from the line. The referee asked they TMO (television match official) to have a look at it but replays proved inconclusive and he opted not to take any action against Nonu, which was a let off for Albion as he could have sin-binned the player and or awarded a penalty try.
Jersey did get a penalty and went for the lineout but Albion did well to force them into a mistake.
And Albion nearly went up the other end and scored themselves. Lewis Warner cut through Jersey’s defence and fed Sean-Michael Stephen, but he was stopped short just two feet from the try line and the score remained 15-13 to Jersey at the break.
Jersey increased their lead five minutes after the break when Penberthy kicked a penalty after some good chase play by the Channel Islands side.
Albion had just not come out after the break and Jersey looked on top but the game changed with a piece of individual magic by Bowen.
Jersey gave away a penalty in Albion’s half. They felt it was not a penalty and were still debating it when Albion took it quickly and fed Bowen. With Jersey not awake he just cut right through them and ran in to score from 60 metres.
Mugford added the conversion and three minutes later Albion scored another try with Bowen again involved.
Last season’s young player of the year, who had not been due to start, broke down the left before feeding Elder, who ran in to touch down on his debut. Mugford again converted to make it 27-21.
Jersey nearly scored on 64 minutes. They were camped on Albion’s line under the posts. Albion gave away a penalty. It was a big call for Jersey whether to go for the scrum or the three points. They went for the points and closed the gap to three.
Albion, though, were glad it was three instead of seven.
Jersey did level when Penberthy kicked a penalty from the halfway on 68 minutes.
But Albion were not done. While Jersey were down to 14 men due to an injury to Latu Makaafi, Albion crossed for an all-important fourth try. Heath Stevens did well initially to get Albion into Jersey’s danger area and then Stephen put in Rob Langley to score on his debut.
Mugford, who had his kicking boots on, added the conversion to make it 34-27.
Albion could have sealed the match when they had a penalty on 75 minute in front of the posts, but strangely they opted to run it instead of going for the three points to give themselves a 10-point gap.
Jersey threw everything at Albion in the dying minutes. It looked like they had been given a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty on the 22 and Albion had Langley sin-binned. Jersey went for the line-out instead of the scrum and they were penalised at it.
Albion, took the gift, and went right up the other end and scored another try through Elder, which Mugford converted, to seal the game.