Plymouth Albion players fail to deliver in vital match with Jersey
THERE is a well-known old adage that states actions speak louder than words.
Plymouth Albion's supporters must be fed up now of hearing the players promise a win is just around the corner, but then not deliver one.
Albion have gone four months without a single Championship victory to their name and on Saturday set a new club record for the most number of consecutive league defeats in their history by losing at home to second-from-bottom Jersey.
Saturday's loss was their ninth in a row – and that does not include the two attempts to beat Leeds away.
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Yet the players had even the most pessimistic Albion supporters believing that their run would end on Saturday, but alas no.
Jersey may have arrived at Brickfields having never previously won an away game in the Championship, but went back to the Channel Islands with four, well-deserved points to help their bid for league survival.
Albion could have secured their own safety with a victory at the weekend, now they will be pinning their hopes that bottom club Doncaster don't win at least three out of four of their remaining matches and that Jersey and Moseley, who both have a game in hand, don't overtake them.
It would be an incredibly tall order for Doncaster to finish above them, especially with Nottingham and Bedford to play, but Albion should not be relying on other teams losing.
They just need one win to be totally safe, but if they play like they did on Saturday then you cannot see them winning away at London Scottish, Bristol and Doncaster or beating unbeaten league leaders Newcastle at home.
Albion started Saturday's match well, but only managed three points for dominating the first 15 minutes and then suddenly Jersey started controlling the game.
The visitors used their forwards well, were quick to the breakdowns, and had two, match-winners in number eight Guy Thompson and scrum-half Nicky Griffiths.
The pair really stood out in a low quality stop-start match that amazingly lasted two-and-a-quarter hours due to a couple of lengthy injuries and a host of penalties at the end of the first period.
The first-half alone lasted 65 minutes, with nearly 15 minutes of that spent with Jersey having scrum after scrum five-metres from Albion's line. Referee Steve Lee just kept awarding them penalties, which have to be played, and they kept opting for scrums. It got to the point where even the most hardened Albion fans were probably willing Lee to run under the posts and just award a penalty try to end the half.
Yet he didn't and Albion got away with going in at just 5-3 down.
But Saumi's side were not so lucky after the break, gifting Jersey two quick tries to find themselves 19-3 down.
As is now becoming a habit: Albion rallying in the dying minutes, with replacements Herbie Stupple, Sam Matavesi, Tom Bowen and Tom Cowan-Dickie making telling contributions, but they could not snatch the win at the end.
At the moment it is as if Albion can only play with any urgency when they know time is almost up.
Jersey were hanging on when they shouldn't have been. Their inexperience at Championship level showed when they didn't just play down time in the final 15 minutes with some 'up-your-jumper' rugby, which, as they showed in spells in the first half, they can do well.
They possibly got carried away thinking about the extra point they could pick up if they could score one more try and they got loose and nearly paid for it.
However, even Albion coach Nat Saumi admitted afterwards that Jersey deserved the win, which came courtesy of tries by Griffiths (2) and Thompson.
Paul Roberts had put Albion in front in the ninth minute with a penalty. He had missed one five minutes early as his side dominated from the kick-off.
Keni Fisilau, brought into the starting line-up along with new signing Declan Cusack and Jack Andrew, nearly scored a try in the 14th minute on the left but he was just stopped a metre away, as was Bevon Armitage seconds later.
Aaron Carpenter thought he had scored for the home side from a five-metre scrum but the referee said he had knocked on as he reached for the try line.
That was a let off for Jersey and they accepted it. Suddenly the game switched to being all Jersey, with them beginning to use their forwards well.
The visitors had three great chances to score before Armitage was sin-binned for illegally stopping Jersey getting quick ball right on the try line after a storming run by Griffiths.
Armitage probably stopped a try but Jersey did not let up. They went for a five-metre scrum from the penalty. It went down and visiting prop Jon Brennan was injured. The game was held up for nine minutes while he was stretchered off.
Once the game re-started Jersey got another penalty and again opted for a scrum from which Thompson scored. Jersey fly-half Michael Le Bourgeois missed the conversion and a penalty kick at goal before Thompson should have scored a second. However, he slipped yards away from the line and the ball was knocked on.
But Jersey turned Albion, who had lost front-rowers Jon Vickers and Jack Andrew to injury, at the scrum and got one of their own. Cue the endless minutes of five-metre scrums as referee Lee showed plenty of patience with Albion. Many referees would have awarded a penalty try but he didn't and eventually Jersey lost patience and threw the ball inside only to waste it.
Yet they made up for not scoring at the end of the first half by increasing their lead straight from the restart. Albion tried to play the ball out from their 22 from kick-off but lost it and Griffiths picked it up and scored. Le Bourgeois converted.
And it was 19-3 five minutes later when Griffiths scored his second try after a great run by Thompson.
The game was held up for another nine minutes in the second half due to an injury to Jersey hooker David Felton.
When play resumed Albion, with Matavesi and Stupple impressing, gave their fans something to cheer when Cowan-Dickie wet over in the left corner to make it 19-8.
Jersey had chance to increase their lead but wasted them. They even turned down a kick at goal to go for a five-metre line-out, only to get pushed into touch.
And from that line-out, Albion went up the other end and scored through Bowen after good yardage by Carpenter, Paul Rowley and Stupple. It was Bowen's second try in two games. Cusack converted from out-wide to set up an exciting finish, but Albion could not get the winning try they needed.