Plymouth Albion suffer more agony at the hands of the Pirates
FOR THE third season running Plymouth Albion were beaten by just four points by the Cornish Pirates at Brickfields in the Championship.
In 2010/11 the Pirates won 10-6, last season they triumphed 20-16 and yesterday in heavy rain the Cornish side returned over the Tamar with a 9-5 win.
There was a time when the Pirates could not buy a win at Brickfields and hated their trips to Plymouth but now it is Albion who just can't seem to beat their West Country rivals.
Albion have not triumphed over them in any competition since April 2010, but they could easily have done so twice this season.
They dominated the game at Mennaye Field in September but cruelly lost 19-17 to a late penalty.
Yesterday's defeat – their sixth in seven league games – was not quite as painful as that one but it was still hard to take for the Albion players and supporters as the match was there to be won.
Although the Pirates dominated the first half and deservedly led 6-0 at the break, Albion, having changed shirts, upped their performance in the second half and scored the game's only try and had another couple of good chances.
But the same old failings that have been letting Albion down all season cost them the chance of victory yesterday.
They lost most of their line-out ball, made a couple of bad decisions and gave away some crucial penalties.
Fly-half Paul Roberts also had another afternoon to forget against the Pirates.
Roberts had missed five costly kicks at goal in Albion's 19-17 defeat at Mennaye Field in September and yesterday he missed four – three penalties and a conversion.
In contrast, former Albion favourite Kieran Hallett kicked three out of three kicks for the Pirates, who claimed only their second away league win of the season – their first coming on the opening day of the season at Jersey.
Albion's defeat means they have now fallen six points behind the sixth-placed Pirates and the teams below them will have them in their sights.
Albion, without the injured Sam Hocking and Henry Slade, had to make two late changes to their team, with lock Brett Beukebroom and scrum-half Ruairi Cushion dropping out through illness.
Their places were taken by Ien Ascroft-Leigh and Paul Rowley, with Ed Lewsey, on his Christmas holiday from his teaching job in Abu Dhabi, coming on to the bench.
The Pirates included five former Albion players – Alan Paver, Kyle Marriott, Hallett, Ben Mercer and James Tyas – in their starting line-up, with another Plymouth old boy, Tom Kessell, on the bench.
Heavy rain before and during the match and a swirling wind made conditions difficult for the derby, watched by Albion's biggest crowd of the season.
But the Pirates did not take long to get used to the conditions.
They dominated possession and territory in the first half.
The first 15 minutes were spent totally in Albion's half but the Pirates did not turn their possession into points.
Albion, playing in red shirts in the first half, lost their first three line-outs and their set piece was a big problem for them in the first half.
Eventually the Pirates did get some points on the board with a Hallett penalty. It came in the 17th minute just after Albion had finally had some possession in their rivals' half.
It was not an easy kick for Hallett. It was 30 metres out on the right but he managed to swerve his kick between the posts.
And four minutes later the former Albion captain kicked another penalty after a good attack from a line-out, involving himself and Marriott.
The Pirates were playing sensible rugby in the first half. They were not doing anything too flash, but they were winning the majority of their set pieces and kicking really well, with Hallett and Gavin Cattle pulling the strings.
Albion did not kick anywhere nearly as well in the first half.
The Pirates came the closest to scoring a try in the 35th minute when they kicked forward from 20 metres out but the referee ruled they had passed forward in the build-up.
Albion had a late chance to cut the Pirates' lead by half when they were awarded a penalty 30 metres out just to the left of the posts, but Roberts surprisingly missed the kick.
To be fair, Albion did not really deserve anything from the first half and they would have been glad to have only gone in at the break 6-0 down after being second best for the opening 40 minutes.
But in the second half, having changed to white shirts, they were far more of a threat.
Roberts missed with another penalty on 46 minutes, but it nearly worked out well as Albion charged down Hallett's 22 drop-out and Saumi's side came agonisingly close to scoring.
They pressed and pressed the Pirates line before getting a penalty. Surprisingly Albion opted for goal and Roberts missed the kick.
To rub salt into Albion's wounds, the Pirates went right up the other end and got a penalty, which Hallett kicked to make it 9-0.
Albion, though, found another gear. Young prop Luke Cowan-Dickie, who has been linked with a switch to the Pirates, got them back into the game with a try on the right.
Roberts could not convert, but Albion had the Pirates worried.
Wes Davies put his side under intense pressure when he sliced a kick in the 77th minute, giving Albion a line-out just 10 metres from the line, but the home side knocked on from the set piece.
Albion do have to sort out their line-out.
Although they were missing Beukeboom yesterday, it has been a problem for most of the season and they just cannot afford to keep giving the ball away so easily.
Albion: 15 Rhodri McAtee (Jack Arnott 73), 14 Lewis Warner, 13 Toby Howley-Berridge, 12 Keni Fisilau, 11 Tom Bowen, 10 Paul Roberts, 9 Paul Rowley (Ed Lewsey 68), 1 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 2 Jon Vickers (Tom Cowan-Dickie 52), 3 David Morton (Lloyd Fairbrother 60), 4 Ien Ascroft-Leigh (Harrison Tovey 71), 5 Rupeni Nasiga, 6 Sean-Michael Stephen (capt), 7 Sam Matavesi (Wayne Sprangle 70), 8 Aaron Carpenter. Rep not used: Ben Rogers.
Pirates: 15 Wes Davies, 14 Tom Bedford, 13 Tom Riley (Sam Hill 61-65), 12 Junior Fatialofa (Sam HIll 65), 11 Ben Mercer, 10 Kieran Hallett, 9 Gavin Cattle, 1 Paul Andrew (Ryan Storer 73), 2 Rob Elloway, 3 Alan Paver, 4 David Lyons (Gary Johnson 56), 5 Darren Barry, 6 James Tyas (Alex Cheeseman 61), 7 Kyle Marriott, 8 Laurie McGlone. Reps not used: Ben Prescott, Darren Semmens, Tom Kessell.
Referee: Greg McDonald (RFU).
Scorers: Albion: Try: Luke Cowan-Dickie
Pirates: Pens: Hallett 3