Roberts' late penalty saves Albion's blushes
Plymouth Albion do not seem to do anything the easy way. It is as if the players like to torture their fans.
Their loyal followers were certainly put through the grinder on Saturday against Aberavon Wizards in the British and Irish Cup at the scenic and historic but now dated Talbot Athletic Ground.
Albion were in control of a poor game for 55 minutes against an Aberavon team that has only managed one win all season. The visitors led 13-3 and their advantage should have been more had they turned their possession and territory into points.
But before they knew it, Albion found themselves 20-13 down with time almost up. It looked like an eighth defeat in nine games might be on the cards, but suddenly Albion got a bit of good fortune and Wayne Sprangle managed to squeeze his way over the try line, to the delight of the large travelling support.
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Albion's captain for the day, Paul Roberts stepped up knowing if he kicked the conversion he would level the match.
Agonisingly, his kick bounced off the right post to leave Albion still trailing with just four minutes to go.
However, just when it looked like Plymouth's interest in the much-maligned B&I Cup might be ended for another year, replacement Tom Bowen produced a storming break to make 70 metres and get Albion right back inside Aberavon's 22. Seconds later Albion got a penalty in front of the posts, which Roberts happily accepted to put his side ahead.
The victory means Plymouth still have a chance to top Pool Seven and qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition but need unbeaten pool leaders Munster to lose at least two of their remaining three matches.
There was not much to catch the eye for the right reasons on Saturday but the performance of Albion's young flanker Sam Matavesi was one of the exceptions. The 20-year-old, who had made his first league start the week before at Newcastle, really played with passion and physicality. He also scored Albion's first try as he pushed his claims for the number seven shirt at Brickfields.
Fly half Roberts gave Albion the lead in the fourth minute with a penalty.
Nat Saumi's side should have added to their score in the opening 15 minutes but slowly the home side started to get into the game, without really looking like scoring a try.
The Welsh team did get a penalty on 18 minutes but all-time record points scorer Jamie Davies could not kick the long-range effort. Nine minutes later he did kick a penalty to level the scores.
Albion, though, always looked superior but it took them until the 32nd minute to finally score a try. It came from Matavesi, who touched down under the posts after scrum-half Paul Rowley had taken a quick tap penalty. Roberts converted the try to make it 10-3.
The visitors did get a penalty in front of the posts on 37 minutes but opted for a five-metre scrum and wasted it. Roberts missed a penalty on 48 minutes before he kicked one five minutes later and you could not see Albion not losing.
Aberavon had not threatened Albion's 22 at all, but the game changed when the home side got a penalty on 56 minutes. They went for the corner and scored from the catch-and-drive move with Ben Thomas getting the ball down and Davies converting.
The nearly scored a second try on 62 minutes but their final pass went forward.
However, they did level the score when Davies kicked a penalty on 65 minutes.
Ben Johns missed badly with a longer range penalty effort five minutes later but the momentum was with the home team and on 73 minutes wing Richard Carter scored a good try in the right corner, which Davies converted, to put Aberavon seven points up.
Albion brought on Rupeni Nasiga, Ruairi Cushion, Tom Bowen, Jon Vickers and Luke Cowan-Dickie, dug deep and started to play with some speed and tempo.
It looked like they had wasted a good attacking play when they dropped the ball, but the referee said it had gone backwards and it worked in Albion's favour with Sprangle going over for a try.
After Roberts' missed conversion, Albion had to throw everything at Aberavon and it was Bowen who got them into the danger zone before the home side were penalised, giving the win to the visitors.