VIDEO: Plymouth Albion's Shanahan happy with wins over Exmouth and Aberavon
NEW head coach James Shanahan was 'pretty happy' with Plymouth Albion's wins over Aberavon and Exmouth at Brickfields on Saturday.
Shanahan named two completely different teams for the Championship club's first pre-season matches.
Albion faced Welsh Premiership side Aberavon first. The Wizards had lost 59-0 at Brickfields in the British & Irish Cup in December, but they proved much tougher opponents at the weekend.
Aberavon led 8-5 at half-time, but Albion upped their game after the break and went on to claim a 24-15 win.
A more experienced Albion team then trounced newly-promoted National Two South side Exmouth 55-14, running in nine tries – six of which came in the first half.
Shanahan described both matches as 'scrappy' but he put part of that down to the shocking weather on Saturday.
"It was our first proper hit out as a squad so it was always going to be difficult," said Shanahan.
"I only watched the first half of the Aberavon game as I had to prepare for the second game.
"The break down for both teams is something we need to look at and address, but I was happy with our defensive and attacking systems.
"We scored four tries in the first game and then nine in the second and I'm pretty happy with that."
Shanahan, who took over as Albion's head coach from Nat Saumi this summer, is still getting to know his players.
Initially he did not feel he had learned anything new about his team on Saturday, but then added: "I will look at the video and do the analysis and I am sure I will learn a lot more.
"At half-time I spoke about the accuracy in the first game and by all accounts in the first 20 minutes of the second half they were very accurate, so what I have learned is that they listen to instruction."
He added: "Aberavon were very physical. They had a strong set piece and kicked well. It was always going to be difficult against them, but to come away with four tries and a win – I'm happy with that.
"Against Exmouth I think once we got that good start their heads dropped, but credit to them (Exmouth) in the second half they came back into it and gave themselves a creditable performance.
"It (the double-header) was a good exercise. Both opponents were physical and I'm sure there will be a few bruises."
Shanahan said scoring an early touch down against Exmouth was key and collecting a try just before half-time was vital in the fixture against Aberavon.
"Against Exmouth we had a good start," said Shanahan. "We were clinical with the ball. There was a good offload from Pale (Nonu) to (Sam) Matavesi and he went through a clean hole and that just gave us the confidence and maybe their heads dropped."
On the try just before half-time against Aberavon, Shanahan said: "That was key. We had got into their 22 four or five times in the first half but we weren't patient enough or clinical enough.
"Maybe if it had been a league game we would have kicked a few penalties, but I said to the boys that they had the licence to play and tap-and-go.
"I just think we weren't clinical or patient enough in that first half, but by all accounts we were in the second half. We got that good start to the second half and got that victory."
The victory was sealed against Aberavon when Albion scored two tries while the Welsh side were down to 14 men after Gavin Ronan was yellow carded for the visitors on 51 minutes.
Shanaham was pleased his team took advantage of the extra man.
"That's key," he said. "When you get a sin-binning it is backs to the wall for the defence, but the attacking side have to be clinical and have to be accurate and make sure they take advantage, which obviously we did."
Shanahan did start the match against Exmouth. He lined up at fly-half. It was his first time he had pulled on an Albion shirt since Plymouth had played Orrell on November 30, 2002.
He said: "It was good. I would have liked a dry day, but I enjoyed it. It was a stop-start game, which was a bit frustrating. But I enjoyed my 50 or 60 minutes."
Charlie Walker-Blair was not involved in Albion's match on Saturday.
Albion offered the former Exeter and Jersey player a deal last week, but the flanker picked up a knee injury in training and he and the club are waiting to discover the extent of it before any decision is made.