Plymouth Albion 68 Fylde 15
Fylde were the better side in the 1st half in this National One clash at Plymouth Albion’s Brickfield Ground and, despite a ‘give away’ interception try in the 39th minute, should have been in the lead at the interval rather than 19-8 in arrears. Even in the early part of the 2nd half they were in contention but the very young squad, average age of 23, were ultimately crushed by a barrage of Albion tries in the final quarter. Rugby is an unforgiving sport and this was never more apparent than in this game.
Fylde had the benefit of the breeze at the kick-off but went behind in the opening minutes, as in previous games this season, when Albion fullback Matt Shepherd scored in the corner in the 3rd minute.
The visitors were undaunted and replied with vigour and skill. They pressed the Plymouth defence and won penalties in the 7th and 12th minutes, both of which fly-half Greg Smith narrowly missed. The second one was the result of an offence by Albion flanker George Mills who was yellow carded. With a man advantage, Smith redeemed himself in the 13th minute when he broke the Albion defensive line, linked with lock Nick Ashcroft who in turn found hooker Ben Gregory who scored an excellent try near the corner flag. With the conversion drifting wide, the sides were level at 5-all.
Territory and possession were being shared pretty equally although Albion had an advantage in the scrummages. Fylde competed well in the loose and forced Albion mistakes. In the 29th minute another Albion offence led to Greg Smith converting the subsequent penalty to give his side a 5-8 lead.
This was short lived as Albion came back strongly through their forwards. Flanker Eoghan Grace drove powerfully for the line and lock Ed Holmes forced his way over the line. Former Sale Sharks fly-half Dan Mugford added the extras for a 12-8 lead.
Fylde continued to attack up to the interval but, not for the first time this season, were punished by an interception try when, near the Albion line, home centre Harvey Skinner read the pass and ran the length of the pitch to go under the posts. Mugford converted and Albion trotted off the field on the half time whistle with a rather flattering 19-8 lead.
The 2nd period started badly for the Lancastrians as they offended in midfield. With the benefit of the breeze, Mugford kicked for the corner and a driving maul ended with powerful no 8 Herbie Stupple was last man up to claim Albion’s 4th and bonus point try.
Fylde came back once more as they pressed Albion back into their own half. The Devonians offended, Smith kicked to the corner and the Fylde pack drove for the line. The maul edged towards the line but was dragged down by the Albion forwards. Referee Christopher Ridley awarded a penalty try and prop Marcus Street was sinbinned for his trouble. 26-15 to Albion.
Unfortunately for Fylde, they lost momentum immediately as Albion won the ball from the restart and winger Matt Crosscombe finished off the move by scoring in the corner. Mugford converted for a 33-15 lead.
Fylde were finding it harder and harder to gain a share of possession and territory. The harder they tried, the more mistakes they made and penalties conceded. The floodgates opened as Albion poured forward. Replacement flanker Jack Owlett and hooker Rupert Freestone scored close quarter tries. Mugford converted both for a 47-15 advantage.
As Fylde forced the play they opened themselves to more errors. A second interception try by Skinner extended the lead and this was followed by further tries from Dan Mugford and winger Jack Arnott. Mugford finished the game with a personal haul of 23 points.
Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “I think Albion are the strongest side we’ve faced so far and our lads need to take heart from the performance we put in for 50 to 60 minutes. We missed the chance to go into half time with our nose in front and Plymouth used the wind well in the 2nd half to keep us pinned back and force mistakes. Unfortunately, we couldn’t slow them down in the last 20 and they were ruthless.
“I’m looking forward to having a few players back from injury over the next few weeks and we’ll start to see what the lads are made of when there is more competition for places.”
Match photo on this page courtesy of Plymouth Albion.
15 Tom Carleton (Danny Carlton 76); 14 Henry Hadfield (Jake Foster 52), 13 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith (Henry Hadfield 57), 9 Alex Dolly; 1 Adam Lewis (c), 2 Ben Gregory (Tom Burtonwood 47), 3 Mark Irving (Dan Richardson 57), 4 Matt Garrod (Karl Capstick 61), 5 Nick Ashcroft (Ben Gregory 74), 6 Jamie Brookes, 7 Adam McCarthy, 8 Ben Vernon.
NB Alex Loney, Olli Parkinson, David Fairbrother, Harlan Corrie, Ben Vernon, Matt Ellis, Greg Nicholls and James Bailey were unavailable for selection, mainly through injury. Additionally, none of the Sale Sharks dual registered players were available for the trip..