Albion claim nail-biting home win over Leeds
Plymouth Albion...32 Leeds...31
PLYMOUTH Albion showed tremendous spirit to come back from 11 points down at one point to secure a bonus point win over Leeds at Brickfields.
Leeds did out-score Albion by five tries to four, but it was the boot of Paul Roberts that made the difference this week.
Roberts, who had struggled in Albion's first two matches, kicked three conversions and two penalties.
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Leeds, who had been 21-10 up in the first half and 26-18 up in the second before giving away a penalty try and finding themselves down to 13 men for a spell, could have won the match right at the end when Jacob Rowan scored a try which put them one point behind with the conversion to come.
But Joe Ford could not add the two points and Albion, who had lost to a late kick at the Pirates the week before, hung on for the win and their first five points of the season.
Leeds, who have only won once at Brickfields, did pick up two bonus points for their efforts in an end-to-end game.
Albion made six changes to their team that narrowly lost to the Pirates the week before.
It had been due to be only five changes, but they were forced to make a late switch when Aaron Carpenter dropped out of the match with his wife due to give birth to their first child.
Paul Bailey, Herbie Stupple and Rhodri McAtee were injured, while Paul Rowley and David Morton dropped to the bench.
Toby Howley-Berridge, Tom Bowen, Ruairi Cushion, Lloyd Fairbrother, Rupeni Nasiga and Ien Ascroft-Leigh came into the Albion side.
It was Howley-Berridge and Ascoft-Leigh's league debuts for Plymouth and a first start for Fijian Nasiga.
With Stupple and Carpenter both out, Sean-Michael Stephen started at number eight, with Wayne Sprangle added to the bench.
Leeds made a good start and pressed from kick-off. After three minutes they got a penalty and went for the corner. They failed to find touch and Albion went right up the other end and scored with Sam Hocking getting the ball down from close range. Paul Roberts added the conversion.
Leeds were looking lively and it was not too much of a surprise when they pulled level on 12 minutes.
They stole an Albion line-out in their own half and broke down the left before switching play to the right where Curtis Wilson went over for a try. Joe Ford added the tough conversion.
Leeds then had two kickable penalties that they went for deep line-outs from and messed them both up.
But the visitors did score a second try on 27 minutes when Richard Beck went over on the left after the West Yorkshire side had broken down the blindside from a scrum in their own half. Ford again converted to make it 14-7.
Albion closed the gap straight away when Roberts kicked a penalty in front of the posts after Leeds had almost gifted the home side a try from the restart.
This was proving to be an entertaining game and Leeds scored a third try on 31 minutes when Craig Hampson took a quick tap penalty and somehow Pete Lucock got the ball down in the corner.
The referee was not sure and the home crowd were shouting for a forward pass, but the try was given on the advice of the touch-judge. Ford again converted to make it 21-10.
Albion, though, did not let their heads dropped and went in at the break just six points behind after Howley-Berridge scored an unconverted try on his debut after good play by Stephen.
The action did not let up in the second half.
Albion closed the gap to four points with another Roberts penalty before Leeds piled the pressure on from a penalty.
They camped on Albion's line and the home side had hooker Jon Vickers sin-binned.
Leeds kept going for the five-metre line-outs and on their fourth they scored with Phil Nilsen getting the ball down. Ford missed the conversion so Leeds were only 26-18 up.
And the game-changing moment came in the 54th minute when Cushion broke and put a cleaver chip kick over David Doherty.
Doherty, though, took Cushion out and he was yellow carded and Albion got a penalty. Albion went for five-metre scrum and eventually after pressing and pressing they got a penalty try, which Roberts converted. It came after Leeds also had Freddie Burdon sin-binned.
That put Albion just one point behind.
Despite having two men less than Albion, Leeds came close to scoring another try in 65th minute but the referee ruled they had been held up over the line and the visitors were penalised at the scrum.
And with time running out, Albion scored a try out of nothing. Henry Slade, a second half replacement for the injured Louis Messer, put in a great kick to the corner and fellow youngster Jack Arnott won the race to touch it down for his first league try.
Roberts, having a good day with the boot, brilliantly converted from the touchline.
That was a vital kick as in the last minute of normal time, Leeds scored a fifth try through Jacob Rowan.
Ford could have won the game for his side had he converted, but he missed much to the delight on the home crowd.
Albion: Louis Messer, Jack Arnott, Toby Howley-Berridge, Bevon Armitage, Tom Bowen, Ruairi Cushion, Jack Andrew, Jon Vickers, Lloyd Fairbrother, Brett Beukeboom, Ien Ascroft-Leigh, Rupeni Nasiga, Sam Hocking, Sean-Michael Stephen. Reps: Paul Rowley, Henry Slade, Wayne Sprangle, David Morton, Tom Cowan-Dickie, Harrison Tovey, Keni Fisilau.
Leeds: David Doherty, Pete Lucock, Josh Griffin, Freddie Burdon, Curtis Wilson, Joe Ford, Craig Hampson, Sam Lockwood, Phil Nilson, Damien Tussac, Calum Green, Mike Myerscroft, Richard Beck, Jacob Rowan (capt), Ryan Burrows. Reps: Joe Graham, Lee Imiolek, Ben Hooper, Dan Hemingway, Chris Walker, James Doherty, Jamel Chisholm.
Referee: Ross Campbell (RFU)
FULL REACTION AND PICTURES IN MONDAY'S HERALD