Plymouth Albion equal unwanted club record in Nottingham defeat
PLYMOUTH Albion equalled an unwanted club record yesterday when they lost to third-placed Nottingham at Meadow Lane.
The defeat was Albion's eighth in a row, in the Championship, which matches their worst run in league rugby.
Albion, who have never won at Meadow Lane, were always second best to an impressive Nottingham outfit yesterday and they were lucky the scoreline was not wider.
Nat Saumi's side were trailing 30-10 with 80 minutes up on the clock but two tries in injury-time by Aaron Carpenter and Rhodri McAtee made the match look a lot closer than it actually was.
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But Albion, despite returning empty-handed, do deserve credit for battling all the way to the end and they will be hoping to build on yesterday's strong finish when they entertain fellow strugglers Jersey at Brickfields this Saturday.
That will be a must-win match for both teams. Albion will not want to make it nine defeats in a row and they will know a victory would almost certainly guarantee their safety, whereas second-bottom Jersey have to win, with Doncaster just two points behind them.
Albion made two changes to the team that had started against Bedford in their last game two weeks ago.
Forwards Rupeni Nasiga and Jack Andrew were ruled out with injury and they were replaced by fit-again Canadian international Brett Beukeboom and David Morton.
Nottingham, who included former Albion lock Nic Rouse in their side, were forced to make a late change when back Andrew Savage failed a fitness test. His place was taken by Ryan Hough, who went on to score a hat-trick of tries, having never previously scored one for the Green and Whites.
The home side dominated from the word go and had the chance to take the lead in the fourth minute when Albion were penalised for a second time in a minute for trying to pull down a maul. However, Japanese international James Alridge missed the kick at goal.
But, five minutes later Nottingham did take the lead after a terrible mistake by Albion.
The ball slipped out of the hands of fly-half Paul Roberts as he tried to pass and Nottingham picked up the loose ball.
The home side quickly spread the ball wide and great play put youngster Hough in to score on the right.
Alridge missed the conversion from out wide.
Six minutes later Nottingham had a second try after more quick passing among their backs saw Joe Cobden put Alex Lewington in to score.
Fortunately for Albion, the normally reliable Alridge was having an off-day with the boot and he missed the conversion, his third failure inside 15 minutes, so Nottingham only led 10-0.
Albion had hardly been out of their half. It took them until the 24th minute to get into Nottingham's 22 and they were unable to return with anything.
On the half-hour, Nottingham scored a third try. Sean-Michael Stephen was penalised on halfway and the home side went for the line-out. They won it and drove.
Eventually they went inside and Joe Munro did brilliantly to cut through before off-loading to Hough to score his second try. This time Alridge did convert to make it 17-0.
Nottingham could and probably should have had a fourth try two minutes later. First, they were pushed into touch right at the corner flag before Albion then lost the line-out on their line. Nottingham pressed and pressed but eventually the visitors got a penalty to relieve the pressure.
The Green and Whites were really making life difficult for Albion in their own half. They chased and tackled hard and were forcing Albion into hurried kicks.
But, a minute before the end of the opening period, Albion did get into the Nottingham half and won a penalty, which Roberts put over to make it 17-3.
Amazingly, Albion went in at the break just seven points behind when Tom Bowen scored a length-of-the-field breakaway try after stopping a Nottingham grubber kick five metres from his own line. Roberts added the conversion to stun the Meadow Lane crowd, who could not believe their team could dominant a half so much but only be seven points in front at the break.
Nottingham should have scored from the restart. They won the ball from their kick-off and David Jackson, who normally always scores against Albion, broke through, but he took the wrong option and knocked on five-metres from the try line.
The home side did settle some nerves five minutes later when Alridge kicked a penalty to edge Nottingham 10 points in front.
Four minutes later Nottingham got their fourth try with Hough going over after good play by Jackson. Alridge converted and kicked a penalty three minutes later to make it 30-10.
Albion had the chance to get back into the game when Nottingham had Alex Shaw sin-binned for a professional foul.
The visitors had three five-metre scrums before being held up over the line.
Albion were then turned over at a five-metre scrum and Nottingham nearly went all the way up the other end and scored.
With Nottingham appearing to be cruising they took off many of their key players but Albion, who brought on new signing Declan Cusack, finished strongly and scored two tries in injury-time to give the scoreline a much better look and give themselves a boost ahead of this week's match with Jersey.
First, Carpenter went over from close range on the right in the sixth-minute of added on time, Cusack could not convert, before, with the last play of the game, Keni Fisilau put McAtee in for his third try in three games, which Cusask did convert.
Although those two tries did not earn Albion a bonus point it will have made their long journey home a lot more bearable.