Plymouth Albion suffer late agony against Rotherham
ROTHERHAM...34 PLYMOUTH ALBION...31
PLYMOUTH Albion could not end their long losing run in South Yorkshire, but they did pick up two valuable bonus points in a thrilling Championship match at Clifton Lane.
This was a real end-to-end game, with both sides scoring four tries and both goalkickers – Garry Law and Paul Roberts – finishing with 100 per cent records.
Albion, without a league win for three months, had been 14-0 behind but, like they had done at Leeds the week before, showed great character to come back.
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They went in front for the first time in the 55th minute when Sam Hocking scored their fourth and his second try of the game.
But seventh-placed Rotherham, who had started the day just two points in front of ninth-placed Albion in the Championship table, hit back with a converted try by lively scrum-half Charlie Mulchrone.
The match then came down to penalties. Law edged Rotherham in front in the 75th minute before Roberts levelled the contest for a fourth time two minutes later.
But Albion's hearts were broken when in the last minute of normal time they were penalised for playing the ball off their feet and Law put over the penalty to make it 34-31.
However, there were plenty of positives for Albion, who have lost nine of their last 10 league games. They managed to score four tries in a league game for only the second time this season – and the first time since September – and they showed plenty of spirit and character.
They will be frustrated they did not win as they stay in the bottom four, but the two bonus points they picked up moves them 14 points ahead of bottom club Doncaster, who play the Cornish Pirates at Mennaye Field on Sunday.
Albion made three changes to their team that started against Leeds the previous week.
Herbie Stupple (concussion) and Rupeni Nasiga (knee) were ruled out. They were replaced by Aaron Carpenter and Harrison Tovey, while Lloyd Fairbrother replaces David Morton in the front-row.
Saumi's side made a shocking start at Clifton Lane and found themselves 14-0 down after 16 minutes.
They hardly touched the ball in that time as Rotherham had chance after chance.
The home side missed two great chances to score a try before securing a five-metre scrum. From it they got three more penalties and on each occasion they opted for another scrum. The referee did warn Albion and on the fourth occasion Albion penalised he gave the Titans a penalty try, which Garry Law converted.
And five minutes later Rotherham added a second try. From a penalty on halfway, the Titans went for a line-out. From it they won it and Charlie Mulchrone fed James McKinney, who chipped over the defence and won the race to pick the ball up to score under the posts. Law again converted.
Albion had not been in the game but a penalty on 17 minutes got them back into the match. Rotherham were penalised for illegally blocking speedy Tom Bowen 22 metres out. From the penalty Albion went for the corner and Sam Hocking scored from the set piece. The try was initially awarded to prop Fairbrother but the players agreed afterwards that it was Hocking's final touch. Roberts brilliantly converted from the touchline.
The change in Albion after that try was noticeable. Their shoulders had been low after going 14-0 behind but suddenly they were full of confidence.
Rhodri McAtee wasted a great chance on 23 minutes when he passed forward to Bowen just yards from the try line and Cushion also passed forward 10 metres from the line five minutes later.
A second Albion try was coming and it arrived on 36 minutes. Bowen put Harrison Tovey away. He looked like he was going to score in the corner, but Mulchrone produced a stunning tackle to stop him right in the corner, but Albion recycled and the ball came out to Cushion, who sneaked his way over. Roberts again converted from the touchline to level the match.
It looked like that would be the score at the break, but in first half injury-time Rotherham scored a third try through Mulchrone. It came after Michael Doneghan had made a great run through Albion's defence. Law converted to make the half-time score 21-14 to the home side.
Albion levelled within five minutes of the second half when Palepoi Nonu made a silly pass in his own half that McAtee picked off to run in and score next to the posts. Roberts converted.
Ten minutes later Albion went in front for the first time when Hocking scored his ninth try of the season when he went over from a catch-and-drive move to secure his side a bonus point. Roberts, having a great day with the boot, converted Albion's fourth try.
But Rotherham, with their crowd urging them on, hit back. They pressed and pressed and got a five-metre scrum. From it Mulchrone picked up from the base and dive over. Roberts converted to tie the match again.
Eammon Sheridan looked like he was going to score a fifth try for the home side. He broke down the right wing and looked certain to score but replacement Paul Bailey brilliantly pushed him into touch two metres from the try line. Come the end of the match that tackle proved to be worth an extra point for Albion.
Five minutes from time Rotherham were awarded a penalty at an Albion scrum in front of the points. Law put it over to make it 31-28.
Many of the home crowd thought that would be the winning score, but Albion had other ideas.
They went up the other end and won a penalty of their own, which Roberts coolly put over to level the game once more.
But Albion were denied victory in the last minute of normal time when hooker Jon Vickers was penalised for killing the ball and Law stepped up to seal victory for Rotherham.
Rotherham: Garry Law, Michael Doneghan, Eamonn Sheridan, Palepoi Nonu, Peter Homan, James McKinney, Charlie Mulchrone, Marshall Gadd, Ted Stagg, Gareth Denman, Ben Thomas, Dan Sanderson, Alex Rieder, Latu Makaafi, Rory Pitman. Reps: Harry Hannan, James Kilbane, Ross Davies, Toby Feeman, Carl Kirwan, Lee Blackett, James Williams.
Albion: Rhodri McAtee, Lewis Warner, Toby Howley-Berridge, Bevon Armitage, Tom Bowen, Paul Roberts, Ruairi Cushion, Ben Rogers, Jon Vickers, Lloyd Fairbrother, Brett Beukeboom, Harrison Tovey, Sean-Michael Stephen, Sam Hocking, Aaron Carpenter. Reps: Paul Rowley, Paul Bailey, David Morton, Jack Andrew, Jamie Salter, Wayne Sprangle, Sam Matavesi
Referee: John Meredith (RFU)
Scorers: Rotherham: Tries: Penalty, McKinney, Mulchrone (2); Cons: Law 4; Pens: Law 2
Albion: Tries: Hocking (2), Cushion, McAtee; Cons: Roberts 4; Pen: Roberts