Worrying times at Brickfields as Albion lose again at home
THE concerned looks on the faces of many supporters as they left Brickfields on Saturday said it all.
These are worrying times for Plymouth Albion.
They have only won one Championship game in the last four months, have not scored a single try in three matches and on Saturday they had their lowest league attendance for a decade.
You would like to think that the four games they won in the first month of the season will be enough for them to avoid relegation, with only the bottom side going down this year.
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But losing at home to third-from-bottom Moseley on Saturday will have given all the teams below them confidence that they can be caught, especially with Albion's massive run of away fixtures to come.
Albion have a 12-point cushion between themselves and bottom side Doncaster, whose home match with London Scottish was postponed at the weekend.
That looks like a healthy lead with nine games to go, but Albion only have three matches left at home and two of them are against high-flying Newcastle and Bedford.
A win on Saturday against Moseley would have put any talk of falling into a relegation fight firmly to bed, but it did not happen, and to rub salt into their wounds second-from-bottom Jersey also won.
Albion, in front of a shocking crowd of just 1,303 fans, should have picked up four points and completed a double over Moseley, whom they had beaten 24-22 at Billesley Common in September. They had enough possession and territory to have well and truly won the game, but they did not convert it into points.
Bad decision-making, two costly missed kicks by fly-half Paul Roberts and mistakes at crucial times cost them dearly against a Moseley side, who never looked like winning until the last couple of minutes.
Moseley had felt hard done by when Albion beat them at home earlier in the season. That day they missed a couple of costly kicks and did not take all their chances, but it was role reversal on Saturday.
Moseley, who had been poor in attack for most the game, snatched victory thanks to two late Glyn Hughes' penalties – his final one coming five minutes into injury-time.
Most people expected referee Ross Campbell to blow his final whistle after Hughes' last kick, but he allowed Albion the chance to snatch back the points by allowing the game to re-start.
Albion did the hard work and won possession from their kick and made ground before winning a penalty of their own 35 metres out. With time up, Albion opted not to try and go for goal to tie the match, but ran the penalty, only to lose the ball 22 metres out from the try line.
That final play just summed up Albion's afternoon – and most of their season. The players on the field just keep making the wrong decisions at the wrong time.
Key decisions, though, like whether to go for goal, the corner or a scrum at penalties, would be easier to make if they had a goal-kicker with a 90 per cent or more success ratio, but Roberts can be inconsistent, as he was on Saturday.
Albion have also not had too much faith in their set piece game this season, but, to be fair, on Saturday it was good. They won most of their line-out ball, which has been a rarity this season, while they won a host of penalties at scrums.
That was what made the defeat harder to take, as with the amount of ball they had they should not have lost. But Albion, like in a number of games recently, lacked a cutting edge in the final third of the pitch to break through Moseley's line, even when the visitors were down to 14 men for 10 minutes.
It did not look like Albion would have any problem winning the game the way they came out in the opening minutes.
Keen to prove a point after a shocking display against Rotherham in their last home match, Albion took the game to Moseley.
Plymouth spent nearly the first six minutes inside Moseley's 22 but came away empty handed.
And Moseley, who defended well, nearly made them pay when number eight Ben Pienaar broke from the back of a scrum in his own 22 and with Simon Hunt and Sam Brown the visitors made 70 metres before messing up the final pass.
The deadlock was broken on 14 minutes when Albion won a penalty at a Moseley scrum and Roberts put it over to make it 3-0.
The visitors did equalise in the 26th minute when Hughes kicked a long-range penalty.
Albion came close to scoring a try in the 38th minute following a line-out. The home side pressed and pressed before Sam Hocking was held up over the line.
However, on this occasion Albion did not return empty handed from Moseley's 22 as the visitors were penalised at the resultant five-metre scrum and Roberts put over the simple kick on the stroke of half-time to make it 6-3 to his side.
Albion had chances to score after the break but again failed to take them.
Good work by Rupeni Nasiga, who put Rhodri McAtee clear, was wasted with the final pass.
Then on 51 minutes Albion charged down an attempted clearance by Brad Hunt. Moseley got back to ground the ball in the in-goal area, giving away the five-metre scrum, and Albion won a penalty at the set piece. The home side opted not to go for another scrum and gave Roberts the chance to increase their lead with a kick, but he missed it.
Albion then got a free-kick from another five-metre scrum minutes later. They opted to run it but wasted it, although Moseley did have lock Mike Powell sin-binned for a professional foul.
From the penalty, Albion went for a five-metre line, but lost it.
It appeared that whatever option Albion went for it was the wrong one.
Moseley actually played some of their best rugby of the afternoon when down to 14 men.
And when Powell did come back on it was as if they suddenly realised they could win.
Hughes missed a penalty on 71 minutes before he did pull his side level four minutes later.
Tom Bowen made a good break for Albion in the 78th minute which resulted in them winning a penalty, but Roberts missed the chance to put his side back in front.
And Moseley made him pay when they got a penalty following a great scrum, where they pushed Plymouth back a good five metres, in the fourth minute of injury-time. That proved to be the winning score after Albion wasted their late penalty.