Albanians will perhaps have bitter-sweet memories of this encounter but will certainly be happy to take the losing bonus point which keeps them in ninth position in National One. Mistakes were few this time out and thus second placed Plymouth were pushed to the limit and came close to defeat in a bruising affair.
To come this close to beating a consistently strong outfit like Albion will be an occasion of pride for those involved but head coach James Shanahan, though pleased with the sterling effort, was somewhat frustrated in his match summation.
“It is always a matter of detail”, he said “and we gave them a soft try which proved the difference between us. Having said that, if we perform like that every week we have little to fear in this league.”
As expected, the visitors fielded a mighty pack which set about the battering work with a will. Yet they got little change from motivated Albanian forwards whose tackling and ball retention was a delight to the purist eye.
Shanners declared himself happy with the scrummaging effort for the most part and the lineout was far more dependable than of late. Both points are especially encouraging bearing in mind the personnel changes which have to be allowed for most weeks. Possession gained at the “coal face” will stand OAs in good stead in the contests to come.
It took ten minutes for Albion to open their account with a Will Hooley penalty. Ben Palmer evened things up shortly after and the game see-sawed mostly in midfield. The full back gave his side the lead with his second attempt on the half hour which advantage obtained up to the restart.
Dean Squire, a live wire in Plymouth’s centre, squirmed into the corner for the first try of the afternoon and Hooley converted expertly. The hour mark had passed when Nick Foster, for the second week in succession, stole away from a threatening situation and easily outpaced a startled defence. Palmer’s conversion again equalised.
Ten nail-biting minutes remained but it was the other Plymouth centre Harry Strong who broke the deadlock and OA resistance with a storming try which Hooley was just unable to improve. The Devon men left with a close win and four league points, Albanians’ singleton scant reward for effort expended.
Darlington Mowden Park are next Saturday’s visitors and they have been in good form recently following a somewhat shaky start. OAs will want to reverse the 9-22 scoreline of last September. Kickoff 1500hrs.