Plymouth Albion 18 Jersey 1721/02/2015
Jersey suffered a narrow defeat by just one point at the hands
of Plymouth Albion, their first defeat in four trips to
The Islanders produced a battling display but failures in execution meant that Albion were able to register a crucial win, earning four points to help in the battle against Championship relegation.
The home side took an early lead when a Jersey pass was intercepted by Sam Simmonds who fed Jack Arnott for a 40-metre run to the line.
Jersey's driving maul was a powerful weapon once again and enabled the visitors to draw level after 14 minutes, Ryan Hodson finishing off the move and Aaron Penberthy's conversion adding two more points.
The match was an attritional affair with a series of scrums usually ended by a blast from the whistle of referee Luke Pearce, while Jersey had the edge in the lineouts where the home side struggled to retain possession.
After 25 minutes Nick Campbell was sin-binned for Jersey for a 'clothes-line' tackle on scrum-half Josh Davies, and the home side took full advantage of the Scotsman's absence, kicking forward and then attacking with a maul. The ball came out and Rhys Oakley scuttled over. Declan Cusack missed what looked like a straightforward conversion, albeit into a stiff and icy wind.
Jersey could have reduced the lead, levelled the scores or even gone ahead by half-time. Several kickable penalties were worked to the corner but Hodson's effort to repeat his try was inches short and Plymouth weathered the siege.
Early in the second period Cusack landed a 45-metre penalty to extend his side's lead to 15-7, but Jersey were back in it on 48 minutes - another powerful maul and Samisoni Fisilau drove over at the back. Penberthy's conversion attempt was from the same spot as Cusack's earlier effort, with the same result - a miss.
Both sides attacked with real intent, but there were no further scores until Jersey went ahead with 15 minutes to go. Once again the forwards had a chance to set the platform from an amazing 40-metre maul, and then the ball was worked wide for Penberthy to crash over. Once again the Cornishman couldn't add the extras, this time from a difficult angle.
Jersey's two-point lead was the first time they'd been ahead, but it wasn't to last for long, with Cusack landing an identical penalty to his earlier effort. This set the stage for a nail-biting finale in which Jersey pressed forward and won several penalties; the last was 40 metres out but Penberthy found touch five metres from the line. All set for the winning score? Well maybe it was, but the throw was not straight and the hosts held on and celebrated wildly.
Jersey slipped from sixth to seventh after the weekend's game, Pirates moving above them. At the bottom, Albion moved onto 20 points and narrowed the gap to Doncaster and Moseley to five and three points respectively - all to play for.
While Jersey weren't lacking in desire and performed strongly in defence, Head Coach Harvey Biljon was struggling to explain his side's errors and the failure to turn periods of pressure into more than 17 points.
"It was very frustrating that we failed to manage the game as we set out,' he said. 'We knew we'd be turning round into the wind after half-time, but we didn't make the right adjustments for this and Plymouth played the conditions better than we did."
Biljon defended the decision to seek a try at the end of the first half rather than kick for goal. "We had already shown what we could do with our maul, and on another day it could have been a yellow card and a penalty try," he said. "Things may have gone our way in recent weeks, but that didn't happen today and we didn't help ourselves."
Tries: Arnott 5 Oakley 27
Conversion: Cusack 6
Penalties: Cusack 43, 71
Tries: Hodson 14, Fisilau 48, Penberthy 65
Conversion: Penberthy 14
Plymouth Albion (1-15): Tom Fidler, Tom Cowan-Dickie, Andy Tiedemann, Neale Patrick, Tom Hicks, Eoghan Grace, Sam Simmonds, Rhys Oakley, Josh Davies, Declan Cusack (capt), Josh Watkins, Toby Howley-Berridge, Ben Woods, Jack Arnott, Lawrence Rayner. Replacements: Ted Stagg for Cowan-Dickie 28, Ruari Cushion for Davies 59, Tom Jubb for Patrick 69, Jake Henry for Watkins 71. Not used: Tom Heard, Luke Chapman, Ali Bone.
Jersey (1-15): Ignacio Lancuba, Martin-Garcia-Veiga, Harry Williams, Nick Campbell (YC 25), Pierce Phillips, Alex Rae (capt), Ryan Hodson, Michael Noone, Sami Fisilau, Jonny Bentley, Mark McCrea, Lewis Robling, Drew Locke, Mark Foster, Aaron Penberthy. Replacements: Dave Markham for Phillips HT, Joe Buckle for Garcia-Veiga 51; Sam Lockwood for Lancuba 51. Not used: Danny Herriott, Gary Graham, Ryan Glynn, David Bishop.
Referee: Luke Pearce