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Albion battle hard to edge a tight contest

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 24, 2012

Plymouth Albion's Sam Hocking touches down for his first try during the 24-22 victory over Moseley at Billesley Common Picture: Steve Bond/Pinnacle

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Plymouth Albion fans are unlikely to have any finger nails left after the first month of the season – but they won't care with their team sitting third in the table with three wins out of four to their name.

Every one of Albion's matches so far this season has gone down to the final seconds.

Albion have won by five points, one point and two points, with their only defeat being by two points.

Ironically, Albion's best performance – and the only time in the past three weeks they have out-scored a team on tries – came at the Cornish Pirates, their only defeat of the season.

But after a couple of years of almost always losing tight games, Albion will be delighted to have come out on the right side in three-quarters of their matches this term.

They did have to really scrap for Saturday's four points at Moseley – where Albion lost three times last season.

Moseley, as you would expect from a home side, did have more possession and territory but they were unable to turn it into points.

Albion did not have as many spells in Moseley's 22 as the home side did in Plymouth's but Nat Saumi's side were more clinical than their hosts, who saw full-back Ollie Thomas waste a gilt-edged try-scoring chance and miss with a penalty and a conversion.

With only the bottom team going down this year, Albion already have a three-game cushion over newly-promoted Jersey. And crucially Albion have an away win in the bag, which they did not manage in their 11 regular league matches last term.

Albion did go behind early on at Moseley. They were turned over at a line-out – again a weakness for Albion on Saturday – and Moseley pressed.

It looked like the home side had wasted the chance with a misplaced pass, but England Sevens player Simon Hunt picked up the loose ball and scored a great off-the-cuff try.

He saw Albion had no one back and cleverly chipped the ball over a load of bodies and ran around them to dive on the ball and score near the posts. Thomas converted.

Albion had lost two line-outs in the first 15 minutes but they got their set-piece working to score their first try.

After Moseley had been penalised Albion went for the corner and from a good catch-and-drive move Sam Hocking managed to get the ball down.

That was Hocking's fourth try in four league games.

He has still got a bit to go to match fellow back-row forward Dan Ward-Smith who scored in nine consecutive league games – a club record – but he is certainly proving to be the club's danger man this season.

Fly-half Paul Roberts, who seems to have really found his goal-kicking form after a shaky pre-season and opening two league games, added the conversion to level the scores.

But Moseley, who had claimed their first win of the season the previous week, went back in front almost immediately when Thomas kicked a penalty.

Moseley had a good spell after that and probably felt they deserved to go in at the break in front.

But Albion had other ideas and they took advantage of another Moseley penalty to go for a catch-and-drive move.

Although Albion lost the line-out, the ball was knocked on by Moseley and the visitors got a scrum which they took advantage of by pressing before going wide and there was the man-of-the-moment Hocking to get the ball down again.

Roberts again converted to make it 14-10.

Moseley should probably have scored a try in first-half injury-time from a line-out.

But Albion stopped them illegally and the home side opted to go for goal and Thomas missed the kick.

Albion started the second half well and had some pressure in Moseley's 22 which resulted in the home side having centre Charles Hayter sin-binned for blocking Toby Howley-Berridge off the ball.

From the penalty Roberts went for goal and made no mistake to make it 17-10.

That was how the game stayed until the 69th minute – but how it did was a mystery to all inside Billesley Common. Moseley had a really good 20-minute spell.

Even with a man fewer, they pressed and pressed Albion's line but the visitors held firm.

Moseley did get penalty after penalty and eventually referee Ian Tempest sin-binned Albion lock Brett Beukeboom for a professional foul as the home side tried to drive over.

Eventually, Moseley, after not getting any joy from close range, went wide and had a three-man overlap but fortunately for Albion, Thomas dropped the ball with the try-line at his mercy.

That was a let off for Albion, but Moseley's pressure told when Craig Voisey got the ball down from another good Moseley drive.

The home side had tried to pass the ball in the first half, but late on in the second they really started using their forwards to good effect.

Fortunately for Albion Thomas missed the conversion from Voisey's try, meaning Moseley trailed by two points. It looked like the game was all done and dusted when in the 80th minute Albion ran back a poor Moseley kick with Jack Arnott and the impressive Sean-Michael Stephen making good ground before the ball came out to Paul Bailey, who burst down the right before running in under the posts.

Roberts added the conversion to put Albion 24-15 up.

But, due to lots of injuries and a few flare-ups, there was plenty of added-on time and Moseley gave themselves half a chance of stealing the victory when they earned themselves a penalty try with another good drive four minutes after Bailey's score. It came after Albion's Howley-Berridge had been sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.

The referee decided there was still time left for one more play, even though the large Albion following were willing him to blow his whistle. But Moseley did not have enough time left to snatch victory.

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