FOR the second time this season Plymouth Albion ran in six tries against struggling Scottish side Stirling in the British & Irish Cup.
Albion had won 38-12 in Scotland in October and they improved on that score slightly at Brickfields on Friday night to keep alive their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the competition.
Ben Woods scored twice for Albion, who were 27-3 up at half-time, with Rhys Oakley, Toby Howley-Berridge, Harrison Tovey and Pale Nonu adding their other tries.
Although it was a good win, Albion will be a bit disappointed they did not build on a dominant first half where they ran in four tries.
And the match ended on a low for them with flanker Rob Langley getting sent off in injury-time for a dangerous tackle.
Irish referee Stuart Gaffiken certainly had a busy night, showing four yellow cards and a red.
Albion may be struggling in the league with only three wins all season and not a single one at home, but they have had no problems claiming victories in the cup.
Friday night’s success was their fourth in five games in the cross-border competition and it means they will go into the final weekend of group matches top of their pool and within touching distance of a quarter-final spot.
However, Munster A, the only team to beat Plymouth in the cup this season, remain right on their tails having claimed a bonus point win over Nottingham on Friday night.
Only the top club in each of the six pools are guaranteed to progress to the last-eight, although there are two best runners-up spots available.
But Albion will not want to risk the lottery of trying to secure a best runners-up place, so they will need to claim a good victory at Nottingham next Saturday, with Munster taking on Stirling in their final pool game.
The Scottish sides are really struggling in this year’s British & Irish Cup.
All four clubs from north of the border sit bottom of their pools and went into this weekend’s games with just one win between them.
And it never looked like Stirling, who are facing a relegation battle in the Scottish Premiership, would claim their first cup win on Friday night, even though they did take the lead in the seventh minute.
Albion, who had boosted their crowd by inviting a host of school children to the game, had dominated the opening minutes but a penalty at a scrum gave the visitors the chance to get into the home side’s half.
And on their first foray into Plymouth territory, Stirling were awarded another penalty that fly-half Brian Archibald put over.
But from the restart Albion equalised.
Stirling had a kick charged down and Albion were awarded a penalty that Declan Cusack kicked to make it 3-3 before the game became one-way traffic.
Albion looked far too strong for the part-timers up front and they proved that for their first try after winning a five-metre scrum following a kick forward by Nonu.
The home side pushed Stirling back before being awarded two more penalties on the line. On each occasion Albion opted for scrums.
The scrums kept going down and eventually Irish referee lost his patience and sin-binned Albion’s David Morton and Stirling’s Kris Burney.
The reduction in players worked in Albion’s favour, with the hosts scoring two quick-fire tries.
The first came from the five-metre scrum with number eight Oakley touching down at the base after another good push.
Howley-Berridge then went over in the left corner after good pressure from a line-out.
Stirling were really hanging on, like a boxer who knew as soon as he had entered the ring that he was out of his depth.
The visitors did manage to last another 10 minutes before having flanker Will Bordill sin-binned after another penalty at a five-metre scrum.
Albion were held up over the line from that set-piece but, with the extra man, it was only a matter of time before they got their third try.
It eventually came in the 36th minute when, after good team play, the ball found its way to Woods, who was totally unmarked on the right wing, allowing him a simple try.
And with nearly the last move of the half, Tovey added a fourth try under the posts after Sean-Michael Stephen had put him in.
Cusack, who had only converted one of the first three tries, did add the extras this time to make the half-time score 27-3.
Fair play to Stirling, though, after a torrid first half, where had it been a boxing match it would have been stopped, they came out for the second period a lot better and put Albion under pressure as the rain came down.
Stirling had a good spell and were camped on Albion’s line but could not force their way over.
The visitors actually dominated the opening 20 minutes of the second period and on 61 minutes Albion had replacement hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie sin-binned.
But while a man down, Albion scored their first points of the half with Woods scoring another try in the right corner. The score came after Stirling had dropped the ball in their own 22 and Albion picked up and went wide quickly.
Dan Mugford, a replacement, converted to make it 34-3.
That was a bit tough on Stirling, who had shown plenty of spirit, but none of the home crowd were complaining.
And Albion added a sixth try in the 73rd minute through Nonu after the home side pushed Stirling off a scrum.
But the night ended in disappointment for the hosts, who had flanker Langley red carded four minutes into injury-time for a tackle the referee deemed dangerous.
Albion: Chris Elder, Ben Woods, Toby Howley-Berridge, Pale Nonu, Jamie Davies (Matt Shields 18-29), Declan Cusack (Dan Mugford 55), Ruairi Cushion (Cameron Setter 55), Tom Harrison (Martin Rice 46-51), Gareth Evans (Tom Cowan-Dickie 51), David Morton (Martin Rice 51), Harrison Tovey, Dan Williams, Sean-Michael Stephen, Rob Langley, Rhys Oakley (capt, Gareth Evans 64-73, Ien Ascroft-Leigh 73).
Stirling: Craig Robertson, Graham Lindsay (Jamie Bhatti 18-29), Richie Vernon, Jack Urquhart (Archie Russell 63), Rory Hughes, Bryan Archibald, Sean Kennedy (Andy Watt 80+4), Kris Burney (Jamie Bhatti 51), Reyner Kennedy, Garry Mountford (Ross Murray 76), Craig Deacons, Evan Dewar, Struan Robertson (Shaun McDonald 58), Will Bordill (Angus Leishman 80+5), Jamie Swanson.
Scorers: Albion: Tries: Woods 2, Oakley, Tovey; Howley-Berridge, Cons: Cusack 2; Mugford Pen: Cusack
Stirling: Pen: Archibald
Referee: Stuart Gaffiken (Ireland)
Cards: Albion: Yellow: Morton, Cowan-Dickie; Red: Langley
Stirling: Yellow: Burney, Bordill