PLYMOUTH Albion made a winning start to the 2012/13 Championship season by overcoming Doncaster Knights in a tense match at Brickfields.
Tries by Sam Hocking and new signings Tom Bowen and Brett Beukeboom had put Albion 27-14 up after 45 minutes but they had to survive a few nervous moments to hang on and continue their good opening day league record.
Albion have now only lost once in the last 12 years on the first day of the season.
Plymouth handed full debuts to four summer signings – wingers Rhodri McAtee and Bowen, dual-registered prop Lloyd Fairbrother and lock Beukeboom.
Fellow summer signings Harrison Tovey, Rupeni Nasiga and Jamie Salter were on the bench.
Doncaster named seven new faces in their starting line-up, but there was no place for any of their former Albion players, although Adam Kettle was among the replacements.
Albion made a great start and took the lead with a try in the fourth minute.
They could have opened the scoring a minute earlier when captain Sean-Michael Stephen brilliantly turned Doncaster over and put Paul Rowley away. Albion’s scrum-half kicked into space and Bowen nearly got to it to score.
However, a Donny player got back to kick the ball into touch before Bowen could pick it up.
But Albion scored from the resultant line-out with Sam Hocking going over from a good catch-and-drive move. Paul Roberts added the conversion.
Donny, though, cut the gap to four points when Jamie Lennard kicked a penalty from inside his own half on 10th minutes.
Slade missed one on the left for Albion before Donny took the lead with a piece of brilliance from their full-back Michael Keating.
Keating collected a high ball in his own half under pressure and then slipped away from two Albion tackles. He then put a cleaver chip over the rest of Albion’s defence before collecting it to score on the right.
Lennard could not add the conversion but Donny were 8-7 up.
Albion should have gone straight back in front when they were awarded a penalty 24 metres out almost in front of the posts, but surprisingly Roberts missed it.
And Donny went 11-7 up when Lennard kicked another penalty at the other end following a rash tackle by Beukeboom, who got a lecture from referee David Rose.
But then the Knight’s own indiscipline cost them. Rhys Buckley gave away a silly penalty for retaliating and Albion went for the five-metre line-out.
Albion had two attempts but the home side lost the ball right on the line. However, Donny did not clear their line well enough they kicked straight to former Knight Bevon Armitage before the ball found Herbie Stupple.
Stupple broke through Donny’s line and put Bowen away to score a debut try behind the posts. Roberts converted to make it 14-11 and he also added a penalty three minutes later to put Albion six points ahead.
However, from the restart Albion gave away a penalty that Lennard put over to make the half-time score 17-14.
Albion won the game with the opening five minutes of the second half.
First Roberts kicked a penalty from the restart and then Beukeboom scored a great team try. Fellow Canadian Stephen stole a Donny line-out. The ball went out to Herbie Stupple who broke down the wing, he fed Paul Rowley, who in turn put Beukeboom in to score.
Roberts converted to make it 27-14.
It looked like Albion had the game won but they had to survive some nervous moments.
Lennard pulled his side to within 10 points with a penalty before ex-Albion player Kettle scored a try from a maul 12 minutes from time.
Donny went looking for the try that could earn them a draw or a win, but it would not come, much to Albion’s relief.
ALBION: Henry Slade, Rhodri McAtee, Paul Bailey, Bevon Armitage, Tom Bowen, Paul Roberts, Paul Rowley, David Morton, Jon Vickers, Lloyd Fairbrother, Sean-Michael Stephen, Brett Beukeboom, Herbie Stupple, Sam Hocking, Aaron Carpenter (capt). Reps: Ruairi Cushion, Jack Arnott, Lewis Warner, Jack Andrew, James Salter, Rupeni Nasiga, Harrison Tovey.
DONCASTER: Michael Keating, Doug Flockhart, James Tincknell, Tom Luke, Ed Mama, Jamie Lennard, Chris Hallam, Tom Davies, Rhys Buckley, Brian McGovern, Royce Cadman, Dom Parsons, Matt Challinor (capt), Jethro Rawling, Sam Pailor. Reps: Jeremiah Cronin, Andrew Boyde, Phil Hoy, Ben Sowery, Louis Silver, William Simpson, Adam Kettle.
REFEREE: David Rose (RFU)
See Monday's edition of The Herald for full report and pictures.