Fightback falls short in Devon

Briers - try-scorer for Fylde
Briers - try-scorer for Fylde

Fylde 31, Plymouth Albion 24

A brave Fylde display away from the Woodlands resulted in another defeat, their third in four National One games this season.

Fylde pushed Plymouth Albion right down to the wire, despite having to chase the game for long periods.

Fylde were in the lead for seven minutes early in the game but trailed 23-10 at half-time.

A massive second-half effort saw them close within two points only for Devon side to score what proved the winning try in the 68th minute.

Fylde again closed to within seven points but couldn’t force another score as their worrying start to the season continued, despite positives from the performance.

Albion took the lead after seven minutes, when fly-half Marc Kotceczky sneaked in for the opening try after good work down the right by scrum-half Cam Setter and winger Ethan Ford.

Full-back Tom Putt, who had earlier missed a penalty, converted to make it 7-0.

Fylde worked their way into the game and started to pressurise the home defence, earning an 11th-minute penalty which Chris Johnson converted to reduce the deficit.

Albion boss Graham Dawe had described Fylde as the ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ of the National League and their attacking style was rewarded on 15 minutes, when sustained pressure inside the home 22 ended with centre Ralph Dowds going through a gap for a neat try. Johnson’s goal gave Fylde a 10-7 lead.

Minutes later, a second Fylde try was disallowed for a forward pass, then a shocked Plymouth side roared back.

Full-back Tom Putt kicked a penalty in the 22nd minute to level the scores, then five minutes later flanker Nile Dacres finished off a move down the right by forcing his way over for a try.

Fylde were struggling at the scrummages and referee Shane Lewis was quick to punish them on numerous occasions.

Despite Albion losing lock Dan Collier to the sin bin in the 32nd minute, Fylde couldn’t take advantage and Putt punished their mistakes with two more penalties to extend the lead to 23-10 at the interval.

Fylde were much improved in the second half and fought back. Four minutes in they turned over an Albion attack, forced their way downfield and lock Nick Gray plunged over for a try on only his second senior appearance. Johnson converted to cut the gap to 23-17.

Putt was replaced at full-back by Billy Searle and he quickly made an impact by converting another penalty to extend Albion’s lead.

But Fylde weren’t ready to throw in the towel as they went down to the other end immediately and skipper Chris Briers forced his way over for his side’s third try. Johnson made the conversion and there were just a couple of points in it at 26-24.

Fylde were winning key midfield battles going into the final quarter and were moving the ball across Albion’s line regularly.

But they couldn’t score and the final minutes were dominated by Albion as they camped inside Fylde’s 22.

Fylde defended bravely, but with number eight Dave Fairbrother in the sin-bin their resistance was broken and his opposite number Herbie Stupple forced his way over for the conclusive try, though the conversion was missed.

There was still time for Fylde to launch a long-range break-out but the ball was turned over and the referee blew the final whistle.

With three tries each, penalties made the difference as Fylde had to settle for a losing bonus point.

Head coach Paul Arnold was unable to make the trip due to RFU commitments in Bury and so backs coach Warren Spragg took charge of the side.

He said: “It was a long and challenging trip. Not the result we wanted but we are moving in the right direction.”

The home game against Hull Ionians on Saturday now takes on massive importance.