Plymouth Albion 38 Pertemps Bees 29

By Nigel Walrond

at Brickfields

Pertemp Bees produced an amazing second-half fight-back but it was not enough to prevent them slipping to their first away National Division One defeat of the season.

For the opening ten minutes of the first half and 25 minutes of the second period they were by far the better side at Brickfields.

But it is what occurred in between those two passages of play that will cause coach Steve Williams the greatest concern.

They shipped 31 points in only half an hour before the break as title favourites Albion made the most of the strong wind behind their backs and found gaping holes in the Bees' defence. It left the Midlanders with too big a mountain to climb.

The Bees came storming out of the blocks at the start of the game and set up camp in the Albion 22 but excellent defence kept them out. When they did get a chance to score, fly-half Jon Higgins inexplicably missed a simple 20-metre penalty.

Higgins' afternoon got worse when his long missed-pass aimed for winger Brodie Henderson was intercepted by home full-back Wihan Neethling who ran 90 metres to score under the posts and add the conversion - 7-0.

The South African grabbed his second try two minutes later after Albion broke from midfield although it looked at one stage as though Henderson's superb tackle on centre Regardt Van Eyk had saved the day.

Neethling added the extras and a penalty six minutes later to put Albion 17-0 ahead after only 18 minutes.

Higgins booted over a 22-metre penalty in the 20th minute to register Bees' first points but the remainder of the half was all Albion, despite a yellow card for hooker Richard Oxley for illegal use of the boot.

Former Coventry lock Ben Gulliver finished off a trademark Albion driving maul and then, in first-half injury time, Van Eyk crossed under the posts after the Bees had done well to stop another forward drive from reaching the try-line.

Neethling converted both to put Albion 31-3 up at the break and it appeared the game was over.

But Bees were having none of it and the introduction of half-backs Mike Baxter and Rod Petty and lock Mark Gabey at half time, and front-row forwards Matt Long and Matt Miles soon after, made a huge difference.

A ided by Albion's ill-discipline that resulted in centre Keni Fisilau (high tackle) and Neethling (professional foul) being yellow-carded, Bees scored two quick tries, through Henderson and flanker Leopold Halavatau, after good work by the pack, with Petty converting both - 31-17.

When Gabey was driven over in the 60th minute after a five-metre line-out, Albion were stung into action and spent ten minutes pounding away at the Bees' line only to be denied by superb defence.

But just as it appeared the danger for Bees had passed, Petty's clearance kick was charged down by Fisilau.

Neethling converted the try to put Albion 16 points ahead with only four minutes remaining. bees' riposte was instant as miles galloped over to earn them a well-deserved bonus point.petty's conversion closed the gap to nine points but time ran out for the visitors.