RAMS RFC came from behind to snatch a thrilling National One against Plymouth Albion which Seb Reynolds lauded as ‘the best atmosphere ever’.
Having fallen 10-0 behind to an early Sam Daly try and five points from Tom Putt’s boot, the hosts took advantage of yellow cards to Hallam Chapman and Archie Hill to get on the board with the final play of the first half – James McRae burrowing over for Fraser Honey to convert.
Ellis Jones went under the posts at the end of the third quarter, Honey on target, but Albion – who defended manfully for large swathes of the contest – clinically went straight down the other end for Daly and Putt to combine for 17-14.
Axel Kalling-Smith crossed to put Rams back in front, but almost immediately Putt landed a penalty.
However, with most of a crowd of 993 – which made the noise of many more – urging the hosts forward, Honey landed the decisive blow with a minute remaining.
“I must start with the atmosphere, what the supporters created was probably the best we’ve had at Old Bath Road,” said Reynolds.
“We’ve had some special days here and hopefully there are more to come, but it was amazing.
“There might have been a few extra people coming down because of other games being called off and both sets of players put on a show for everyone.
“It was a nail-biter, a little error-strewn at times, physical, abrasive, fast and I’m just pleased we came out on top.”
He continued: “I’m pleased for this next group of players coming through, there’s a few boys who haven’t experienced anything like that. They began to feel what it’s like to really have the crowd behind them and hopefully we can keep building something.
“Fraser at the end showed balls of steel to budge the penalty over, but it was also important to see the game out with some calm because we’d been under pressure from the kick-offs.
“It was good to gather one and see out 60 seconds, with young Ollie Monye and the rest, very impressive.”
Despite dominating possession and territory – Rams spending probably 75 per cent of the game in the Albion half and much of that in the 22 – their opponents produced a heroic effort and the Director of Rugby said: “Plymouth’s goal-line defence was superb, and we looked more dangerous
outside their 22 where we made line breaks.
“They’re physical, big lads, and when you got them on their line, they were very hard to break down.
“So, while we were building pressure, it wasn’t paying dividends – and then when we did get a try, we released the pressure by immediately conceding.
“But we were calm. It was frustrating, and a lot of teams might have wobbled, but you could see our guys didn’t and the win came in the end.
“They have a trust in each other and despite the errors, I never felt them getting frustrated or that it was slipping away from us.
“We could have been a bit more comfortable and taken the game away from them, but it’s credit to Plymouth that they hung in.
“We were ahead on the penalty count, they had the yellow cards and yet they stayed in the game until the final seconds.”
The victory was made more impressive by the late changes Rams were forced into, Colin Thomson and Mike Hoyt ruled out in the morning leading to Ross Crame stepping into the second row and Vince Everitt at open-side.
Crame – who made an outstanding start – was then forced off after 15 minutes leading to another reshuffle which saw McRae into the engine room and hooker Calum Scott playing an hour on the flank.
Reynolds said: “There was some disruption, but you know the players coming in are brilliant. Vinny and Ben (Atkins) were over the ball for the crucial penalty, and I credit Vinny because he’s been patient the last few weeks and his attitude has been outstanding.
“Suddenly the opportunity came, and he was very good, and Calum as well. Playing out of position in the back row, he was very physical, a powerful young man and coming back from injury – to do 60 minutes in a high-octane National One fixture and stand out, I’m chuffed for him.”
On the opposite flank for Albion was their star man Daly, who became pantomime villain in clubhouse corner by winding up the crowd following a scrum penalty for Albion in the closing stages.
Admitting he ‘loved’ the interaction, the DoR said: “He’s an outstanding back row and we couldn’t contain him in our 22 – we went a little high on him and he broke through twice to get the points.
“Him engaging the crowd is fantastic and what you want – the players should feel part of something, and this kind of atmosphere comes when you have promotion and relegation. It’s as simple as that.”
By Richard Ashton