Bishop's Stortford off to a winning start in 82-point thriller at Plymouth Albion
Plymouth Albion 40 Bishop's Stortford 42 (National League 1)
Bishop's Stortford scored six tries as they came from 21-0 down to edge a thrilling contest at the death against Plymouth Albion in the opening game of their third campaign in National League 1.
It was also the Silver Leys club's first ever win at Brickfields at the third time of asking, following a 23-19 defeat last season and a 17-10 loss in 2017-18.
Stortford were second best in a first half which saw Andy Long's men make too many mistakes, but they were fortunate to be only two points down at the break as the two sides racked up 50 points.
The visitors were left reeling after conceding three converted tries in the first 17 minutes, but amazingly they scored three themselves in the next 17 minutes to restore parity at 21-21.
First, Aussie winger Rob Duff touched down under the posts after being fed by Will Roberts following a great burst by Charlie Kingham, then Roberts himself scored the second and Dan Elsom completed the comeback, recovering from a try-saving tackle by the Albion No 14 to smash over.
The hosts' forward superiority told as they regained the lead with a try but Plymouth fly half Dan Mugford missed the easiest of his four kicks.
There was time before the interval for Stortford to reduce the deficit as their No 10 Brad Burr – one of five players making their National League 1 debuts for the club – kicked a penalty awarded at a scrum to pull the score back to 26-24 to Albion at the break.
Within just a few minutes of the restart the visitors took the lead for the first time. A lovely little chip kick fed James Ayrton – playing at centre alongside his brother Mike on the wing – but the advance was stopped short by a knock-on. The resultant Plymouth scrum was turned over and Burr slotted a penalty to put Stortford 27-26 ahead.
Captain Sam Winter extended the lead to 32-26 with an unconverted try following a period of sustained pressure to ensure Stortford would take at least a bonus point from the game with their fourth try.
Plymouth regained the advantage with a converted try before Elsom, lurking out wide, dived over for his second try of the match. Burr's conversion attempt hit a post and Stortford led 37-33.
The match then entered a scrappy period and Plymouth piled on the pressure in search of a try. It eventually came after they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. They went for the scrum, from which the ball was moved quickly out wide right and they went over. The conversion was landed to put them 40-37 ahead with just minutes remaining.
But there was time for Roberts to sneak over the whitewash to give Stortford the lead for the third and final time at the end of a seesaw second half. Burr missed his third conversion of the half to leave the final score at 42-40.
After a 520-mile round trip to Devon for this season opener, Stortford will be looking to follow up their winning start in front of the Silver Leys home crowd against local rivals Cambridge, who lost 36-32 to newcomers Rams.
Bishop's Stortford: Hankin, Duff, Winter (c), J Ayrton, M Ayrton, Burr, Coleman; Roberts, Caulfield, Nel, Apperley, Lewis, Wilson, Elsom, Kingham. Replacements: King, Brownhill, Ball, Keen, Spivey.
Other Nat Lge 1 results: Sale FC 22 Cinderford 46; Birmingham Moseley 70, Hull Ionians 16; Blackheath 15 Chinnor 17; Cambridge 32 Rams 36; Canterbury 14 Old Elthamians 37; Darlington Mowden Park 37 Richmond 40; Rosslyn Park 38 Rotherham Titans 19.