Derby win is a league topping Christmas present for Gladiators
OAs 3rd XV’s pace and power proved too much in the end for Verulamians 2nd XV as they wrapped up a competitive derby to top the league at the Christmas break.
Having lost the first league game to Verulamians despite dominating and leading at the break, and losing centre Luke Buthee for the season due to a break in his leg, OAs were in the mood to wreak revenge.
OA’s pack had corrected their set piece weaknesses seen in previous games with a reorganisation of the pack with lock Connor Mitchell retraining as hooker, Phil Brunt moving to prop and James Teixera joining Jonny Clavey in the second row. Along with the usual stalwarts, the Gladiators pack was excellent throughout the game at scrum and line outs, creating the attacking platform for the backs.
Once OA’s hands warmed up and handling errors were reduced OAs pack camped inside Verulamians twenty two for fifteen phases forcing four defensive penalties for ruck and scrum offences in the red zone. OAs eventually won a five metre scrum and No 8 Steve Maishman bossed his excellent pack over the line to pick and score. 5-0.
Having retained the restart kick OAs showed a lack of nouse throwing a loose pass in their own twenty-two that got smartly intercepted by Verulamian’s centre to score a converted try to lead the game 5-7.
From the restart Verulamians attacked with new vigour, OAs were on the backfoot, conceding gain lines on every phase, at one stage it looked like their openside had made the decisive break to score from fifteen metres out, however Saffer blindside Lloyd McConkey, not only choke-tackled his opposition flanker to prevent the offload but picked-his-pocket, ripping and running thirty metres on the wing to set-up the counter attack on halfway. The ball was flung quickly left to inside centre Niall, out to full back Jimmy McCormick who took the ball to the twenty-two, who offloaded back to the looping Niall who popped a sweet inside ball to Devon who tied the bow on the best score of the game. 10-7.
OAs should have scored another try soon after, Toby kicked neatly to touch from a penalty, Redders won the line out and the driving maul was set perfectly. It advanced twenty metres… closer and closer, masterfully bossed by Phil Brunt who had the ball at the back, he could see the tryline approaching, he could see his first ever OAs try after a decade at the club within his sights. He didn’t need to listen to his scrum half and captain shouting ‘drive! drive!’ he went over the white wash, down and scored! The only problem for Phil ‘Specsaver’ Brunt… he’d just crossed the five metre line, and clearly earned DotD instead of breaking his scoring cherry.
Verulamians shortly after got possession and created a good score themselves that was converted to make it 10-14. OAs were a bit confused at the score having played most of the rugby and dominated set pieces, but credit goes to a Verulamians side that defended strongly and counter attacked without error.
OAs eventually returned to the Verulamians twenty-two, setting up the attack from a scrum near the right touchline. Toby drifted and passed to Niall at inside centre who ran a looping line and popped an inside ball to Kieran McGowan on the switch from outside centre who crashed through at speed. 17-14, a great score just before half time.
Fifteen minutes into the second half and OAs had failed to convert possession into points, Verulamians countered and put pressure on OAs who conceded a close penalty for offside in midfield, they dispatched the kick and levelled the score 17-17 with fifteen minutes on the clock.
The backrow combination of Lyle, Maish and James ‘Redders’ Redfurn started to apply brutal pressure in the loose, Redders broke from the halfway into the Verulamians half, offloading to Illies Fortune who drew the two remaining defenders and offloaded to Jimmy McCormick to score in the right corner. 22-17.
OAs followed up this score with a Hadley Eames classic, carefully picking the ball from the ground with deft skill (ahem) he ran in completely the illogical direction looping from right to left into the area where all the defenders were, he dispatched three of them to the floor like rag dolls and stretched like Inspector Gadget through another tackle to score under the posts in an aggressive piece of play. Converted for a 29-17 lead.
Verulamians returned with a converted score themselves to make it 29-24. But this was an OAs side now used to closing out games, and with just four minutes left OAs won a penalty in front of the posts which Toby scored to put the match beyond Verulamians reach with an eight point lead.
In the last attack of the game Andy Doyle put Kieran McGowan clear on the left wing to steam in from thirty metres for the final score of the day and a well deserved 37-24 win in this Luke Buthee Tribute game. Get fit soon mate.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Lyle Stewart, for incredible tackles and breakdown work all day, and absolute menace.
1 Gyan Rhodes, 2 Connor Mitchell, 3 Phil Brunt, 4 Jonny Clavey, 5 James Teixeira, 6 Lloyd McConkey, 7 Lyle Stewart, 8 Steve Maishman (vc), 9 Rob Fenton (c) 10 Toby Daley, 11 Devon Graham, 12 Niall Keane, 13 Kieran McGowan, 14 Illies Fortune, 15 Jimmy McCormick
16 James Redfurn, 17 Tom Spratt, 18 Harry Knighton, 19 Hadley Eames, 20 Andy Doyle, 21 Alan Kirk, 22 Pip Kilborn, 23 Russell Atwood
Tries: Steve Maishman, Devon Graham, Kieran McGowan (2), Jimmy McCormick, Hadley Eames
Conversions: Toby Daley 2
Penalties: Toby Daley
James Teixiera, who’s leaving OAs Gladiators to move to Suffolk after playing excellently in the pack. Very best mate and hope we get to face you at Bury St Edmund’s or Bishops Stortford RFC.
|Old Albanian Sports Club, 160 Harpenden Rd, St Albans AL3 6BB, UK|