Improvements Gather Pace …
Albanians’ somewhat slow start to this new season was given a sizeable fillip with this timely victory over table-topping Darlington Mowden Park.
Head Coach Gavin Hogg has promised incremental improvements in performance and he will not be disappointed with the all round activity displayed by his men. Some strength in depth was also on display as OAs welcomed back Ross Hamilton from injury and Nick Foster (from New Zealand). Billy Walker and Danny Cutmore also appeared on rotation and each put in a sterling shift.
Yet drama there was aplenty and the large family crowd were treated to an exciting match where once more the lead changed hands several times in short order.
The first quarter saw A’s take a confident thirteen point lead. A great break in midfield gave Tom Bednall the space to round a stretched defence on the right and touch down by the posts. Dan Watt, who enjoyed a hundred per cent kicking day and fifteen points, took the simple conversion and proceeded with two well taken penalties.
Score wise the runup to half time belonged to the visitors. Fly half Brett Connon started with two penalties of his own before Greg White fell foul of the referee and departed for a ten minute rest. DMP scored an unanswered twelve points in his absence when Adam Radwan and Brandon Asher-Wood both crossed the whitewash, Connon improving Radwan’s effort. The interval thus saw the North Easterners with a five point advantage.
White returned to the fray and his side regained a measure of control. Scrum and lineout worked well all game and the backline attacked effectively. So it was no surprise when Reuben Bird-Tulloch’s superb floated pass gave Bednall his second opportunity. Watt’s conversion restored the Albanian lead only for Connon to wrest it back again with a three pointer. Watt then swapped penalties with Connon before the match entered its nerve jangling final stage.
Seventy six minutes gone and Bird-Tulloch seemed to have put the result beyond doubt, barrelling through two despairing tackles to the posts. Watt again improved but was yellow carded shortly after for a technical offense.
Down again to fourteen men DMP pressure forced a scrum close to the OA line. Simon Uzokwe notched the inevitable touchdown for Connon to give the league leaders a one point lead. Albanian forwards surged upfield in added time and put sufficient pressure on tiring opponents to force a penalty thirty three metres out, left of the sticks.
Two try hero Bednall took Watt’s place before the tee and, to the relief of spectators collectively holding their breath, drilled the ball through the posts.
Squad morale will have been lifted by this win, all the more so since not even the most myopic of supporters could call the performance faultless. So the management can cheer the team by pointing out that even though they bested the league leaders, they will still get better. This couldn’t come at a more opportune time since rampant Blackheath await next week. Their demolition of Moseley in Birmingham will have sent shockwaves through a league now producing excellent fare.
Kickoff 15.00hrs. at Well Hall.
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The Northmen Are Coming…!
So far it’s been a curate’s egg sort of season; good in parts!
There have been many challenges to face in this early part of the League campaign but nobody ever thought this year was going to be easy for Albanians. Consolidation is the watchword for the second time in as many seasons and that always brings penalties as well as rewards.
Reminding ourselves of the problems to be faced, probably consistency, or rather a lack of it, will be uppermost in the minds of the coaching team. No squad member is short on motivation and none lacks the ability to perform to a high standard on the field; so how may we explain the fact that playing affairs are not always satisfactory?
It may well be as simple as the fact that so many of the playing/coaching membership are still getting to know one another, are still developing battle hardness. Mistakes and a certain lack of attention to detail will always occur in these circumstances. We can all take solace in the positive things which have been achieved to date.
After a fiery baptism a short month ago there has been a creditable recovery. We ended four points adrift of a powerful Ampthill and just two short of a remarkable result against the might of Coventry. Even in last week’s reverse we scored three fine tries.
On the technical side our tight game has certainly been consistent and scrum and lineout have fared well. Our speed to the breakdown has been good, if not overpowering, and our broken play has posed threats from all over the field. Our defence is mostly solid but, as demonstrated by Rosslyn Park and Moseley, can be brittle at times.
All of the above are known factors so all, good or ill, can be worked on and improved and that is the stated intention of Gavin Hogg, our Coaching Chief.
He and his charges get the toughest opportunity to prove those intentions when leaders Darlington Mowden Park roll into town this weekend. They have a 100% record so far and they will probably regard the four tries to one besting of Moseley as their tour de force. We know they recruited well in the close season and are ambitious enough to ride their luck all the way to the Championship.
It remains to be seen if a dent can be put in their armour!
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