The Winds Of Change…
The remains of Hurricane Brian did its best to disrupt free-flowing play in this spirited encounter. However there was plenty of tension, nay excitement and the result was never clear until the final moment, Albanians taking the honours five tries to two.
The visitors had first use of the substantial breeze but OAs struck first when Elliott Obatoyinbo broke through in the early minutes leaving a trail of confused defenders in his wake. Dan Watt’s brilliant conversion was a minor work of art kicked, as it was, into the gale.
Esher used the wind and their powerful pack to fight back into home territory allowing scrum half Tom Trotter, a trial to Albanians all afternoon, the opportunity to wriggle over for fly half Paul Roberts to even matters.
Nick Foster did some wriggling of his own back at the other end of the field only for the ball to slip from his grasp as he crossed the line. However he held on grimly when given a second chance moments later. The conversion attempt was blown wide.
Charlie Gossington’s unconverted try after sustained Esher pressure kept the visitors level and Roberts’ penalty took his side to the break three points ahead.
Thus far the visitors had proved solid in defence and forceful in attack but probably felt they hadn’t taken sufficient advantage from the elements even though occasional Albanian errors at lineout and in open play might have helped.
The OA tight scrum maintained its powerful presence throughout and defensive work was sound enough to deny Esher the crucial breakthrough they sought. Happily for the hosts the defence got better the longer the game lasted and this formed the basis of a successful second half.
Sadly Ben Cooper suffered a serious leg injury and the teams left the field while he was treated by medical teams from both clubs. We wish him well with his recovery.
Craig Dowsett’s speed gave back the lead to Albanians but they were just two points in front for much of the second period as Trotter and Roberts toiled hard with plenty of possession. But a break on the far right allowed Foster a sight of the corner flag and he needed no more urging for the bonus point try.
Then, as the referee looked to blow for the end of the contest, Morgan Thompson followed up a well judged kick ahead, beating a tiring defence to the posts. Watt’s conversion signalled OA celebrations.
Albanians visit neighbours Bishops Stortford next Saturday and our Herts rivals have proved themselves well worthy of promotion to this league beating, among others, Birmingham Moseley at the last time of asking. It will take the best of performances from Gavin Hogg’s men. Kickoff 15.00hrs.
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Could It Be The End Of The Beginning…?
It’s been a somewhat breathless start to the year for all sorts of reasons. As mentioned previously this was always going to be another year of consolidation and nothing in recent events has contrived to make the OA faithful believe any differently.
We were found wanting in intensity when faced with the best defence we have seen all year in the shape of Shanners’ Blackheath; yet it takes more than a little time for so many new combinations to work effectively and consistently and this is what management and squad are putting so much effort into right now.
This opening period was always going to be trying to say the least so we could have expected it not to go always in our favour. We can balance that against the positives. Our scrum (tight and loose) is staunch and improving; we have strong options at half back; we have speed and invention out wide.
There are those (including this correspondent!) who can point and say “our defence needs attention!” Of course it does! Every defence in the world, high up or low down, needs constant attention because that’s how things improve and that’s what’s being attended to by the coaching staff…constantly! So keep the faith! (especially this correspondent!)
Esher visit us on Saturday, a side with a proud history and plenty of worthwhile experience, including in The Championship. Three points above us in the rankings and two League places to the good they will be keen to explore the upper reaches of mid table at least and traditionally operate a fast attacking game plan. Not too many differences in relative philosophies then but, even though we labour the point, it will be the side which attends to detail which will prevail at the weekend.
Messrs Bond, Foster and Watt are back in contention for places this week and the forwards are looking strong as ever. So let’s raise a Churchillian cheer for intensity!
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|Old Albanian Sports Club, 160 Harpenden Rd, St Albans AL3 6BB, UK|