Local Derby not a close enough match for OAs
St Albans RFC’s line out and rolling maul won out in the end against a Gladiators team who defended well for over sixty minutes with a player down.
Whilst injuries to Gladiators players had an effect on the result of this game, the teamwork, work rate and discipline of the Gladiators team made this an impressive performance against a strong and organised St Albans pack. At the start of a long season, the nature of a losing performance can be worth more than a win sometimes.
The Gladiators put together a new starting line-up after last week’s win, ten of the players who beat Chess Valley were unavailable. Connor Mitchell retrained as Hooker and Alan Kirk played prop with a rib injury to create the front row.
It was great to see Pip Kilborn and James Redfern return to senior rugby, and also welcome Jack Mulburn and Alex Neville from the Grizzlies.
St Albans RFC won the kick off electing to receive. From the off it was clear St Albans would rely on their powerful pack. The won an early scrum, and then used their strongest weapon – their rolling maul to score their first try. 5-0.
After this score OAs had an unlucky ten minutes, losing hooker Connor Mitchell to a bad knee injury whilst making a characteristic big hit, losing lock Alex Neville to a damaged rib and conceding another try that was converted. 12-0.
OAs reshuffled the squad playing Lloyd McConkey at Hooker, Prince Ndhlovu off the bench to wing, and played without one flanker for the remaining 65 minutes of the match against St Alban’s fifteen.
From an attacking line out in OAs twenty two, St Albans scored and converted another try making the score 19-0.
After the restart Toby cleared with great distance putting OAs deep into St Alban’s territory. Tom Spratt and Redders disrupted their line out to win a scrum. After the second phase from the scrum the ball was passed to Toby who dummied inside to Niall, broke the gain line drawing in 10 and 12, before popping over the top to Niall who ran a close-line to then dart around the full-back to get OAs on the scoreboard. Toby converted giving a halftime score of 19-7.
Dominant in line outs, and with the wind in the second half St Albans played smart rugby using the boot, and putting OAs under huge pressure with their line outs and driving mauls. With this dominance OAs hardly touched the ball in the second half defending for most of the game and conceding territory. It was a credit to the fourteen men on the pitch that in the second half the Gladiators only conceded two tries to this strong St Albans pack.
With line outs not an option, when OAs did get the ball they played out of defence using the strength of Redders and Niall to gain yards, and the pace of Fernando, Pip and Prince to cause St Albans backline loads of issues.
OAs scored a conciliation second half try with Toby and Niall spreading the ball quickly for Prince to beat his man, draw the full back over the halfway and offload over the top to Fernando who ran in 40 metres to score a great counter attacking try that was converted by Toby. 33-14.
The Gladiators congratulate a strong St Albans side on victory, but take confidence from the performance and the prospect of a full strength squad with replacements for the return fixture at Woolhams later in the year.
1 Gyan Rhodes. 2 Connor Mitchell 3 Alan Kirk. 4 James Redfern. 5 Alex Neville. 6 Jack Milburn. 7 Lyle Stewart. 8 Tom Spratt. 9 Rob Fenton (c). 10 Toby Daley. 11 Jeff Ninalga. 12 Niall Keane. 13 Pip Kilborn. 14 Lloyd McConkey. 15 Tanyaradzwa Fernando.
16. Prince Ndhlovu (12 minutes; Connor Mitchell)
Tries: Niall Keane, Tanyaradzwa Fernando.
Conversions: Tob Daley x2
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