Gallery: In-form Adams scores hat-trick
National Three London & SE Old Albanian 55 North Walsham 0 MUCH of the credit for OA s success this season has rightly gone to their pack of forwards, widely regarded as the best around at this level. As you would expect, skipper Laurence White and his se
National Three London & SE
Old Albanian 55 North Walsham 0
MUCH of the credit for OA's success this season has rightly gone to their pack of forwards, widely regarded as the best around at this level.
As you would expect, skipper Laurence White and his seven cohorts had a significant impact on another big win in their formidable campaign for the promotion play offs, as North Walsham Vikings made the long and unproductive trip to Woollams.
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On Saturday, it was OA's backs, however, who stepped out of the shadow of their bulkier colleagues to steal the limelight with a dazzling display of handling and ruthless finishing.
All nine tries, including a second half hat-trick from the club's top scorer Terry Adams, came courtesy of a backline which reflected an exciting injection of new blood.
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Centre James Shanahan, wing Johannes Lombaard and scrum-half Stefanes Liebenberg all recently parted company with National One side Cambridge after distinguished service at Grantchester Road and have signed for The Woollams' Men in what could prove to be a decisive boost to their target of promotion.
The amiable Shanahan, who started his career at North Walsham, brings with him an enormous amount of experience, latterly as director of rugby at Cambridge, and an impressive scoring record like that of Lombaard who underlined his own credentials as a top marksman with a brace of tries in this, his full debut.
Lombaard opened the scoring under the posts after OA's had been surprised by a blistering start from the Vikings, where the second row partnership of Leon Davies and Tom Coller were setting up a string of dangerous assaults on the home line. OA's were forced out of their comfort zone to mount a rearguard action which just succeeded in their being able to keep a clean sheet.
OA's began to look threatening on the counterattack where Simon Lincoln had quickly tuned into the style of the debutants, with whom he played alongside at Cambridge until the start of this season.
Lincoln started the move which Chris May finished in the corner for OA's second try after 16 minutes before the visitors demonstrated their own ability to attack from deep without actually being able to cross the line.
OA's secured a handsome looking half time lead after Richard Gregg spun his way round two tackles, and converted his own try and then Lombaard produced a great finish, fielding the ball 25 metres out and evading the group of defenders between him and the corner.
The Vikings went close to opening their account from the restart.
Riding their luck as the match official missed a forward looking pass; the player in possession moved the ball right when a pass in the other direction would have given his side a clear overlap close to OA's line.
The Woollams Men were poised to punish this error but Adams failed to gather Shanahan's clever pass as the crowd enjoyed a period of end to end action.
There was no mistake, however, when the two men next combined and Shanahan set up Adams for a run under the posts with the deftest of touches. The big man gave way for Liebenberg having done enough to excite the Woollams faithful with the prospect of a blossoming new partnership in the centre of the highest calibre.
Matt Alford replaced White who was carrying a knock and Peter Nelson joined Tarwera and Gelman in a front row that continued to deliver the goods.
OA's backs were beginning to express themselves until a nasty looking injury to Chris May halted play for several minutes, the action having to be transferred to an outside pitch whilst the extent of the young winger's neck injury was properly assessed.
To the relief of all an x-ray revealed no serious damage but, even so, May is likely to sit out the next clutch of important games where his rampaging running and an eye for an opening will be sadly missed. He has received many good wishes for a swift return to action and an enquiry from North Walsham on Sunday as to his condition will be particularly appreciated.
When play resumed more gaps began to appear in the hard pressed visitor's defence and OA's back line fashioned a grandstand finish with four tries in the last 15 minutes, two apiece for Adams and Lincoln. Richard Gregg converted twice and rued his luck as his last effort struck an upright.
This Saturday OA make the trip to struggling Portsmouth. With their strength in depth and awesome finishing prowess from any position on the field they will be desperate to put behind them a run of disappointing performances in recent seasons at Pompey's HQ, close to the sea.
The next home action is Basingstoke's visit to Woollams on Saturday, March 13, KO 3pm.
OA: Lincoln, May, Adams, Shanahan, Lombaard, Gregg, Evans, Gelman, Botterman, Tarwera, Comb, Lye, Bache, White (C), Hamilton. Reps: Nelson, Alford, Liebenberg.