Barnes see off OAs
London One Barnes 22 Old Albanians 14 BARNES set the pace throughout this close encounter but were never able to relax as a combative OAs side fought on until the final whistle. Playing the fast, attacking rugby that has kept them breathing down the necks
Old Albanians 14
BARNES set the pace throughout this close encounter but were never able to relax as a combative OAs side fought on until the final whistle.
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Playing the fast, attacking rugby that has kept them breathing down the necks of league leaders Shelford, Barnes twice saw useful looking leads dismantled by the Woollams Men who displayed a welcome resilience which had been lacking in recent away performances.
An experimental line up, forced upon coach Bruce Millar by a long injury list, had Rusty Osman returning for his first full senior game in over a year at outside centre, whilst the versatile Chris May assumed the responsibilities of full back. After a run of gruelling performances, Arthur Mate was rested and Alex Bennett moved into the second row whilst youngsters Matt Alford and Dan Henderson were selected to play on the flanks in front of the experienced Paul Gustard at the back of the scrum.
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Barnes threatened to blitz their opponents in the opening exchanges, stretching OAs' defence with fast attacks across the whole of the back line and were 12 points up after 20 minutes, with two tries from centre Adrian Penzhorn.
OAs replied when Richard Gregg set up a Dene Miller try with a grubber kick behind the defence which he then converted from a difficult angle. OAs had weathered the opening storm and were down to 14 at the time, with Gustard the recipient of a yellow card.
OAs, to their credit, finished the half on top and had two opportunities to take the lead. The first came after Henderson had fed Mark Mansfield from a Barnes line out that had misfired, and the second when Gregg was apprehended just short. The forwards then forced another penalty 35 metres out which, on a normal day, would have been a formality for the out of sorts Gregg.
Barnes once again started the stronger and wasted no time in extending their lead to a 15-point advantage within five minutes of the restart. A speculative clearance landed right in the corner and when OAs had appeared to repel the wave of attacks which followed the line out, they lost their own scrum. Jonnie Fennell punished the error with a try converted by Gower. The Barnes winger followed this up with a penalty.
Gustard kept his team in the game, preventing the Barnes flanker from grounding from a very promising position and with the disappointment still smarting, Gregg was on hand to pounce on a home knock on to go over and successfully make it a seven-pointer.
Alford and Henderson were matching the workrate of their opposite numbers and each spearheaded attacks which gifted good field position to their backs. Regretably much of the hard-won possession was kicked away, when patiently following the phases might have set up the elusive opportunity for a breakthrough.
OAs' best chance to break the stalemate presented itself with six minutes left on the clock. The home defence conceded a penalty in a central position on their 22 and OAs surprisingly rejected the option to press home their momentum in favour of what appeared to be an easy three points. A tremendous finale to what had been a superb contest was on the cards but, to the widespread relief of the home camp, Gregg's limp effort failed to clear the bar and Barnes closed ranks to hold out for a victory.
This Saturday sees the return of North Walsham to Woollams, this time in the last ever Intermediate Cup, a competition which will be scrapped in the RFU's overhaul of leagues and cup competitions announced this week. Kick off is 3pm.
OAs: Chris May, Dene Miller, Russell Osman, Tryfan Edwards, Mark Mansfield, Richard Gregg, Oliver Peck, Adam Gelman (Andy Pearson 65), Gregg Botterman, Nathan Byrne, Alex Bennett, James Kriukelis, Dan Henderson, Matt Alford, Paul Gustard. Unused Subs: Luke Kenny, James Coles.