Bonus point eludes OAs in Clifton cliffhanger

OAs slip down to sixth despite victory

National League 2 South

Clifton 18 Old Albanians 30

FOR the last four of their five encounters OAs have failed to collect a bonus point and, as a result of only scoring three tries in this tense match in Bristol they fell one position in the table to sixth. This time last season OAs had more bonus points than any other side, but the spark seems to have gone out. Redruth, who visit Woollams next week, collected a bonus for a tight win against Taunton and nudged into fifth place despite having an inferior points difference by the small matter of 117.

A bonus for four tries is an obvious and laudable incentive, but it is difficult to understand why the second trigger, losing by less than eight points, should be rewarded. On the other hand a very good case in this day and age can be made for rewarding any away win of any stature with a gong of some dimension.

After a first half in which OAs had first use of a slight slope, the away side had garnered enough points when half-time was whistled at 10-23 to withstand Clifton’s downhill onslaught in the final 40 minutes. But the slope can be a great leveller as Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier made sure the job would be even harder when he cheekily kicked through after flanker, Rob Farenheim, had burgled a ball straight from the kick off. The compact and colourfully coiffed scrum-half chased his own kick and touched down with only two minutes played.

Richard Gregg converted to wrap up OAs’ contribution to the scoreboard for the half. He also slotted two more conversions and two penalties, which would have been three had one not nudged the post. Clifton’s kicker, fly-half, Gareth Knox, must be rueing the number of easy opportunities which he could have kicked – perhaps even to win the match – as ex-England hooker, Mark Reagan, of Clifton’s coaching team called for a scrum wherever possible.

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In fact Clifton seemed for much of the match to be regressing into a 10-man-rugby side, using endless scrums – at which they were highly effective – and pick-and-go close driving which is a fine tactic for an away side keeping the ball from quicker opposition, but possibly demonstrates why they hover one place above the drop zone.

That approach also suffers when facing joint men-of-the-match, Terry Adams in the backs and Farenheim in the forwards, the one pilfering ball and the other punching holes in hastily reorganised defences. What looked like a certain try for Adams in the eighth minute was hauled back for a knock-on.

The first score involved OAs’ hard running back five forwards as Lloyd Bickle ran from Clifton’s 35-metre mark, passed to Ollie Cooper-Millar who made more yardage before finding Paul Gustard close to the line. He slipped a pass to wing, James Speirs, to dot down.

Gregg completed and three minutes later kicked a penalty to make it 10-0. Clifton fought back and amongst a pile of bodies outside centre, James Golledge surfaced with a smile for Knox to convert.

Another Adams-Farenheim foray into the Clifton 22 brought a penalty for the ensuing ruck to Gregg, but the finest score was yet to come. The Clifton defence, again clustered around the 22-mark were resisting all OA attempts to ground a try and thought they had succeeded when the ball was whipped out to Gustard lurking on the 22. With coolness and aplomb he pivoted, looked around and dropped the simplest of goals to make the score 16-7 with seven minutes to half time.

If Clifton believed this was due reward for their defence of the slope, Ollie Marchon disabused them of that notion after he was fed a further piece of larceny from Farenheim and slipped past a disorganised defence to enrich the half time pickings with Gregg’s conversion.

Try as they might, Clifton were unable to make telling breaches in OAs’ defence, which was made worse when Charlie Hughes came on at prop and steadied the previously flexible OA scrum. Scrum-half, Mathew Britton, scored a try and Knox’ only successful kick of the half was a penalty right on 39 minutes; the one which, arguably, they should have run to make up the deficit.

OAs: Gregg, Marchon, Adams, Lombaard, Speirs, Shanahan, Bruzulier, Cecere, Cope, Ross, Bickle, Cooper-Millar, White �, Farenheim, Gustard

Reps: Botterman, Hughes, Micans, Rayner, May.