Canterbury can’t Cope with Wurzel

OAs bag another bonus point

National League 2 South

Canterbury 8 Old Albanians 45

THE Men of Kent were soundly beaten by a committed, patient and hard-tackling OAs’ side who amassed seven tries to one allowing them to journey home through the Dartford Tunnel with five points on the coach; four for the win and a bonus point for four tries.

OAs remain fifth in the league as the higher teams all won, but pull six points ahead of nearest rivals, Taunton, who lost at Ealing. The honour of highest number of bonus points in the league belongs to director of rugby, Bruce Millar’s, side with 14, two more than either Ealing, Jersey or Southend and Richmond (10).

Starring for 60 minutes until substituted for Dylan Grey, hooker Wes ‘Wurzel’ Cope was everywhere. A tackle? Wurzel cut the man down. A burst through crowded traffic? Wurzel making 20, sometimes 30 metres through Canterbury players. Doing the simple things well? Wurzel again, with well-directed lineout throws and deft footwork in the scrums. How does he do it? Simply: commitment. Cope still lives in Spalding, Lincolnshire, and commutes three times a week to St Albans to train and play at Woollams.

Apart from asking how an urbane sophisticate from Spalding earned the name ‘Wurzel’, the coaching staff of Canterbury could pose a few questions of themselves. OAs have now done the double over them this season and in both instances Canterbury have looked far from undernourished in the pack. Firstly, with such a weight advantage how and why did they give away three penalties for dropping the scrum under pressure and more for dropping the shoulder to twist? Secondly, where were their back row when their three quarters were over-committed?

Most Read

OAs’ pack was boosted by the return of Tom Gillings, but they lost No.8, Ollie Cooper-Millar, after 25 minutes with a bruised hip, replaced by skipper, Lawrence White after a 10 week lay-off, and lock Marc Comb just before half-time with a dead leg. So with a depleted back five, who must be the lightest in the League, the third question for their opponents must be how they failed to take advantage in the second half? Following Cope’s replacement, Gillings took over as the side’s inspiration and continually robbed the blowing Canterbury jumpers of line-out ball.

However, the afternoon started on a sombre note with a minute’s silence to respect the passing of Canterbury’s Fijian-born player, Joe Vatabua of the Argylls, killed serving in Afghanistan on New Year’s Day.

His club scored first with a penalty by fly-half, Tom Best, using the considerable gale which blew with his side in the first half. After just eight minutes, OAs bounced back with the first of two tries for outside centre, Terry Adams, as he was put into space by a long pass from fly-half, Ben Patston. It took a further 20 minutes for Adams to touch down again after Chris Lombaard passed to him unmarked and 25 metres from the Canterbury line.

With only four minutes to half time, the kick-off went awry for OAs and Best sold three dummies out on the left wing to eventually dive over for Canterbury’s only try. This went unconverted by the scorer, there were no further penalty kicks scored and, for OAs, Richard Gregg converted Adams’ first try and four others with the wind in the second half.

The second half started with the relatively modest scoreline of 8-12, but it only took three minutes for Gillings to dot down in the right hand corner of this sloping but well-kept pitch.

Debutant winger, Tesh Edwards, took the honour of scoring OAs’ fourth bonus point try finishing off a movement which went smoothly between three pairs of hands before his run in. Adams, Jamie Bache and Jack Micans, take a bow.

A lineout following a penalty on Canterbury’s 22 metre line led to the next score, with Gillings slapping down to Stefan Liebenberg, on to Patston who lobbed a long pass to Chris May on the wing to score in the corner. The sixth try owed everything to a pick up by Lloyd Bickle, replacing Comb, five metres out from Canterbury’s line and 15 metres in from touch, which was passed to White and on to the irrepressible Gillings for a second in the corner.

It’s impossible to keep Lombaard off the score sheet for long and he obliged with OAs’ seventh try two minutes from full time as the by now desperate Canterbury defence failed to stop his pick up of a long kick out of OAs 22 metre line by Patston and run in to score. A more rigorous examination is expected next week at Woollams when amid the calm and tranquillity that is the Ladies’ Lunch, OAs face Dings Crusaders from Bristol. Kick off 3pm.

OAs: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Edwards, Patston, Liebenberg, Laws, Cope, Brown, Comb, Gillings, Bache, Micans, Cooper-Millar.

Reps: Gray, Cecere, Bickle, Evans, White.

* OA Seconds kept their 100 per cent record well above water with their 35-20 win at Barnes, the Thirds went to Newmarket and demolished their development side 74-0 and the fifth team entertained South Oxhey at Woollams and shaded a feisty match 33-23 in the final minutes. A mismatch for the fourth team who went to Stevenage and lost 40-3 to their third team.