Daylight for OAs at the top of the table after tough Redingensians win

Harry Bate goes over for the first of his two tries. Picture: NEIL BALDWIN PHOTOGRAPHY

Harry Bate goes over for the first of his two tries. Picture: NEIL BALDWIN PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

Two tries by Harry Bate helped Old Albanian Rugby Club to another five point success – with results elsewhere meaning the Woollams-based club are now clear at the top of the National League Two South.

Bate’s scores in the 31-21 win at Redingensians were complemented by efforts from Karl Garside, Ollie Cooper-Millar and Matt Gallagher, who also landed three conversions.

And with Cambridge going down to a 29-12 defeat at home to Bishop’s Stortford, OAs now find themselves five points clear at the top of the table.

Coach James Shanahan pronounced himself very happy with the first outing of 2016.

“This is an important month for us”, he said. “We face Southend and Bury in the next two weeks, then Cambridge and Stortford after that.

“Stortford gave Cambridge something to consider today and we find ourselves in top spot.

“If we do well for the rest of the month, we will be in a strong position for the remainder of the season.”

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The game itself was played in atrocious weather, so the fact that a hugely entertaining match resulted is a testament to the skill and fitness of both squads.

In the end Albanians had a little more in the tank than the Rams, in particular when it came to the dour business of defence.

Mention should be made of the Albanian lineout which was as near perfect as made no difference.

Garside opened the OA account three minutes but the Rams struck back immediately when Steve Bryant kicked on for Luke Flower to improve.

George Drury gave the hosts the lead two minutes later before Gallagher narrowed the gap to two.

Bate then took a hand. His first saw him implacably saunter sixty metres to the line before crossing for his second three minutes later.

Cooper-Millar latched onto the end of a forward drive which started fully thirty metres out before James Baker grabbed a late consolation for the hosts.

The build-up to the table topping clash with Cambridge two weeks hence was given extra spice with Stortford’s victory and the Hertfordshire rivals will be relishing the visit of Albanians the week after.

Attention to detail and top quality discipline will be needed if Billy Johnson’s men are to emerge from what will be a true test.

In the meantime A’s will welcome Southend to Woollams next Saturday hoping to do better than the draw achieved in September. Kick-off is 3pm.