Ealing triumph at Woollams

League leaders come from behind against OAs

National Two South

Old Albanians 19 Ealing 28

IT was a case of so close yet so far for Old Albanians as runaway leaders Ealing came from behind to deservedly take the points at Woollams.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for OAs who had engineered themselves into a promising position early on thanks to their excellent work rate but the pressure Ealing were able to build up either side of the break, combined with full-back Neil Hallett’s transformation from villain to hero, provided the visitors with the impetus they need to secure the points.

Still without the services of captain Lawrence White, Ben Patston and James Ellershaw, OAs made a blistering start to the match. The tone was set by a bone crunching turn over inside the first two minutes that provided OAs a platform on which to build and just 60 seconds later Richard Gregg pushed the home side in front with a successful long range penalty.

Ealing responded with a series of penalties, each time opting to kick to the corner, but OAs defended well to rebuff the challenge.

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The game’s major talking point was the 15th minute sin-binning of Ealing full-back Neil Hallett. A powerful burst through the middle by OAs’ powerhouse winger Chris May saw the Woollams Men’s leading scorer scythe through the visiting line. With just Hallett to beat and Terry Adams on his left May fed the ball to his wing-man Adams only for Hallett to stick out a paw and claw the ball away to deny an obvious try scoring moment.

Hallet was dispatched to the sin-bin for his indiscretion while Gregg dispatched the penalty to increase OAs’ lead.

The home side set about making their numerical advantage count and all looked rosy when they notched the afternoon’s first try. An Ealing lineout in their own 22 was stolen by OAs and after the ball passed through several pairs of hands Chris Lombaard was on hand to dive over unopposed under the posts giving Gregg an easy conversion.

The home side were clearly enjoying themselves and when they annihilated an Ealing scrum in the visitors’ 22 it looked like the leaders were crumbling. Had Andy Daish’s try, after the OAs’ pack had rumbled its way towards the try line, been given the outcome may have been different but referee Simon Harding decided the score wasn’t to his liking and awarded the visitors a penalty.

With Hallett restored Ealing set about clawing their way back into the contest.

They opened their account for the afternoon with a 30th minute score from Phil Chesters, the winger collecting a chip in the corner to gather for his 43rd try of the campaign. Hallett’s conversion attempt however was caught in the wind and dragged wide.

The visitors ramped up the pressure and were twice guilty of knocking on with the tryline under their noses. They also missed a further penalty on the stroke of half time when Hallett again saw his kick carried away by the wind.

It was Ealing, with the conditions closing in, who made the better start to the second half and they were right back in the contest when Ben Ward crossed the whitewash just four minutes into the second period. With Hallett notching the extras the visitors were within a point of their hosts.

Hallett thought he’d scored a try of his own five minutes later only to see it wiped out for a forward pass before OAs gave themselves a little breathing space with a further Gregg penalty.

Despite that score OAs were having trouble making any headway against a well organised Ealing side for whom flanker Neil Starling was in sparkling form. Two more Hallett penalties put the away side ahead for the first time and although Gregg kicked his fourth penalty of the afternoon it wasn’t enough to knock Ealing out of their stride.

The final say went to Hallett who was in the right place at the right time to collect a Starling pass on the wing before running in under the posts for a seven point score before adding a final penalty to rub salt in OAs’ wounds.

The Woollams Men make the long journey to Taunton this Saturday looking to end a run of three straight defeats and at the same time put a bit more of a gap between themselves and their Somerset hosts who sit a place behind them in sixth.

OAs: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Lincoln, Shanahan, Liebenberg, Cecere (Hughes), Cope, Brown, Comb �, Gillings, Cooper-Millar, Bache (Farenheim), Daish.