Fortress Woollams repels Crusaders

Another bonus point win for OAs

National League 2 South

Old Albanians 31 Dings Crusaders 12

DINGS Crusaders came up from Bristol looking to avenge a last minute breakaway score which condemned them to a narrow loss in the corresponding fixture last October, but went away empty handed in a robust and entertaining contest.

OAs strengthened their record at Woollams with a hard-earned win and fifteenth bonus point of the season for scoring four tries. As a result OAs rise to fourth in the table as Southend lost at Taunton.

Although a physical match it was far from dirty, but this did not stop referee Rob Warburton distributing four yellow cards in a 12 minute spell either side of half time, only one of which was for foul play by Dings and the rest technical offences by OAs. It came at a time when the visitors were trying to impose themselves on the match and only vigorous, bodies-on-the-line defence kept the Woollams fortress intact.

The game started briskly for OAs with full-back, Richard Gregg, slotting two penalties in the first nine minutes assisted by a chilly, swirling north-westerly wind. He improved winger Chris May’s first try in the 16th minute and kicked a further penalty before half time; thereafter he was defeated by the wind in each instance. It was all going OAs’ way five minutes later when fly-half Ben Patston took a ball from loose play and after a surge upfield was stopped but contrived to punt from 30 metres out from Dings’ line into the corner where both May and Teshun Edwards grappled for the scoring honours which went eventually to Edwards.

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A full 25 minutes had passed before Dings made any serious inroads into OAs’ half and in a pink away strip that was more Stade Francais than Ashton Gate, they began to cause unforeseen problems. Patston, who otherwise had an inventive game, repulsed these forays with huge, screwed upfield clearance kicks from OAs’ 22 metre area. This had the disadvantage of familiarising Dings’ threequarters with the ball – a commodity which had been rare up to that time – and with both time and space they began to feel comfortable with ball in hand. Their forwards took their cue and life on the OAs’ line in defence became grim, leading to a try for Dings flanker Sean Williams from a rolling maul.

The home side’s defence was sorely tested and, although Williams saw yellow first for over-enthusiastic footwork, OAs’ hooker, Wes Cope, joined him for the technical offence of not rolling away. Half time came with a scoreline of 21-5 and with just three minutes on the second half clock, May scored his second try after scrum-half Stefan Liebenberg took a quick penalty on Dings’ 22 metre line and set him up with a timely pass.

This has the effect of reawakening Dings and the forward pressure was exerted again resulting in further yellows for Edwards and prop Alex Brown. Three times Dings took penalties as scrums camped on OAs’ five metre line, the last resulting in Brown’s card; but, over-eager to score, they grubbered a ball too far forward and OAs were able to pick up and clear. Wretchedly, the ball was kicked to touch and the resulting lineout saw Dings No.8 Gavin Curry surge through tired OAs hands to score under the posts which scrum-half Steven Plummer converted. A number of commentators have written in the national press about the problems at scrum time and Warburton’s attempts to set them and the resulting twisting and spinning mayhem fully justified all the criticism.

Reverting to their handling game, OAs snuffed out Dings’ fire and in the final quarter it was No.8, Swedish International Andy Daish, who caught the eye with one dash upfield from halfway, only to run out of support as he was tackled just short of the line. Finally, sub Jack Micans and inside centre Chris Lombaard, combined to put Daish away in the corner after Lombaard and Terry Adams had knifed up the left wing bringing the ball virtually the length of the field.

That sealed the bonus point, match and double over Dings for OAs, but they face a tricky trip to the Thames next Saturday to face a Henley side smarting from a 50-point defeat at Woollams earlier in the season and who yesterday held Jersey to just a three point margin of victory away on the island.

OAs: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Edwards, Patston, Liebenberg, Laws, Cope, Brown, Comb, Gillings, White, Bache, Daish. Reps: James, Cecere, Micans, Lincoln, Bickle.

*Dings could not raise a second team so OAs Seconds had to rest on their unbeaten laurels. Saffron Walden came to Woollams to play OA Thirds and went back up the M11 62 points the worse without reply. Both the Fourths and Fifths had away games with the Fourth shading Old Grammarians 14-20, whilst the Fifths travelled all the way to Cotlandswick and returned triumphant at 10-22.*