GALLERY: Top four finish OAs’ aim

Player/coach James Shanahan says fourth place is the aim

OLD ALBANIANS’ player/coach James Shanahan says the club should be looking for a top four finish to end their first season in National Two South.

OAs have made an impressive start to life at this higher level playing a brand of rugby that has excited both the players and fans alike, however three straight defeats in recent weeks means the hopes of a top three finish now look slim.

“I think the top three is out of it now as I think we’re too far away,” Shanahan told the Herts Advertiser following Saturday’s 28-19 defeat to league leaders Ealing.

“We need to finish fourth minimum, if we don’t finish fourth I’ll be really disappointed because the position we were in three weeks ago was a minimum of fourth spot.”

Shanahan was frustrated to see his side squander a 13-0 lead at Woollams on Saturday after an impressive start against the leaders.

OAs were good value for their lead courtesy of a brace of Richard Gregg penalties and a Chris Lombaard try but the home side’s failure to build on further pressure was punished by the visitors who came steaming back into the contest with a dominant second half display.

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“It’s the story of the season to be honest,” explained Shanahan.

“Last week it was exactly the same against Jersey, the week before the same against Richmond, pretty much all the games we’ve lost there’s been plenty of effort and played lots of good rugby but we haven’t taken our chances.

“Top three are clinical and patient and they take their chances. We’re disappointed with the game and the result.

“When we got to the position of 13-0 with them with a man in the sin-bin and a scrum five yards out from their line we should have been 20-0 up. I think if we’d done that we could have kicked on but second half we started woefully. The first 20 minutes we allowed them to come at us and unfortunately that gave them the momentum, the same as last week and the week before.

“We need to close games out; we are a new team so maybe we’re still learning from each other. Hopefully this time next year results will be coming our way.”

Despite the negative result on Saturday OAs continued to display the attractive rugby that has earned them a reputation as entertainers and Shanahan is delighted that both those playing and those on the terraces are enjoying the club’s attacking philosophy.

“Some of the rugby we’ve played has been sublime, even today,” he said.

“Some of the tries we’ve scored and what we can do is great. I’m enjoying the coaching the boys are enjoying playing and we’re playing a great brand of rugby.

“There’s probably only Ealing and ourselves who try to play this way otherwise I think it’s quite a negative league.

“Maybe at times we’re a bit too attack minded and need to be a bit more conservative but we’ve been pleasing people with how we’re playing, the players are happy and I’m happy so we’ll look to continue that.”

Director of rugby Bruce Millar and his coaching team will now turn their attentions to this Saturday’s trip to sixth placed Taunton keen to end their winless sequence.

Victory in Somerset will help put a bit more daylight between OAs and their hosts and Shanahan says he won’t be happy with anything less than a win.

He said: “It’ll be a tough game they’re just a place behind us and they’ve got some good players with a lot of experience.

“We put a big score on them up here, 50-odd points, so I think they’ll be biting at the bit to have a crack at us and obviously we’ve lost the last three, yes against the top three, but we need to turn things around. We need to win and anything less will be massively disappointing.”

n Old Albanians will play host to the Herts Festival on Sunday, March 27.

Nineteen clubs and 2000 players will descend on the club to take part in the competition spanning the U9-U12s age groups with games getting underway from 10am. The event is expected to run until mid-afternoon.