Halfway through the season – have OAs done enough?

Old Albanians’ press officer Nick Hallett gives his thoughts on the club’s progress during the first half of the National Two South season

IT’S NO fun for any rugby player, official or supporter to look out of the window on a Saturday afternoon and gaze upon a thick blanket of snow, with more forecast.

Last weekend OAs should have been playing away at Shelford (south of Cambridge if you think it’s by the seaside) in a match which marks the turning point of the season in National League 2 South.

As from this weekend OAs revisit the other 15 clubs in the league for their return fixture; before the advent of leagues the return game was, well, next season.

Before Saturday’s postponement, the previous freeze claimed the fixtures at Westcombe Park and a game at home to old rivals Jersey. Although there are some blank dates on Six Nations Saturdays in February and March, there will be three extra games including Shelford to be fitted into a short four months. April, for example, has five Saturdays including a late Easter all of which are already solid with fixtures. Anyone for the Hertfordshire President’s Cup?

Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on the next two Saturdays; hopefully the snow and ice will have departed by Saturday, January 8, when OAs entertain Worthing.

So after the euphoria of promotion, will the bookmakers’ favourites to go straight back down again be around next season? Standing at present at sixth in the League, the temptation has to be resisted to sound off like the British sporting press did after the second test win in the Ashes series. Australia? Ha!

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At sixth in the League, OAs have won eight games and lost five, accruing a total to date of 44 points.

One above them is Taunton, who have won 10 and only lost three with 47 points. How can this be? The answer lies in bonus points where OAs have succeeded in collecting 12, only matched by fourth-placed Southend.

Taunton have but seven to their name so far.

Leading the table are Ealing Trailfinders with 12 wins, one draw and one defeat, yielding a total of 60 points.

Jersey and Richmond are second and third respectively, both having won 11 and lost three.

A monumental task awaits OAs in the second half of the season to overtake any of the five clubs mentioned above.

But life at the bottom of the League is not a breeze. Three of the 16 clubs face relegation under the current rules and Westcombe Park are currently best placed with 13 points, but they have four matches to rearrange once the snow melts.

Below them are Hinckley, against whom OAs only scraped a win in their visit to Leicestershire earlier in the season; they have only won one game out of 13.

Languishing at the bottom of the pile are Newbury who are still searching for their first win of the season. For the record, their points differential stands at a carefree -723.

Chasing OAs are three clubs on 42, 37 and 35 points, namely Henley, Dings Crusaders and Worthing and of the three, Dings have played one more game.

All three teams must think they have everything to gain if their results improve.

To return to the original question it is unlikely that OAs will be relegated and, conceivably, with Ealing, Jersey and Southend still to visit Woollams there is a chance that they might improve upon sixth place.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for OA Saints who possibly gained promotion one season too soon. They have not yet won a game in their first half of the season.

An injury to England Squad member, Sarah McKenna, has not helped their cause.

However, with the exception of one horror, the margins of defeat in most instances have been kept to a minimum by good teamwork and powerful tackling.

Of the other OAs mens teams, the seconds remain on a roll which started at the beginning of the season against Nuneaton.

It’s only within the last couple of weeks that the thirds, fourth and fifth teams have sustained losses, none of them serious or embarrassing.

To return once more to the original question, the definitive answer has to be that it is OAs’ strength in depth that will ensure they remain in National League 2 South for this season and perhaps many others to come.