Hit-man May steals the show at Dings
Late try ensures OAs take the points
National Two South
Dings Crusaders 20 Old Albanians 24
Hit-man Chris May ran in a try from 80 metres to snatch a deserved win for OA’s with less than five minutes left of this pulsating contest.
Home fans in this hotbed of West Country rugby were already counting down the clock when OA’s winger, with a try already under his belt, intercepted an attempted pass close to his own line and headed for glory.
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This was a cruel blow to the home faithful who had seen their side just regain the lead, their cause assisted by OA’s being two men down for a five minute period having collected yellow cards.
For the very small minority of spectators, either in the neutral camp or blessed with nerves of steel, there was on offer great value in the form of a marvellous display of committed rugby in which two evenly matched sides took every opportunity to run the ball. For the respective sets of committed supporters, however, this was an emotional roller coaster ride as each team eagerly took its turn to seize the initiative and put the opposition under the cosh.
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May’s late strike meant that Dings would have needed more than a penalty to prevail and with OA’s then restored to full complement. The Woollams Men were in no mood to let slip their fourth victory out of a possible five in their new surroundings of National 2.
In a frenetic first half the home side, playing both the pitch’s slope and following wind to good effect had built up a lead at 12-3, through tries from full back Neil Dipple and the combative Steve Plummer. Mitch Burton converted the latter, his earlier effort having bounced back from a post.
Sensing that the final outcome would be close, OA’s raised the intensity level and were rewarded with a crucial score just before the break when May finished a marauding move down the right. Richard Gregg who was a late replacement for Simon Lincoln at full back, added the points with a fine, angled effort having been on target with a more straight forward penalty on the half hour.
The mercurial Pierre Tucker on the left wing was prominent for Dings together with fellow 18-year-old, No.8, Buster Lawrence, son of the England pace-man Syd Lawrence who was there in the crowd.
OA’s edged the third quarter as the pack won more than their fair share of ball and the centre partnership of Terry Adams and Chris Lombaard continued their strong and direct running.
A forward pass well spotted by the referee had prevented them going over virtually from the restart and, then, with the benefit of hindsight, the industrious Stefanes Liebenberg must have regretted his decision to tap a penalty which came to nothing when Gregg must surely have added another three points had he been given the opportunity to kick.
Dings elected to take ‘route one’ in their response and looked odds on to score until Adams somehow managed to dispossess the attacker as he dived under the posts – a crucial piece of intervention given the scares about to befall his team.
Adams influential, all round performance was underlined in leading OA’s next attack from which Marco Cecere, deservedly claimed his first league try, stretching to find the line and setting up Gregg for another conversion.
Things began to look good for The Woollams Men, leading 17-12, and revealing early signs of superior stamina before the wheels appeared to come off.
Tom Gillings, who had replaced Marc Comb just before Cecere’s score, became involved in a fracas for which he alone saw yellow. From the resulting penalty Burton narrowed the deficit. With Gillings precluded from the action for another five minutes, Paul Gustard was next into the bin after handling when in an offside position during a dangerous home attack.
Dings coolly exploited their superiority in numbers and Sam Caven finished a sharp move along the line, though top marks go to OAs’ depleted defence who forced the winger into the corner, thus contributing to the unsuccessful conversion attempt.
Giving away a good three stones in weight, Mark Evans marked his arrival with a massive hit on the opposing hooker and when Gillings returned, the Bristolian side were forced to defend another attack in a central position.
Typical of this red-blooded contest, however, the home side pressed forward, attempting to kill the game with a score in the corner, but the final pass popped up to May who took a split second, as if to check his good fortune, before turning on the gas. Gregg added the points and the squad and supporters headed for the M4 duly satisfied with having inflicted a rare home defeat.
The physios’ tables at Woollmas are sure to be fully occupied this week as a number of first choice players attempt to ward off an outbreak of hamstring problems in time to face close rivals Henley Hawks next Saturday ko 3pm, Woollams.
On the positive side prop Tom Laws came through a second half at Bristol unscathed and Andrew Daish looks set to return from long term injury in the near future.
OA: Gregg, Edwards, Adams, Lombaard, May, Shanahan, Liebenberg, Cooper-Millar, Micans, Gustard, Alford, Comb, Hughes, James, Cecere.
Reps: Cope, Laws, Gillings, Evans, Lincoln.