Home delight for Old Albanian against Richmond
OLD Albanian racked up their first National League One victory of the season with a 32-25 victory over their fellow promoted club Richmond on Saturday.
The match at Woollams was almost a meeting of two different philosophies.
Richmond were determined to out-muscle their hosts with their powerful pack as Albanians sought to impose the well-tried lightning strike force in their back division.
These two sides know each other very well and both shared the honour of promotion this year into National One and this goes some way to explaining the intensity of this encounter, contested throughout in the best of sporting fashions. Four tries each rewarded titanic effort.
It took just two minutes for Richmond full back Tom Platt to find the mark with the penalty awarded against OAs near the 22.
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This was answered in the best of ways with Terry Adams’ clinical diagonal run to the visitor’s posts some two minutes later after a scrum deep in Richmond territory.
This attack was carried out so skilfully it seemed easy rather than the result of constant practice. Richard Gregg converted.
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Richmond again exerted great pressure in midfield and ran the ball into touch in the Albanian 22.
They went on to snaffle possession at the lineout and the mighty pack trundled over the line for Will Warden to touch down.
Even though Platt narrowly missed the conversion Richmond were back with a one point lead and the pushover try was to become something of a habit for the visiting forwards as the afternoon wore on.
The attritional game continued in midfield until, as the second quarter approached, James Shanahan led the attack to the left on the Richmond 22 and then quickly gave the shortest of switch passes to Brett McNamee.
He proved unstoppable but Gregg’s conversion attempt shaved the upright.
Five minutes later OAs had worked their way into another advantageous position in midfield.
Billy Johnson stormed for the posts somehow keeping his feet as defenders wilted around him.
Andrew Daish, backing up as ever, was on hand to take the scoring pass for the try of the day.
Gregg’s conversion put some daylight between the sides and the score at half time remained 19-8.
By this time Wes Cope had replaced the limping McNamee.
Four minutes into the second period Richmond’s forwards reasserted themselves with another 30 metre forward drive, Tim Walford awarded the touchdown.
Platt couldn’t convert but Gregg obliged with a penalty five minutes later.
In the heat mistakes were to be expected: Albanians by this time had spilled three lineouts but, not to be outdone, Richmond had put two restarts directly into touch.
Ten minutes of midfield exchanges and the visitors forward power told again as Dan Parkinson scored on the left and Platt brought his side to within two points.
A scant four minutes later they retook the lead for the first time in an hour when Warden was again driven over. Platt could not improve.
For the last 10 minutes new effort was provided by Rob Farenheim and Sam Collins on for Philips and May respectively.
Almost ironically a few minutes later it was the OA forwards who drove to their opponents line.
Stefan Liebenberg, a constant thorn in the visitors’ side, gratefully took the proffered ball, feinted left and darted over for his side’s bonus point.
Gregg’s kick made the lead four points, extended to seven moments later when man of the match Liebenberg, turned sharply in the 22 and popped over the neatest of dropped goals.
The journey to Fylde next Saturday is an intriguing prospect.
Another strong pack of forwards can be expected but the speed of Shanahan’s men around the park will make for a great contest.
Team: Gregg; May, Adams, Lombaard, Marchon; Shanahan (c), Liebenberg; Macdougal, McNamee, Cade, Bickle, Philips, Johnson, Cooper-Millar, Daish; Cope, Ormesher, Fahrenheim, Evans, Collins.