Jersey boys pip OAs in photo finish
Late try hands visitors the victory
National Two South
Old Albanians 19 Jersey 20
JERSEY closed out a tight contest with a try from close range in the 72nd minute in a pulsating game which OAs allowed to slip from their grasp.
The Woollams Men outscored their visitors, three tries to two and, for long periods, held the advantage in territory and possession. In the face of this onslaught, Jersey stuck to their tight game plan, retained their composure and found the necessary resilience to keep within striking distance of their more adventurous hosts.
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In-form Jersey arrived at Woollams having recently beaten both Richmond and Ealing and with the distinction of having put 17 unanswered points on the league leaders in West London a week earlier.
Their confidence grew when, having survived a string of attacks they went ahead with a try from Tommy Turner who, with seven minutes on the clock, slipped between two defenders to score under the posts. The young fly half, son of Welsh international Paul Turner, himself a Woollams hero, must enjoy visiting home as his last minute penalty in the corresponding game last season won the game, and similarly left OA’s with one solitary bonus point to show for all their efforts.
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OAs were quick to hit back, levelling the score as prop Marco Cecere was last to rise from a pile of bodies on the try line and Richard Gregg converted confidently. The visitors were then down to 14 when prop Jon Brennan found himself offside once too often for the referee’s liking.
The Woollams Men pressed home their advantage and James Shanahan, deputising for playmaker Ben Patston, injured in training on Thursday, instigated their next score. OA’s player/head coach, who had not previously started a match all year clearly relished the opportunity to combine both his duties on the field of play and hooked up with Chris Lombaard to feed Andrew Daish, who cut inside to give Gregg the opportunity of another successful conversion.
This was a smart effort from No.8, Daish who has brought a new mobility and opportunism to OA’s back row. Daish, whose collection of Swedish caps is steadily growing, once again proved a real handful for his markers and recorded another outstanding performance.
Chris May went close from a Simon Lincoln pass and the half was played out largely in opposition territory without Jersey’s defence ever being overstretched as OAs went into the break with a 14-7 advantage.
The Islanders were quickly into their stride at the restart and their pack, now restored to a full complement began to apply pressure at the scrum. Three penalties followed, two of which were nailed by Jersey born, full-back Michael Le Bourgeois pulling his side to within just one point of OAs, his third attempt from half way falling short despite a strengthening breeze at his back.
OAs continued to run the ball from deep positions switching their emphasis of attack from one wing to the other whilst Jersey rarely chose to widen their play and risk losing their grip of the tight, midfield encounters. To the delight of the home fans who are relishing this season’s style of play, The Woollams Men increased their slender lead on the hour when top scorer Chris May notched his 17th try of the campaign and the young winger now proudly sits fourth amongst the top marksmen in the League. May was set up on this occasion with a neat inside pass from the wily Shanahan and still had a lot to do before grounding in the corner. Shortly after the failed conversion attempt, skipper Laurence White limped off with a calf injury which puts into doubt his availability for Ealing next week.
OAs continued to take the game to Jersey who were relying heavily on their experience and application to keep them in the game and when a frenzied wave of OAs’ attacks imploded with a knock on, the wind propelled a clearance kick some 70 metres into their own 22. Opportunity lost!
There followed a sustained period of pressure from Jersey and, after having several thrusts thwarted the visitors finally made the line as No. 8, Nick Trower burrowed his way to glory with just eight minutes remaining. Le Bourgeois easily added the points which saw his side nose ahead then missed a straight forward penalty which left the account at 19-20 and made for a breathtaking finish.
OAs fought back and an injection of patience at this stage in the form of coolly executed phases would surely have produced an opportunity to kick for three points.
This was not the case, however and to their credit Jersey closed up shop to head for Gatwick with relief on their faces and the league leaders still clearly in their sights.
Next Saturday OA’s host top of the table Ealing KO 3pm.
OA: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Lincoln, Shanahan, Liebenberg, Cecere, Cope, Brown, Comb, Gillings, White (C), Bache, Daish.
Reps: Botterman, Hughes, Cooper-Miller, Micans, Evans.