Late blitz hands Southend the win

National League 2 South

Old Albanians 22 Southend 33

SOUTHEND came to Woollams lying only ninth in the table after an indifferent start to the season.

OAs, by contrast, sat at their final position last season of fifth. As Southend finished above OAs last season, any progress that the club is making has to be measured against whether they are defeating the clubs who they lost to last season.

For a time, just before and just after half time, OAs looked the part. This was a game of three periods. Using the blustery wind, Southend pinned OAs in their own territory for most of the first half and amassed 15 points without reply. Just before half time, OAs replied with an unconverted try, used the discomfort that this must have sewn in their opposition’s minds to dominate the third quarter, and scored their entire points total, again without reply. Further, they took the lead at 22-15.

Worse still, whilst OAs had kept their composure – despite losing the penalty battle 1-5 – in the first half, Southend looked to be seriously at odds with each other as OAs hit them with two goals, a try and a penalty goal. It therefore left their supporters flabbergasted when Southend from apparently nowhere shifted up a gear and hit back with three tries and a penalty, again without reply to win the third half, the match and a bonus point.

It was not as if OAs did not have chances during this period as the pressure was all in the Southend half after their first try narrowed the margin to 22-20. Richard Gregg, James Shanahan, Wes Cope and Charlie Hughes all provided good ball or went desperately close.

Most Read

But it was OAs’ nemesis, the penalty, that undid them and sub, Andrew Frost, slotted an easy kick to regain Southend’s lead at 22-23, a position from which they did not look back.

Clearly a session for each squad member with the Law Book to accompany their bedtime cocoa will be required reading before they set off for Clifton next Saturday.

Southend’s coach, Andy Holloway, believes the win came because his side were stronger and more physical in the first half. “We knew OAs like to run the ball wide, so our concentration was keeping possession in the middle,” he said afterwards. His opposite number, Shanahan, believes the whole team let each other down by not sticking to the patterns they had practised. “It doesn’t help either,” he added, “that I had only 20 fit men in the squad to pick from”.

For OAs’ supporters, 80 per cent of the first half was living hell as Southend used the breeze to camp in their 22 metre ground. Simon Hoult scored a penalty after persistent infringement by OAs. Then with one eye on the opposition and one eye on the referee, OAs allowed No 15, Danny Cleare, to escape on the blind side thirty metres out and score.

Much the same inattention to detail allowed tight head prop and all-round nuisance with his powerful loose ball work, Mike Guess, to bolt over from 20 metres and under the posts with Hoult adding the extra a minute or two before half time.

With the score at 0-15, OAs envisaged a sulphurous talking to at half time only to break ahead through a Gregg run upfield. Involving Terry Adams, Shanahan and Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier, the ball finally slipped out to No.8, Ollie Cooper-Millar, who scored for the second time in two games.

It only took six minutes of the second half to allow OAs’ quick running back row to star again as No.6 Rob Farenheim did the hard yards on approach to feed No.7, Jack Micans, for a try which Gregg converted.

Gregg then slotted a penalty and after a lot of huffing and puffing from Southend in an attempt to break back, Chris May obliged with what should have been the final nail in their coffin with a try on the right. Gregg again converted to make the score 22-15.

From then it was all Southend as Andy McLintock finished off a rolling maul from a lineout on the OA five-metre mark, Frost scored his penalty and two breakaway tries from OA mistakes by Jo Vandermeulen and Billy Driver sealed OAs’ fate.

OAs: Gregg, May, Adams, Vass, Lombaard, Shanahan, Bruzulier, Hughes, Cope, Cecere, Jubb, Bickle, Farenheim, Micans, Cooper-Millar.

Reps: Ormesher, White, Evans, Speirs, Townsend.

* Following the success of their fireworks event over the last eight years OA Rugby will again be celebrating the big day this year at Woollams.

All tickets bought in advance include a discount over those purchased on the night at the gate. Advance ticket prices are �15 for a family of two adults and three children, �5 for adults and �4 for U16s and seniors.

Book at Woollams 01727 864476. For more info contact Members of the public are welcome to join club members for a night to remember.