May brace sees OAs end Worthing hoodoo

OAs start the new year with a bonus point win

National League 2 South

Old Albanians 36 Worthing 27

AT LAST OAs recorded a win over Worthing. The only two previous occasions were back in the days of the Intermediate Cup competition away on the south coast and on Worthing’s first visit to Woollams six years ago as newcomers to the then London One League. In between, the results have been dismally one-sided and include a thrashing away which crept into the seventy-points-against region, one of OAs’ worst-ever defeats.

It was also a great joy to watch a rugby match after what seemed an eternity of snow and artificial Bank Holidays, made possible by the Woollams ground staff. Despite the dump of snow and three inches of rain in the past two days, the pitch was puddle-less and provided an excellent surface for an all-action, adventurous match which OAs shaded by five tries to the visitors’ four and which moved the Woollams Men up to fifth in the league.

An injury in training robbed OAs of the services of Tom Gillings, whose bulk and forthright approach were sorely missed. The club are also losing the services of James Ellershaw, newly ennobled in the Aviva Premiership with Saracens and ineligible for OAs as a consequence.

The game did not start well for OAs, who exerted a great deal of pressure on the visitors but after nearly a quarter of an hour, Worthing broke away and on their only visit to the home side’s half scored through No.8 Rob Smith, who was allowed to cap a strong forward surge to OAs’ line with a touchdown in the corner which owed much to the absence of Gillings’ weight and nous.

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Full-back Matt Mclean fluffed the kick but succeeded with two other conversions and a penalty. At the other end his opposite number, Richard Gregg, was having a forgettable afternoon missing three penalties all from virtually the same kickable spot, but later redeemed himself with his side’s second try and converting OAs first – a cut through by No 8, Andy Daish, who fed on to scrum-half Stefan Liebenberg to dot down under the posts.

The kicking duties were taken over by fly-half, Ben Patston, who duly slotted a penalty right on the stroke of half-time to allow OAs to break with a 17-8 lead. Clearly pumped up and in a mood to put the game beyond question, OAs scored two tries immediately after the resumption, firstly with Chris May arcing in for a try under the posts and lock, Ollie Cooper-Millar, getting up last from a heap of bodies to score the second, earning a bonus point for four tries. Both were converted by Patston and the half was only 12 minutes old.

Unfortunately, Worthing then set out to establish that the fat lady had not yet sung, and only three minutes later their lock, Finlay Coxon-Smith strode away from some badly guarded loose play to score from 30 metres out with not an OA hand laid on him. And it only took a further 10 minutes for outside centre, Greg Sullivan, to repeat the process and narrow the margin to 31-22 after Mclean’s conversion.

Sensing that a problem might be looming, OAs fought back and it was May with his second try who put the issue beyond apparent doubt in the 36th minute after a speculative pass from replacement Zac Vinnicombe put him into space.

Still the fat lady kept mum as one minute into injury time Worthing punished OAs’ eagerness to press forward with a penalty which led to a lineout and series of drives allowing replacement Sam Hewick to finish in the corner. The try went unconverted.

A potentially tricky visit to Canterbury awaits OAs next Saturday, and the faithful are reminded that the kick off is at 2pm.

OAs: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Lincoln, Patston, Liebenberg, Cecere, Cope, Laws, Comb �, Cooper-Millar, Powell, Bache, Daish.

Reps: Gray, Brown, Micans, Vinnicombe, Bickle.

* OAs’ second team ran away with a seventy-points-against score in their match against Worthing seconds at Woollams, whilst the fourth team matched their effort against Bishops Stortford at the same venue.