Mistakes continue for Old Albanian in losing effort

Billy Johnson was one of two Old Albanian players yellow carded against Cinderford. Picture: Danny L

Billy Johnson was one of two Old Albanian players yellow carded against Cinderford. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

The disappointment of last week’s error strewn performance continued on Saturday when two sides, who were probably trying too hard, produced rugby which was both uninspired and uninspiring.

Both clubs needed the win it is true; but, at least for OA who have been in this situation before, the team has been able to use speed and precision as a means to counter strong, dour opponents. This time there was very little sparkle in Albanian ranks, more a plethora of thud and blunder.

Above all the penalty count was even worse than at Woollams a week ago and far too often promising OA attacks were halted by the referee’s whistle for what amounted to technical infringements. These can be put right in training; this has not happened yet.

So much did this affect the game that two of the visitors, Sam Staff and Billy Johnson, were shown yellow cards in rapid succession in the middle of the second half. With two men thus adrift it was not surprising Cinderford should take some advantage but it rubbed salt in the wound that it was Will Davis, the loose head prop who scored both his side’s tries. Front row men of yesteryear in the crowd shook their heads in wonderment. Davis fine efforts, and Mike Wilcox’s conversion put the match beyond reach of the visitors.

There had been plenty of opportunity for Albanians to prosper, especially since Wilcox missed two eminently kickable penalties in the first 12 minutes. Lawrence Rayner missed a tricky shot into the strong breeze after 24 minutes but opened his account with a penalty four minutes later as OAs seemed finally to be coming to grips with the game. Wilcox equalised with three minutes of the half left but was off target again at the interval.

The third quarter gave visiting supporters cause for hope as Ian Vass and Stef Liebenberg used the wind to gain good field position. Somehow Albanians managed to bring these opportunities to naught, mostly by not attending to detail.

As detailed above the referee finally lost patience with OAs and the match moved out of range. However, restored to full strength, Albanians regrouped and spent much of the remaining time camped deep in Cinderford territory. Home replacement Chris Bundy went to the bin with five minutes to go and Liebenberg notched a trademark short penalty try, Rayner drop kicking the conversion. There was not the time left to complete the comeback, however, and proceedings closed almost fittingly with a final penalty conceded in midfield by Albanians.

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There was yet some that was positive in the Forest of Dean. OA’s defence is strong in all respects and there was plenty of bullish evidence from the pack, which took four opposition lines out and five tight scrummages from their opponents and this will keep morale on the up. When the team gets the specifics right and tightens up on discipline there will be better days. Weirdly the losing bonus point was enough to move the club up a notch in the League rankings.