OA chasing Jersey boys
National Three London and SE Basingstoke 0 Old Albanian 13 PLAYING into the teeth of a gale force wind, OA s pack stood rock solid as they provided the platform for what proved to be a crucial half time lead. Basingstoke tried in vain to break down the vi
National Three London and SE
Basingstoke 0 Old Albanian 13
PLAYING into the teeth of a gale force wind, OA's pack stood rock solid as they provided the platform for what proved to be a crucial half time lead.
Basingstoke tried in vain to break down the visitor's tight defensive unit but ultimately failed to extract the same degree of benefit from the elements that Richard Gregg and company were able to do in defending their lead when the teams switched ends.
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Collectively this was as good a performance as any in recent years as OA's forwards, with Paul Mansfield back to his influential best at number eight, showed a high level of discipline, organisation and mutual support when it counted most.
Any fears that the absence of strong men Alex Bennett and Paul Gustard in testing conditions might be key to the balance of power were dispelled from the outset as the front row of James Ellershaw, Gregg Botterman and Aaron Tawera set the standard for their team mates to follow. Also making a welcome return was James Pavitt who blended well with Mansfield and skipper Laurence White in the back row, whilst locks Marc Comb and Ross Hamilton contributed equally in making the hard yards.
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Nor could OA's backs be denied a slice of the glory as the points came courtesy of a swashbuckling try from Simon Lincoln on 20 minutes, and kicking of the highest order from the in-form Richard Gregg.
It was Gregg who started the decisive move on half way for Terry Adams to burst through the defensive line and offload to Ed Panting. Fullback Lincoln appeared on cue at Panting's shoulder and the 'play anywhere' back took possession and slipped a couple of tackles to finish decisively. A prone Mark Evans was required to steady the ball as Gregg drilled his fine effort low over the crossbar.
Equally unfazed by the odds against success, Gregg was again on target as the half came to an end, slotting a penalty from a difficult angle.
Minutes earlier both sides had come close to snatching tries with Stokes' top scorer, Glen Lewis involved at either end of the pitch.
First the young winger was unlucky to clip touch in the process of chipping into the corner, and then was quick enough to catch his opposite number James Hearn as he sprinted for the home line.
With his first touch of the ball following the restart, Gregg signalled his intention to use the favourable wind now at his back by hoisting a long, high kick and then he readily lined up a long range penalty after Basingstoke had been penalised for holding on a split second too long for the match official's liking.
Once again the mercurial fly half chose the perfect trajectory for his kick which sailed over from 42 metres. The scoreboard ticked over to 0-13 where it was destined to stay for the remaining 35 minutes of play despite each side's attempts to bring its influence to bear.
The Woollams Men continued to dominate possession at the breakdown and had the confidence and technique in employing a variety of kicks when the opportunity arose. Stokes' own highly rated backs had a torrid time fielding a collection of incoming 'bombs' and wicked bounces on the skiddy surface.
Fullback Andrew Fitchett and Lewis showed outstanding handling skills under the circumstances but often found themselves being forced to run the ball back from too deep a position to seriously trouble a line of OA defenders in which Adams' hard hitting style was particularly effective.
OA squandered the best of the remaining chances when Lincoln failed to get an early pass away to the unmarked Panting though nothing should detract from the memory of a superb, all round performance.
The result was The Woollams Mens' sixth win on the spin and also means six out of six victories on the road as they hunt down league leaders Jersey.
OA's First XV take a break next week and return to league action on Saturday, November 28, against close rivals, Dorking (KO 3pm).
OA: Lincoln, Panting, Adams, Edwards, Hearn, Gregg, Evans, Ellershaw, Botterman, Tawera, Comb, Hamilton, Pavitt, White, Mansfield. Reps: Gelman, Townsend, May.