OA grind out victory

National Three, London and South East Old Albanian 10 Bracknell 6 AFTER inconclusive displays in their first two outings, Old Albanian s credentials for success this season faced a stern test with the visit of Bracknell, the team who have made such an imp

National Three, London and South East

Old Albanian 10 Bracknell 6

AFTER inconclusive displays in their first two outings, Old Albanian's credentials for success this season faced a stern test with the visit of Bracknell, the team who have made such an impact since their arrival on the revamped London and South East scene.

In a thoroughly absorbing contest, The Woollams Men came through a thorough examination of their defensive qualities in the most convincing of styles and, in the process, delighted both their supporters and the large contingent of club sponsors present.

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OA scored their points in the first eight minutes and then set about delivering the win against the league's top scorers with a display of discipline and organisation which rates amongst the very best witnessed in the Woollams era.

The visitors, who tasted National One status in 2001/2, looked particularly dangerous on the few occasions they succeeded in moving the ball out to Kevin McKenzie on the left wing whose attempt to hit back immediately was thwarted by a foot in touch.

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Bristling with pace in their back line, and prompted throughout by the majestic place kicking of centre Jervis Manupenu, Bracknell strived hard to register a try of their own but repeatedly had promising attacks blunted by an alert OA defence where skipper Laurence White led by example.

The ex-Bedford man, quickly becoming a local favourite, could himself have extended his side's lead had his charge down resulted in a more favourable bounce, shortly after OA's try; a little gem from Mark Evans.

Tryfan Edwards had powered his way deep into opposition territory on the left. Evans took up the momentum beating two defenders 'on a sixpence' before releasing Alex Bennett perfectly for an unopposed run to the line. Evans himself had swiftly followed up and fully deserved to be given the glory of finishing off the move in a wonderful gesture by the big lock. Richard Gregg converted.

Gregg, who had a mixed afternoon with the boot, had landed a penalty on four minutes after James Ellershaw had made the first in a succession of bullocking charges into the heart of the visitors' defence.

The big prop, another of Bruce Millar's close season signings, enjoyed a rollicking debut, tying up defenders before delivering some quality possession at the breakdown. Gregg Botterman and Aaron Tawera made up a formidable front row and, with Adam Gelman and Charlie Hughes destined to come off the bench, OA were able to maintain a potent blend of physicality and abrasiveness, such that their pack appeared not to take a backward step throughout.

Hughes was clearly itching to get involved and when his time came, the promising young hooker, with Sarries 'A' experience to his name, went close to sealing the win in the final stages being apprehended just short of the line. OA had previously missed other opportunities in the form of two penalties from long range so the game entered injury time with Bracknell just one score adrift but unlikely to achieve their goal as OA continued to close ranks.

On reflection, the visitors will be disappointed not to have made more of their extra man advantage in the 10 minute spells that Botterman, then Bennett each found themselves 'in the bin' for technical offences.

OA also did well to recover a perilous moment during the first of these periods when James Hearn elected to run the ball from deep within his own '22'.

In the event Bracknell had to make do with two penalties slotted by Manupenu during the second quarter of play.

The coaching staff were delighted with the quality of the hard earned victory though Mark Langley highlighted their lineout performance as the area in need of most improvement.

This particular cause should be considerably enhanced by the return of set piece enforcer, Paul Gustard whose coaching commitments with Premiership leaders Saracens have kept him out of action with OA to date.

Next Saturday OA visit North Walsham returning to Woollams on October 3 to entertain title favourites Jersey, k.o. 3pm.

Old Albanian: Chesters, Lincoln, Adams, Edwards, Hearn, Gregg, Evans, Ellershaw, Botterman, Tawera, Comb, Bennett, Hamilton, White, Lye. Reps: Gelman, Hughes, Miller.

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