OA’s forwards set up victory

National Three, London & SE Haywards Heath 7 Old Albanian 38 ANOTHER peerless performance from their pack set up the victory, and maximum points, for Old Albanian in a match which also tested the squad s strength in depth and ability to adapt. Having es

National Three, London & SE

Haywards Heath 7 Old Albanian 38

ANOTHER peerless performance from their pack set up the victory, and maximum points, for Old Albanian in a match which also tested the squad's strength in depth and ability to adapt.

Having established their dominance in the first set piece, the forwards delivered a momentum which was then exploited to such an extent that they were virtually 'home and hosed' by half time.

Three of the four tries before the interval were served up by a lively back line which simply refused to be fazed by a catalogue of enforced changes to their structure.

Coach Bruce Millar's original line up had included Ed Panting at full-back thus enabling Tom Chesters to deputise for the absent Richard Gregg, the Woollams Men's top points scorer.

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When Panting ruled himself out through illness Chris May eagerly accepted the number 15 shirt, to be replaced on the wing by Carling Colfer in his first start for the senior side. Jamie Bache also made his debut, and impressed on the blindside flank.

OA's pressure produced a brace of early penalties, the second of which was converted by Chesters who cleverly balanced his responsibilities as playmaker with his prime kicking duties throughout.

James Ellershaw opened OA's try scoring account on 18 minutes in a fashion unique to himself.

The big prop, blessed with superb balance and soft hands, avoided the attention of no less than six defenders as he twisted and bore his way over from 25 metres.

This breathtaking individual score was followed by a wonderful team effort after Laurence White had won possession at the back of the line out and Mark Evans went on a telling run.

The forwards dutifully kept possession from the break down on half way and in a fluent second phase the ball was swept along the line before Tryfan Edwards fed his fellow centre Terry Adams for the touch down.

Chesters converted both these scores and then added another two points from a try of his own which he had fashioned from a seemingly innocuous position.

Dene Miller added the fourth try, which secured the valuable bonus point, just before the break.

The mercurial winger had hitherto found it difficulty in getting into the game but on this occasion he showed both poise and confidence in exploiting the space offered to him, and with Chesters on target again, OA were sitting pretty on a 31 points to nil margin.

The scoreline remained this way over the next half hour until Simon Lye who had given his usual rock solid performance in his less familiar role at lock, broke the stalemate with an incisive effort from close range.

A painful rib injury to in-form Mark Evans had earlier forced a further reshuffle in OA's ranks with Adams switching to scrum-half and Myles Toon making his senior debut from the bench, allowing Chris May to move into the three quarters.

At this stage, with Edwards inexplicably confined to the bin, only two of their backs were operating in their regular positions.

Enjoying the benefit of both wind and slope, Heath had taken the initiative over this period and, inspired by a battling performance from their No.8, Ben Davis, had grappled with the unenviable problem of how to pierce the league's meanest defence, without being able to find a way through.

Adam Gelman and Matt Hart both entered the action to bolster the ramparts and OA's prop Aaron Tarwera continued to put in the big hits.

The home side's reward came at last when skipper Pat Shanahan squeezed over in the last move of the game and Owen Ashton added the points.

OA's push for the play-off position in April continues with the prospect of an epic encounter this Saturday with the return of 'the old enemy', Bishop's Stortford to Woollams (KO 3pm).

OA: May, Miller, Adams, Edwards, Colfer, Chesters, Evans, Ellershaw, Botterman, Tawera, Comb, Lye, Bache, White (C), Hamilton. Reps: Gelman, Hart, Toon.