OA’s made to struggle at Worthing

Bruce Millar’s side slip to first defeat of the season

National Two South

Worthing 32

Old Albanian 25

OLD Albanian’s early burst of victories in National 2 came to an end on a warm autumn afternoon at ‘Sunny Worthing’.

Four tries from a well organised and mobile outfit won maximum points for the home side while OA’s had to make do with a solitary bonus point. Even that scant consolation looked unlikely for most of a match throughout which they were struggling for any kind of fluency.

Following the unfortunate pattern of previous matches, OA’s laboured start allowed the opposition to establish a useful lead but, on this occasion, to the dismay of their travelling supporters, The Woollams Men lacked both the poise and precision necessary to retrieve the situation.

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At times glimmers of their attacking credentials were evident but too many promising moves failed because of basic handling errors and a string of forward passes born out of a possible over eagerness to force the issue.

Of greater concern to the coaching team will be the number of first tackles missed around the park, plus a vulnerability when defending swift attacks made through the channels. Their cause wasn’t helped by the hamstring injury carried by skipper Laurence White who did well to last 70 minutes. Furthermore their reliable enforcer, Paul Gustard, was one of several, senior players not to have made the trip and the absence of a specialist No.8 in the ranks was exposed on a number of occasions.

Worthing opened the scoring after only 30 seconds when Finlay Coxon-Smith took a neat inside pass from his back row partner following an unopposed thrust down the right wing.

From the kick off OA’s won a penalty which Richard Gregg put over to make it 5-3.

Chris Lombaard who had swapped positions with Terry Adams made the first of several powerful breaks after a slick line out routine clicked but then we witnessed a piece of over elaboration from Gregg and Shanahan which put their side under pressure in the shadow of their own posts. It was a day when little went right for OAs’ experienced duo of playmakers and when Shanahan made a brilliant run from deep to earn a penalty, Gregg ’s anguish was clear as his kick bounced back off an upright. The fly half, celebrated throughout the leagues for his usual deadly accuracy, had been just wide with an earlier effort.

Earlier Worthing had extended their lead when OA’s had missed a tackle only then to concede a penalty try being judged to have deliberately handled a try scoring pass.

The home side were under OAs’ posts again in the 37th minute when fly half Ben Dudley slid over from close range.

Facing the unenviable prospect of an interval 19-3 deficit, the visitors rallied and enjoyed a rare period of supremacy as Marc Comb went on the charge only to see his inside pass put to ground by his fellow second row Matt Alford. The hard working Alford was quick to make amends however, finishing decisively in the corner following a burst from Chris May on the wing. The conversion attempt went begging though Gregg made no mistake with the next penalty; the last kick of a half which OA’s will want to forget. By virtue of their determination, however, they were still very much in contention at 19 points to 11.

Worthing missed a gilt edged opportunity from the restart failing to capitalise on a big overlap on the left and punishment came on 48 minutes, when their defence failed to handle a sparkling cross-field move from a line out which was crowned with a characteristic finish by Terry Adams, now restored to his usual position in the centre. Simon Lincoln converted and the sides were now separated by a single point.

Hopes of an unlikely victory teased the minds of the travelling faithful and then the luck went Worthing’s way when their man of the match, Matt McLean, hit the post with a penalty to see the ball drop like a stone just behind the crossbar.

McClean was on target again 10 minutes later and in the meantime the elusive centre had snatched a try of his own against the run of play. In the prelude to this score OA’s had failed to turn a sustained period of pressure into points, then, still in their opponents 22, had conceded a turn over from which a towering clearance was completely missed by the hapless defender and McClean and company could not believe their luck.

Charlie Hughes had replaced Adam Gelman at half time and when Brad James took over from the industrious Ed Spackman at hooker, OA’s front row began to ask a few questions of their opposite numbers at the scrum and in the tight. Jack Micans, at openside, and still nursing a double break of the nose incurred only a fortnight earlier, bravely attempted a thrust via ‘route one’ but OA’s lost their momentum when an attempted grubber kick behind the defence, agonisingly went straight into touch.

Danger man Terry Adams dived over again with five minutes remaining and Lincoln converted to set up a thrilling finish and in a testimony to their improved stamina OA’s went close to the try line in a central position without being able to finish the move.

Had that opportunity been taken, then the game would have probably ended in a tie which on the balance of play would have clearly flattered the Woollams Men .

However their refusal to lie down in adversity had won a valuable bonus point enabling them to retain sixth position in the league.

There is much to work on this week on the training field and a solution to OA’s current defensive malaise must be a major objective to sort out before the top teams come a’ calling.

Next Saturday at Woollams OA’s entertain Canterbury, old adversaries from their days in London One, who have now notched up four successful seasons at the higher level, ko 3pm.

OA: Lincoln, May, Lombaard, Shanahan, Adams, Gregg, Liebenberg, Cooper-Millar, Micans, White, Alford, Comb, Gelman, Spackman, Cecere.

Reps: Hughes, James, Gillings, Evans, Edwards.