OA slay Stortford in Presidents’ Cup Final

Hertfordshire Presidents’ Cup Final

Bishops Stortford 19 Old Albanian 37

ON a cold and blustery Sunday at Croxley Green, OAs reversed last year’s result and beat Bishops Stortford to add to the other two trophies won earlier in the weekend by fellow city clubs, Old Verulamians and St Albans.

A try count of 5-2 tidily sums up the difference between the two sides, although in a period of pressure ten minutes after half time Stortford fought back with a try wide out to narrow the points gap to 22-16. Had fly-half Tom Coleman succeeded with his conversion only four points would have separated the sides.

As it was, his kick summed up the East Herts men’s afternoon as one of playing well in fits and starts but lacking the killer instinct to seize the game by the scruff of the neck.

Coleman’s miss gave OAs the inspiration to go up a gear and Paul Gustard, who had been sin binned just before half time, muscled his way back into the game after fly-half Richard Gregg had slipped his tackler, passed to Terry Adams who put Gustard away for the decisive try which Gregg failed to convert.

However, Gregg made up for this with a drop goal in front of the posts to move the score on to 30-16 in the 24th minute of the second half and put the game beyond Stortford’s reach.

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As with the last league meeting between these two sides the key to victory was the forward effort which gradually strangled the amount of ball available to Stortford’s pacey backs.

An early worry was a dangerous 30-metre drive upfield from Stortford flanker, Mahae Austin, which was stopped but at the expense of leaving the OA backs out of position. Quick ball for Stortford would have led to an easy try but Coleman decided to attempt a drop goal which went wide.

A try at that point would have put the cup holders back in front after their first score, a penalty in front of the posts, was reversed by an OA forward drive from a line out close to the try line.

Marc Comb was last man up and Gregg converted to make the score 7-3.

A sterile 10 minute period followed as both sides probed defences in midfield. This was broken by OAs as backs and forwards combined in a surge upfield and the centre combination of Adams and Tryfan Edwards combined for Edwards to score with Gregg converting. Stortford fought back with a surge of their own five minutes later as right wing Harry Marner crashed over in the corner; Coleman failed with the conversion to bring the score to 14-8 in OA’s favour.

The try of the match came from a keen piece of perception by OAs veteran hooker, Gregg Botterman. He pounced on a ball fumbled by Stortford’s front jumper in a line out just over halfway, ran a good 25 metres unhindered to pass to Gustard backing up to score ten metres in from touch in the thirty-eighth minute.

OA should have kept the lid on play until the half time whistle but were disrupted by a blood injury to scrum half Mark Evans which their opponents seized upon to exert pressure which finally told as Gustard received his yellow card and Coleman slotted the resulting penalty.

The OAs three quarter line all contributed massively when an opportunity to run from broken play arose.

Tom Chesters gave opposite number Ed Merivale an afternoon to forget with his ability to swerve around the first-up tackler, while Simon Lincoln gave a faultless display of catching and running high ball back at the opposition.

The flankers, skipper Lawrence White and Jamie Bache worked tirelessly in support of Man of the Match Gustard; both locks were able to carry ball and distribute well but the final accolade must go to the front row of Botterman, Adam Gelman and Aaron Tawera as in injury time they shoved the Stortford pack into the ignominy of conceding a penalty try to end the match.

OA: Lincoln, Chesters, Adams, Edwards, Panting, Gregg, Evans, Gustard, White, Bache, Hamilton, Comb, Tawera, Botterman, Gelman.