OA stumble on opening day
National Three London and South East Old Albanian 3 Hertford 18 OLD ALBANIAN got off to a bitterly disappointing start to their league campaign with a stuttering display against local rivals Hertford. The visitors finished stronger and were delighted to
National Three London and South East
Old Albanian 3 Hertford 18
OLD ALBANIAN got off to a bitterly disappointing start to their league campaign with a stuttering display against local rivals Hertford.
The visitors finished stronger and were delighted to leave Woollams with the double reward of away points in the bag and local bragging rights secured until the two sides next encounter each other.
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Perfect conditions at Woollams gave both sides opportunities to run the ball but resolute defence suppressed clear scoring chances in a dull, but evenly matched, first period.
OA had their fair share of possession thanks largely to the efforts of Simon Lye at number eight and ex-Cambridge flanker Laurence White but their stronger back line failed to find any penetration as successive attacks faltered through a sad mixture of slow build up, misguided kicking and handling errors.
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Hertford broke the stalemate when an attempted clearance by Richard Gregg, operating behind his own line, was charged down and pounced upon by Ian Hardcastle, a member of the visitors' hard working back row.
Gregg repaired some of the damage after 27 minutes, stroking a penalty between the posts after the referee, who controlled the game sensibly throughout, blew for off side.
Thereafter, OA pushed hard but, with little evidence of a game plan apparent, had repeated attacks blunted in a dour midfield struggle.
Their lack of invention was particularly disappointing for the home fans who had arrived at Woollams full of hope for a new campaign in what promises, once again, to be an ultra competitive league, where a bonus points system will operate similar to that in top flight rugby.
Unable to find their usual touch, in an effort to establish an interval lead OA's playmakers resorted to a kicking game which did nothing to generate that elusive rhythm and generally served only to give away possession.
Two long-range attempts at a dropped goal by Tom Chesters, and then Gregg, hinted at the growing frustration of the players.
Hertford were distinctly quicker out of the blocks after the break and showed confidence in going for the corner from an early penalty though the lineout was well defended.
Steve Ellis missed the opportunity to extend his side's slender lead from his next penalty attempt five minutes later. The visitors steadily improved as a unit whilst, in contrast, the Woollams' Men continued to struggle for form.
Their best moment came when James Redfern and Kiwi new boy Aaron Tarwera combined well to put Terry Adams away and Ed Panting was unlucky not to finish.
Otherwise there was little to offer, though Adams did look dangerous on the few occasions he was able to get into the action from his unfamiliar role on the left wing.
The rest of the game belonged to Hertford. At last they were able to convert a penalty on 65 minutes and followed up with decisive scores in the final quarter.
The first try by hooker Brett McNamee resulted from a controlled drive fashioned some 20 metres out to which OA had no answer. Openside Craig Wilson stretched to add the second after a further spell of pressure on the home line.
There is much to work on the agenda this week before OA make the short trip to Tring next Saturday. Their cause will not be helped by Paul Gustard's continuing unavailability and lingering doubts over Adam Gelman's ability to recover from injury in time for another local derby.
Old Albanian: Chesters, Panting, Lincoln, Edwards, Adams, Gregg, Evans, Clark, Hart, Tawera, Comb, Bennett, Redfern, White, Lye. Replacements: Nelson, Townsend, Miller.