OAs burst Worthing’s bubble

OAs win big at league leaders Worthing

National League Two South

Worthing Raiders 13

Old Albanians 41

THERE has been a disconcerting trend lately among rugby clubs to adopt an ‘attack’ name. Sale RFC, located where water – with the possible exception of the Manchester Ship Canal – falls only from the skies, have become Sale Sharks; Exeter RFC, found in a hunting ground called Devon where few buffalo still roam, are now Exeter Chiefs and Worthing are now Worthing Raiders.

Worthing, who had enjoyed good wins at home to Richmond (then leaders) and away last week to Taunton to go top of the League were rudely raided by OAs and promptly knocked off their number one spot.

It also marked, it is to be hoped, a watershed for the team insofar as they have broken the hoodoo of failure to beat clubs above them in the league. To do so away from home put both icing and candle firmly on the cake with a first win at this ground.

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Raiders or not, the home side’s supporters are not without a sense of proportion as one confided that his side have a habit of giving away a ‘gift’ score in the opening minutes of the match. Indeed they did. After just three minutes Chris May on OAs’ wing made ground into Worthing’s 22-metre, passed to Chris Lombaard who fed inside hooker, Stu Bailey, to score under the posts, enhanced by a Richard Gregg conversion.

And it was the gift that kept on giving as OAs scored a further four tries for a bonus point, two penalties and three more conversions for Gregg’s personal 14 point tally. The party was only spoilt by three ‘tries’ which referee, Tom Davies, deemed to have been not all they seemed.

At a fixture where last week’s side were shorn of both flying wingers and super-celt, Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier, all on Dubai sevens duty, the hard groundwork that director of rugby, James Shanahan, has been establishing during the season paid off. Seamlessly, May reappeared on one wing and Terry Adams moved to the other, Mark Evans returned at scrum half and Paul Gustard took over at blind-side flanker. Four changes which would have flummoxed most sides allowed OAs to become a meaner machine.

Nearly every breakdown and many set pieces were disrupted by the back row of Gustard (and Rob Farenheim after 60 minutes), skipper Lawrence White and No.8 Andy Daish to the point where Worthing almost had to rely on kick-offs to secure any possession. They were in such disarray that five minutes into the second half a rake of three replacements, including former Irish international player/coach, Keiron Dawson, took the field; a fraught half time team talk at which point the home side were only nine points adrift at 17-8 is suspected.

The league’s top scorer, full-back Matt McLean, slotted a penalty after eight minutes but had difficulty with the wind as other kicks failed to pass muster, left wing Alex Nielson scored a try from a cross-kick as did scrum-half Joe Govett to amass the home side’s 13 points. It was a commentary in itself that the cross-kick and the long boot ahead were the only attacking options allowed to them by OAs.

And this despite losing May after a spectacular mid-air collision with an opponent going for a high ball and landing like a sack of coal just before half time – he had earlier finished off a move out of defence as Shanahan kicked up-and infield. His substitute, Luke O’Keefe, wrote his name on the scoresheet with OAs’ first try after half-time finishing off a 45-metre dash by Adams to carve in towards the posts.

Gregg kept the scoreboard active with a penalty four minutes later, followed by a try driven over by Gustard before he was subbed. Although OAs relaxed and let in Govett’s try, they finished the afternoon off with a change of direction from Man of the Match Lombaard to put Shanahan in under the woodwork on the stroke of full time.

OAs: Gregg, May, Lombaard, Rayner, Adams, Shanahan, Evans, Hughes, Bailey, Cecere, Bickle, Cooper-Millar, Gustard, White �, Daish.

Reps: Cope, Ross, Farenheim, O’Keefe, Micans.