OAs claim derby win

EDF Energy Intermediate Cup Third Round Old Albanians 25 Bishop s Stortford 16 OAs bid to win the last Intermediate Cup competition gained serious momentum with a convincing win against old rivals, Bishop s Stortford. Stortford, trailing OAs by the fin

EDF Energy Intermediate Cup Third Round

Old Albanians 25

Bishop's Stortford 16

OAs' bid to win the last Intermediate Cup competition gained serious momentum with a convincing win against old rivals, Bishop's Stortford.

Stortford, trailing OAs by the finest of margins in the London One table, arrived at Woollams with a strong squad, intent upon exacting revenge for their league defeat there in October. In a match blighted by the continuous rain of previous days, the visitors matched their hosts for endeavour and will to win but finally succumbed to OAs' superior firepower which won them their passage into the next round where they will face a trip to either Clifton or Newton Abbot.

The Woollams playing surface, a credit to groundsman Ian Smith and his team, held up well to the deluge but, inevitably, the sodden conditions and bitter wind made for treacherous handling conditions and a difficult surface. From the start, the backs of both sides found difficulty in staying upright when attempting to change direction, no more so than Dene Miller who must have cursed his choice of studs more than once when halted in full flight in a frustrating first half. OAs' free scoring winger did, however, have the last laugh, securing a win for his team with a devastating piece of finishing in the dying moments of the game.

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Bishop's Stortford stole an early lead with their first visit to their opponents' half, as Miller's opposite number, Nick Harris, punished OAs for some unconvincing defensive work. Tom Coleman added the conversion.

Richard Gregg saw a penalty attempt drift narrowly wide in the brisk winds which prompted him to kick into the corner when Stortford transgressed for a second time.

OAs' smart line out, with Matt Hart taking over throwing duties from the absent Gregg Botterman, worked to perfection though the visitors' defence, on this occasion, was good enough to repel sustained drives led by Arthur Mate and captain, Alex Bennett. Then scrum half Oliver Peck weaved his way deep into Stortford territory but ran out of options for a try scoring offload.

Ironically, OAs' opening try, after 13 minutes, came as their opponents manoeuvred close to the home line after a pin-point clearance from Jake Guastella had found touch only inches from the corner flag. As the ball made its way along the attacking line, the alert Tom Chesters made a decisive interception which left the classy OAs full back with fully 90 metres between him and the Stortford line. Chesters was good enough, however, to evade the attentions of a small posse of defenders and ground the ball under the posts. Gregg converted and then struck a sweet penalty to give OAs the lead.

The 15 minutes of play left before half time should have been the opportunity OAs had deservedly earned to build on their lead but, instead, disappointingly, a number of their players were tempted into petty personal scuffles and a temporary lack of discipline that provided the visitors with two penalty opportunities, each well taken by Coleman. To his credit, the match official maintained control of a potentially explosive situation with a policy of prompt intervention rather than a rash of cards which allowed the contest to rise above the conditions and so develop into an enjoyable spectacle for the rival fans who had braved the elements.

Bennett continued to lead by example after the break and, as gaps began to appear, his back row partner Paul Gustard became gradually more influential, shaking off a shoulder injury scare to deliver his own brand of controlled aggression. Sniping behind a scrum, the ex-Saracens star chose his moment to crash over the visitors' line and set up Gregg for a further two valuable points. Stortford responded with some intelligent kicking and, when Coleman launched his third penalty success the scores stood, tantalisingly, at 17-16.

Andy Pearson, James Steventon and Dan Henderson all entered the fray, intent on consolidating the lead, while their opposition also took full advantage of the three replacement forwards permitted in this competition.

Richard Gregg continued his rivalry with Tom Coleman, in the elite group of kickers at this level, with another penalty success after 65 minutes and one sensed that the next try, from either side, was likely to seal a place in the fourth round draw.

With so much energy and commitment already invested, OAs were not to be denied and, when their admirable forwards set up yet another assault there was a delighted Miller to perfectly time his run into the corner, this time with a clean pair of heels.

Next action at Woollams is this Saturday, December 20, when OAs play their last game in London One before their seasonal break. Barnes, second in the division, bring with them their exciting brand of attacking rugby but are no doubt aware of how narrow their victory was when an unlucky OAs visited their Thames-side ground earlier in the season.

OAs: Tom Chesters, Dene Miller, Chris May, Tryfan Edwards, Ed Panting, Richard Gregg, Oliver Peck, Adam Gelman, Matt Hart, Nathan Byrne, Arthur Mate, James Kriukelis , Alex Bennett, Matt Alford,Paul Gustard. Subs (all used): Andy Pearson, James Steventon, Dan Henderson, Mark Evans.

l TWO OA Saints players were involved for England as they recorded back-to-back wins against Italy A last weekend.

Sarah McKenna started at 12 and Karina Page came off the bench as the England Development side beat Italy A 20-10 at London Welsh on Friday night.

McKenna then appeared from the bench for the England A team as they beat their Italian counterparts 20-0 on Sunday to cap off a fantastic weekend.