OAs come good in the end

London One Old Albanians 37 North Walsham 22 AT either end of a pulsating game, jointly sponsored by Clydesdale Bank and Ian Jennings, OAs were well in control. In between, however, there was an unconvincing spell for the Woollams men in which the visito

London One

Old Albanians 37 North Walsham 22

AT either end of a pulsating game, jointly sponsored by Clydesdale Bank and Ian Jennings, OAs were well in control.

In between, however, there was an unconvincing spell for the Woollams men in which the visitors were on top and threatened to build a winning lead.

North Walsham often looked the better- balanced side and their slick handling backs always looked dangerous going forward. Their first try, converted to bring the sides level at 10-10, was a devastating strike as a missed pass from David Treglown found his winger who fed Adie Ball to cross in full stride.

OAs had scored first through Alex Bennett after only two minutes, a deserved try for the flanker who maintains an awesome work rate for his side. Tom Chesters, who had assumed the kicking duties in the absence of Richard Gregg, made the conversion and then slotted a penalty, the basis of an impressive 17-point haul for the ex-England Students back.

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Adam Gelman and Oliver Peck both went close to scoring but the home side, roared on by their biggest crowd of the season and with the wind at their backs, had to settle for a Chesters penalty to inch them back in front as half time loomed. Walsham turned round ahead, however, when OAs' hitherto sound line out routine went astray and a clever switch gave hooker Gareth Hoadley the opportunity to sprint in unopposed. OAs continued to suffer from the malaise which had gradually stifled their rhythm, making for the worst possible restart. To the disbelief of their fans, a visiting forward emerged from a ruck which OAs appeared to have under control, offloading to danger man Iain Young who dived over for a converted try and a lead of 22-13.

Facing the prospect of a first home defeat, OAs needed to steady the ship and they looked to their experienced players for a way back. Captain Gregg Botterman proved to be the rallying point, with lock Arthur Mate providing an inspirational supporting role. Simon Lye and his back-row partner Matt Alford continued to contest set pieces vigorously as the Woollams Men patiently stemmed the flow of attacks from the wings and built the foundations of a recovery.

Ed Orchard, who had replaced the unlucky Andrew Edwards, carried off with an injury, was also using his experience in organising the back line where Chris May was linking well in the centre with Tryfan Edwards. In the first sustained period of possession in the Walsham half, Orchard sniffed a chance and neatly beat the defence with a try from close range. Chesters' conversion, followed by a penalty into a tricky wind put his side one point ahead with 15 minutes left on the clock. Andy Pearson replaced the combative Gelman while an old Woollams favourite, Mike Rout, entered the action for North Walsham having returned to his original club following a work move to Norfolk.

By this time OAs were clearly looking the stronger as they laid siege to their opponents' line and were denied a score, the ball having been judged not grounded, after a disciplined pick-and-drive tactic led by Botterman.

The inevitable score came in the last minute of normal time when Chesters, having switched to full back, pouched a high clearance kick, drew his defenders and perfectly timed his pass to the alert Ed Panting. Back in his favoured position on the wing, Panting blazed a path past his pursuers to the corner and cut in towards the posts once over the line.

The conversion left the deflated visitors needing an unlikely two scores but any aspirations to get back into the match in the five minutes of injury time about to be played were scuppered by OAs' young Australian lock, James Kriukelis, who crowned another sound performance in the second row with a smart piece of finishing following stylish interplay with Chris May.

Head Coach Bruce Millar's injury problems in the back division increase ahead of a very difficult visit to high flying Barnes on Saturday with the loss of Andy Edwards to long-term injury and Terry Adams' ongoing recovery from a torn hamstring. The following week players and supporters of North Walsham will be welcomed back to Woollams as the Norfolk side seek revenge for their defeat in their Intermediate Cup.

OAs: Ed Panting, Andrew Edwards, Chris May, Tryfan Edwards, Mark Evans, Tom Chesters, Oliver Peck, Adam Gelman, Gregg Botterman, Nathan Byrne , Arthur Mate, James Kriukelis, Alex Bennett, Matt Alford, Simon Lye. Subs (all used): Andy Pearson, Dan Henderson, Ed Orchard.

l OAs Fireworks display has been rescheduled for next Sunday, November 16, at 6.30pm, gates closing at 6.15pm. Patrons should bring with them pre-purchased tickets which are still on sale at Woollams clubhouse bar.