OAs defeated again in the north east

Blaydon 38 Old Albanian 29 National League 1

THIS performance was a great deal better than last week’s effort, writes Brian Quinn.

However, Albanians will rue the fact that they allowed their hosts a 21-point cushion by the end of the first quarter.

This, combined with a certain lack of discipline in some crucial moments set James Shanahan’s side an impossible target in this pulsating encounter.

The game was less than a minute old when Blaydon took possession of the OA kick-off and open-side flanker Rob Bell hurried to the line pretty much unchallenged.

Andrew Baggett’s conversion was a formality and these two repeated the dose six minutes later, this time after a sharp attack on the visitors’ right.

An attempt at Albanian recovery followed as the visitors worked at catching their collected breath and for a while made encroachment into Blaydon territory.

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This came to nothing when outside-centre Charles Incledon held on to a sharp, wide pass after 16 minutes and crossed half way out on the left. Baggett made no mistake with the improving kick and many in the crowd began to feel that the contest was to all extent over.

However A’s found another gear, possession tightened up and a sense of purpose became more evident just as the second quarter began. A trademark Albanian attack threatened on the left was rapidly shifted right by Lawrence Rayner and concluded by Johannes Lombaard who scored wide out. Richard Gregg’s conversion shaved the upright.

Towards half time OAs were lucky not to go further behind as a Blaydon attack ended in a 22-metre dropout when possession was fumbled. Shortly thereafter Albanians conceded a penalty 30 metres from their line and Baggett’s kick hit the right post. It fell to Stefan Liebenberg who gratefully found touch. But the danger was not over and a further Blaydon penalty brought them a lineout five metres from the corner. A simple catch and drive gave No 8 Jason Smithson the opportunity to score the bonus point try. It proved too far out for Baggett to convert but with the interval score at 26-5, Blaydon seemed home and dry.

On the restart Baggett missed a further penalty attempt which seemed to summon another OA resurgence and a fine period of pressure moved play into the Hosts’ territory. Bell was yellow carded three minutes into the half for an infringement on the ground and this gave the visitors another advantage which Terry Adams was quick to make use of. Adams had joined the fray at half time and showed his intent by scything through a flat-footed defence for Gregg to convert. Two minutes later he did it again after Blaydon fumbled possession. Lawrence Rayner’s conversion meant there was just one score between the sides, a situation which would have attracted long odds a few minutes before.

Now Blaydon recovered and mounted a concerted assault in the visitors’ 22. Great defence averted the danger and brought the opportunity which Ollie Marchon cleverly exploited.

Put almost clear deep in Blaydon’s half he deftly held onto a pass which hadn’t quite ‘stuck’ properly whilst he negotiated his way to the line. Rayner couldn’t quite manage the extra points but Albanians had a four try bonus and were now breathing down the necks of their opponents.

Then, as the third quarter ended, Brett McNamee was sent to the sin-bin for an offence which wasn’t exactly clear. Blaydon, as Albanians had done earlier, took immediate advantage and Zach Kibirige crossed in the left corner. His try was very well converted by Baggett and another Albanian infringement allowed a Blaydon lineout close to the line. Smithson was again the man who touched down. Baggett could not convert but this had reopened a 14-point gap which proved just too wide to close.

Five minutes from time Marchon had the last word with his second visit to the Blaydon line.

Next week’s opponents are Sedgley Park, who have one more win to their credit than Albanians. ‘Shanners’ team will surely regard this as a ‘must win’ match and important preparation for the Ealing game the week after.

Old Albanians: Gregg, May, Speirs, Lombaard, Marchon; Rayner, Liebenberg; Ruskin, McNamee, Cade, Bickle, Cooper-Millar, Johnson, Hankin, Daish.

Replacements: Cope, Schilachi, Chambers, Adams, Jubb.