OAs fightback gives hope despite defeat at Esher

Esher 54 Old Albanian 41

A THRILLING match at Esher’s Molesey Road ground left Old Albanian supporters feeling a lot happier at the final whistle than they had been 20 minutes earlier, writes Brian Quinn.

With an hour of the match gone James Shanahan’s side were looking down the barrel of a demoralising leathering. Esher had posted over 50 points against the visitors, eight tries including a penalty try whilst Albanian’s efforts amounted to two converted tries scored in the first quarter and a solitary penalty as half-time approached.

It seemed the journey home would be spent in disconsolate silence. But then came a remarkable change of fortune and in the final quarter no less than four tries were added to the OA’s account – two of which were converted, leaving the visitors 13 points short of their hosts’ massive total.

This particular inundation was started by loosehead prop David Millard in the eighth minute after an early OA penalty miss. Rob Kirby converted and also improved Millard’s second effort some eight minutes later, this time after a lineout five metres from the line.

The response was immediate and Ollie Marchon hared over on the left for Richard Gregg to convert. Five minutes later old warrior Kris Chesney was yellow carded. Then a trademark Albanian backs move shifted the attack left and right for Matthew Hankin to touch down. Gregg added the two points.

Five minutes later luck favoured the hosts when Gregg’s attempted clearance kick was charged down by Kirby at full stretch; he regathered, scored and converted from wide out. Chesney returned to the fray and helped to build the Esher tight scrum effort.

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A penalty try resulted, again improved by Kirby but the half ended with Gregg stroking over the only penalty of the match after an Esher mistake from the restart.

The second period started with more strong pressure from the home side and, five minutes in Andy Wright got his name on the scoresheet for Kirby to convert.

With the OA backs a man down, outside centre Ollie Richards was the next to make his presence felt with his first try for his club. This time Kirby could not oblige with the extra points but he crossed the whitewash for his second try minutes later and this time his kick was successful.

With 54 minutes gone scrum-half Andy Garner illegally scooped the ball out of the scrum and Charlie Walker took advantage.Kirby’s conversion completed his 24-point haul. The rest of the game belonged to the visitors. Stefan Liebenberg led the belated OA charge after 58 minutes and after Gregg’s conversion there was the small matter of 30 points between the sides.

Then in the last 10 minutes Lloyd Bickle and Aaron MacDougall both breached the home defence, Gregg improving MacDougall’s effort.

Finally, just on full-time James Spiers took Albanians’ total over the 40-mark as this remarkable match came to an end.

This weekend Wharfedale visit Woollams for the first time. They narrowly beat Esher two Saturdays ago. It will be another big test of Albanian mettle.