OAs fightback too late at Richmond

Richmond too strong for lacklustre OAs

National League 2 South

Richmond 34 Old Albanians 29

OLD Albanians were under the cosh for 70 minutes at Richmond, unable to make their telling line breaks, smothered by a fast and fit opposition and tackled mercilessly as they strove to find space.

The net result is that Richmond are now five points ahead of OAs – who have a game in hand – and they walked off with a bonus point for four tries. Whilst still fourth in the League, OAs now have Southend and Henley, who both won, breathing down their necks and with only a losing bonus point as consolation from this match. The coaching team remained unconsoled.

The match was punctuated with the public address system announcing the score up the road at Ealing, where the home side lost 15-0 to Jersey, who had beaten Richmond last week. So a major opportunity to climb the league ladder had been lost especially as OAs’ next two opponents are Jersey and Ealing respectively and at home.

Barely three minutes of the match had elapsed before Richmond’s speedy winger James Greenwood, lanced through for a try in the left hand corner. Fly-half, Ross Broadfoot, failed to convert but ended with a conversion and four penalties to his name. By way of reply OAs’ fly-half Ben Patston, kicked four penalties in the first half from virtually the same spot some 40 metres out on the right of the field; but that was as close as OAs got to keeping the scoreboard turning over.

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Greenwood scored a second, running straight through an assortment of unsuccessful OA tackles to get nearer the posts this time for Broadfoot to improve.

Half time came with the score at an ungenerous 18-12 to the home side for the effort expended. OAs, for their part, looked shell-shocked from the pressure and with only a series of lacklustre moves to show by way of offence when the ball came their way.

If that looked grim, the first 15 minutes of the second half looked as if the record books were in danger of revision. The Richmond open side flanker, Guy Thompson, looked little slower than Greenwood as he latched on to a pass after a 50-metre break to score. Three minutes later, Greenwood in full flight again kicked ahead towards the OA try line, OAs’ No.8, Andy Daish, bravely fell on the ball but Richmond recycled it to Greenwood to complete his hat-trick and bag a bonus point for his side.

So where were OAs when all this was going on? Some substitutes came on after this try. One substitution was Patston. Cue Richard Gregg moving up from full-back to fly half to spark OAs’ revival.

Maybe it was the bonus point that allowed Richmond to relax but Gregg, as anonymous as the rest of his side until then, started to find the gaps in the Richmond line and for 10 minutes, despite two Broadfoot penalties, OAs started to look the part.

Terry Adams, who had looked all game as lively as his fellow centre Chris Lombaard had looked preoccupied, suddenly blasted towards the Richmond line from 30 metres out. Gregg converted with a drop kick. And it was an Adams break again from Gregg’s inside pass to feed acting full-back, Simon Lincoln, to also score under the posts.

To save valuable time, Gregg also drop-kicked this conversion.

So with the score at 34-26 and Richmond suddenly obliged to debate the meaning of life, OAs pressed to their line again.

A score of a converted try (7pts) in the last seconds would not be enough to win, but right on cue a ruck which OAs looked likely to win was held up by the Richmond back row. The guilty party was duly yellow carded and with the resulting penalty in front of the posts Gregg made no mistake with his penalty kick to salvage what may prove to be a valuable bonus point from a disappointing afternoon.

The only real consolation for OAs coaching staff from today’s performance is that it didn’t get any worse.

OAs: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Lincoln, Patston, Liebenberg, Cecere, Cope, Brown, Comb, Gillings, White, Bache, Daish. Reps: James, Hughes, Cooper-Millar, Evans, Shanahan

* With most of the games as away fixtures, OAs’ fifth team recorded a tight 5-0 win over Watford to move above their visitors who were on top of their league only by points difference at Woollams.