OAs frustrated at Lydney
Defeat sees OAs slip to fourth in National 2 South table
National League 2 South
Lydney 27 Old Albanians 22
WELCOMING back Simon Lincoln and Ollie Cooper-Millar but minus Richard Gregg and still awaiting the return of Paul Gustard and James Ellershaw and Shannahan, OAs lost this tight and enthralling match in the Forest of Dean but gained a losing bonus point to nurture on the coach home.
Lydney, formed 123 years ago when there were coal mines in the Forest, are no longer top dogs in their back yard now near-neighbours Cinderford have stolen the limelight and currently reside in National League 1.
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However, the tactic of tucking the ball up the jumper and denying the opposition the means to score tries may well date all the way back to 1887. And to show that it still wins matches this was a gripping display of miserliness which denied OAs what looked to be a big haul of points.
The game divided into three clearly identifiable stages. Firstly, OAs ran riot with three tries in the first 30 minutes, racking up 22 points.
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Then Lydney used all of their forward power to grind their way back into the match – the pressure being such that in the space of 10 minutes after half time they forced OAs to concede four kickable penalties in virtually the same position under the posts between 25 and 30 yards out and with only one going astray they took the lead.
Finally OAs fought back right to the last second of injury time but the initiative, and with it the game, had run away.
Hints of what was to come were present in the first stage; Lydney, with possession in OAs’ 22 from a line out formed a rolling maul whilst the unprepared OA back row stood out, and ground towards the line for an OA to somehow hit the floor and leave the referee little alternative than to award the home side a penalty try for collapsing.
This should have put some perspective on the split-second chance-taking and vibrant running from the OA backs.
Two-try Chris May scored the first within nine minutes from a counter attack beginning in OAs 22 and carried forward by centre Terry Adams.
Mark Evans grabbed the second after a lineout which also involved May before another score from winger May following a quickly-taken penalty by Stefan Liebenberg on OAs’ 10 metre line with Adams linking to allow the in-form May to bounce over in the corner.
Zac Vinnicombe, in his first full outing for OAs replacing Gregg at fly-half, kicked a penalty in the first minute and converted two of the tries. And that was the end of OAs’ contribution to the score sheet.
As well as the penalty try, Lydney’s No.12, Brett Turner, added two penalty kicks before half time but, more significantly, the black and whites were allowed to score a further try right on the stroke of half time and go in with only a four point deficit at 18-22.
The word ‘allowed’ is an uncharacteristic commentary on a na�ve referee. He failed to spot, despite a long conversation with one touch judge before raising his arm, that Lydney’s second rolling maul owed almost everything to a player obstructing defenders trying to get to the ball-carrier.
It was draining to watch OAs begin the second half with those four penalties, but the sad truth is that for the 10 minutes after the opposition’s first try and for 15 minutes after half time, OAs had no possession at all.
Lydney’s forwards made sure that the maximum pressure was exerted simply by denying the Woollams men the ball right up to five minutes before the 40 minutes were up and the OA fight-back occurred.
Time after time, OAs’ backs and forwards pounded the Lydney line but to no effect.
At last a penalty was awarded within the 22 and close to the posts, but the referee’s naivety shone out again as he allowed the Lydney scrum half in his death throes to eventually perform a Lazarus-like recovery thus giving his under-pressure side a welcome breather.
So a drop in the table from third to fourth as OAs prepare to welcome Richmond, conquerors on Saturday of league-leaders Jersey, to Woollams next week.
OAs: Lincoln, May, Adams, Lombaard, Evans, Vinnicombe, Liebenberg, Cecere, James, Laws, Comb, Gillings, Cooper-Millar, Alford
Reps: Cope, Hughes, Lye, Bache, Panting.