OAs get back to basics

Albanian see off Sedgley Park on Saturday

National League 1

Old Albanian 31

Sedgley Park 9

THE disappointments of the past month faded somewhat as this welcome and well-worked victory took shape on Saturday writes Brian Quinn.

The best part about it was that Albanians were by no means brilliant; there was no magic, there were no game-changing moments and there was no individual who stood the match on its head with an outstanding performance. But taken all together this offering by the home side was thoroughly workmanlike, utterly professional, exactly what is needed in this league.

Once again the OA forwards were faced with a bigger pack, but this time technique overcame tonnage. The lineout gave a stream of good possession. The tight scrum has offered areas of concern of late, at least to spectators, but on Saturday things were different.

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Outside the pack, matters, if possible, were even livelier. The greatest threat Tigers had to offer was big, powerful inside centre Mat Riley who made worrying inroads from the start. Twice he managed to break the defensive line but was so effectively wrapped up by the cover he was unable to release his outsides. For the hosts, right wing James Speirs demonstrated the value of the wide ball with electric breaks close to touch riding some half dozen tackles on the way.

The scoring was opened after 14 minutes by Stefan Liebenberg who took a short penalty after the visitors had transgressed close to their own posts. Richard Gregg added the conversion but Steve Collins replied with two penalties in the 21st and 24th minutes.

After the second of these Speirs magnificently recovered the restart kick and charged for the line. The ball was quickly recycled for Val Ruskin to crash over. Gregg couldn’t add the extras into a hectic wind but Collins notched his third penalty on the half hour to bring the half time score to 12-9.

At the break the weather moderated. Albanian pressure did not and most of this period was spent on or near the Tigers’ 22. Thirteen minutes in and that man Ruskin followed up Tom Jubb’s charge down of a hurried clearance kick for his second try. Desperate Sedgley defence kept repeated OA attacks just out of the goal area and it was five minutes from no side when Liebenberg, with his second short penalty scored the bonus point try and put the match out of the visitors’ reach. Terry Adams added to last week’s brace at the whistle, Gregg converting his and the scrum half’s earlier effort.

Next week league-leaders Ealing will provide a searching examination of Albanian scholarship. Kick off at Vallis Way is at 3pm.

Team: Gregg, Speirs, Adams, Lombaard, May; Shanahan, Liebenberg; Ruskin, McNamee, Cade, Bickle, Cooper-Millar, Johnson�, Hankin, Chambers.

Replacements: Cope, Schillaci, Jubb, Collins, Rayner.