OAs hole Henley’s boat

OAs rack up half century of points against Hawks

National League 2 South

Old Albanians 50 Henley Hawks 23

ON a dismal, overcast and floodlit afternoon at Woollams a depleted OAs side put on a magnificent display of running rugby to send Henley home to the Thames empty handed.

Shorn of Gustard, Ellershaw, Shannahan, Lincoln and Cooper-Millar, the rump of OAs hardworking squad provided a marvellous, free-flowing feast of rugby, scoring five tries and thereby a bonus point. All were converted in an impeccable kicking seminar by Richard Gregg, and together with five penalties and a try he notched up a personal tally of 25 points.

By contrast Henley’s kicker, full-back James Comben, hit the upright from in front of the posts with his first attempt after nine minutes. His first success came eight minutes later and he struck back with another just on the stroke of half time. His indifferent form in between and after meant that many catch-up opportunities for Henley in a game regularly punctuated with the referee’s whistle went begging.

His side, too, were only functional in fits and starts. OAs were 26-3 up with 10 minutes to go to half time before they scored a try and should have cashed in as OAs lock Tom Gillings’ attempt to act as peacemaker to a small altercation earned him a yellow card.

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Henley did start to show their mettle as the 10 minute binning wore on, but Gillings’ time in purdah only resulted in seven points for each side. Again, in the second half they began to show glimpses of the form that had them equal fourth in the league table with OAs before the match started, but the impression remained that they had only just got off the coach in the first half and were dying to get back on it in the second.

And so to OAs. The first half of glorious rugby only produced two tries, the first by Chris Lombaard with a 15 metre dash after seven minutes and the second by flanker Jack Micans after a build up by Chris May, acting full back Andy Edwards, Mark Evans and Terry Adams.

With a plentiful supply of ball from the forwards both in the set pieces and some stylish opportunism in the loose all the OA backs entertained with brilliant runs and offloads as well as putting in some thumping tackles to deny Henley’s pacemen.

Winger Jack Shaylor was the exception as with great speed he scored the visitors’ first try without a hand being laid on him.

Lombaard’s second try came just after half time during the yellow card intermission with a slicing break to touch down.

This temporarily dented Henley’s fight back but just before the 10 minutes were up, Henley’s tight head prop, Ant Brennan, trundled over from eight metres out.

Their final try came from Comben in the thirty- third minute as OAs had both Adams and replacement hooker, Wes Cope, wandering round in a daze after a bloody clash of heads. This came after OAs’ fourth and bonus point try scored with a shimmy through two defenders by Gregg following a surging run from Micans.

A big pat on the back goes to Marco Cecere for playing out of position at loose head to accommodate Tom Laws at tight. Also out of position, but revelling in it, Man of the Match Matt Alford at No.8 set up countless attacks together with scrum-half Stefan Liebenberg.

A mountain of work was unselfishly undertaken by Gillings, when on the field, and the low-slung Brad James drove and tackled until replaced by Cope. Bad luck to skipper Laurence White who caught the curse of the hamstring early on in the match, but it brought a fine performance from Simon Lye as his replacement.

At the sharp end all match, Woollams favourite Marc Comb also provided the crowd with an OAs Golden Moment. Not content with scoring the final try from close range and able to run in behind the posts through a tiring Henley defence most locks would, at that stage of the game, be content to throw their arms aloft in triumph. But to show his fitness as fully eighty minutes had been played, he threw wing Mark Evans aloft instead.

OAs: Edwards, Evans, Adams, Lombaard, May, Gregg, Liebenberg, Cecere, James Laws, Comb Gillings, White (C), Micans Alford.

Reps: Cope, Hughes, Lye, Vinnicombe, Panting.

n Not only did the senior side hit a half century, but all four other men’s sides won on Saturday. Also at Woollams, the IIs beat Richmond Saxons 38-17 and the IVs crushed Stevenage 42-0.

Playing away from home, the IIIs continued their good run with a 24-17 win at Saffron Walden and the evergreen Vs visited South Oxhey who they beat 17-3.