OAs leave it late to seal points

Powergen London League One Old Albanians 29 Luton 10 OA s put the bitter disappointment of last week s Cup horror behind them with a decisive league win against Luton whom they leapfrog in the table as a result. Overcoming the disruption of late unavailab

Powergen London League One

Old Albanians 29 Luton 10

OA's put the bitter disappointment of last week's Cup horror behind them with a decisive league win against Luton whom they leapfrog in the table as a result.

Overcoming the disruption of late unavailability to full back Tom Chesters and both of their line out specialists, Kriukelis and Pavitt, and prompted by yet another consummate performance from Eddie Panting, The Woollams Men did enough to have buried the opposition by half time.

In the event, for all OA's superiority, a catalogue of handling errors, and marginal decisions, meant that the outcome of the game actually hung in the balance until the 78th minute. Only five points separated the teams as full time loomed when Panting seared through the Luton ranks and set up Richard Gregg for a clever angled conversion. Those who had witnessed Bishop's Stortford's smash and grab raid to lift the County Cup only six days earlier were able to breathe a sigh of relief and then savour Arthur Mate's try which came late in injury time, thus shedding a more realistic score line on the proceedings.

A biting, northerly wind, made for difficult handling conditions bringing with it, first hailstones and then bursts of torrential rain. Playing against the elements in the first half, OA's played intelligently to consolidate an eight point lead which they had built up in an entertaining contest, courtesy of a Tryfan Edwards try and Gregg's penalty. Mark Evans and Dene Miller had combined well to set up Edwards, skipper for the day, in the absence of Gregg Botterman, and the genial Welshman clearly relished the return of Terry Adams, his partner in the centre with whom he operates so well.

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Gregg's penalty, though welcome, came after a period of sustained home pressure which would have been rewarded by a try close to the posts by Adams had the match official not spotted a forward pass in the build up. Paul Gustard went close and then OA's squandered another scoring opportunity when they chose to cut inside with a man over on the left.

OA's came out brightly after the interval and Adams directed an attack into opposition territory with Miller and Edwards combining delightfully in the process. A try then looked certain on the other wing when Francis Denny was on the end of another fluent movement but, to his anguish, the young winger spilled the pass with the line at his mercy.

Fresh from their latest reprieve, Luton took heart and put their first points on the board when prop Nicholas Peters burst through some unconvincing defending and full back Dan Howells nailed the conversion from close range.

Only one point adrift and, in their best spell of the game, the visitors began to look dangerous particularly when winger, Pepe Nanci, fielded a number of long, but unsuccessful attempts at touch, and countered strongly on each occasion.

The large crowd began to sense that the next score could be decisive and OA's were very unfortunate, on 65 minutes, to have a try disallowed. With his first touch of the ball, Rob Farenheim, who had replaced the injured Gustard, made a dazzling break over 30 metres all the way to the line but was adjudged to have not grounded the ball. Home supporters had only five minutes to wait, however, before OA's persistence was rewarded when Arthur Mate finished OA's powerful drive, the big Zimbabwean having formed a very effective second row partnership with Alex Bennett from the start.

Luton were awarded a penalty close to the posts and the Bedfordshire side showed no hesitation in taking the points to set up a final 'ten' with everything to play for.

Ed Panting, having moved onto the wing to accommodate Ed Orchard's arrival, continued to tackle like a demon as he had done throughout, and took his late try with deadly efficiency.

Another Gregg conversion put the game out of Luton's reach at last and when Mate picked up the ball from a breakdown and smashed his way over the line from 20 metres to record his 'brace', a further two points from the kick sealed, in the end, a handsome victory for The Woollams Men.

Next league action at Woollams is on Saturday April 4 (k.o. 3pm) sees the visit of Herts rivals Tring whose improvement this year was demonstrated by their fine victory at Jersey last weekend.

Tring will be out for revenge following their home defeat at the hands of OA's in December.

OAs: Ed Panting, Dene Miller, Terry Adams, Tryfan Edwards, Francis Denny, Richard Gregg, Mark Evans, Adam Gelman, Matt Hart, Nathan Byrne, Arthur Mate, Alex Bennett, Joe Vassie, Paul Gustard, Simon Lye. Subs: Peter Nelson, Rob Farenheim, Ed Orchard.