OAs leave Norfolk empty-handed
London and South East One North Walsham Vikings 12 Old Albanians 6 OAs winning run came to an end on the road at North Walsham. Beset by injuries and the unavailability of key players, together with the prospect of a County Cup semi final on the follo
London and South East One
North Walsham 'Vikings' 12 Old Albanians 6
OAs' winning run came to an end on the road at North Walsham.
Beset by injuries and the unavailability of key players, together with the prospect of a County Cup semi final on the following day, Coach Bruce Millar was forced to make 9 changes to the squad of 18 that had won at Bishops Stortford a week earlier.
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Aussie duo Nathan Byrne and James Kriukelis were still recovering from injury and 'big guns' Alex Bennett and Paul Gustard were also unavailable. Millar's response was to call up an intriguing blend of experience and raw talent. 'Old hand' James Pavitt joined Arthur Mate in the second row whilst former Colts Dan Henderson and Joe Vassie were reunited in senior rugby on the flanks. Elsewhere, new signing Sam Stanley made his debut at outside centre, Paul Ashford came in on the wing and vastly experienced Justin Azzopardi also stepped up from OAs' in form second XV in the absence of a specialist full back.
With so many changes to digest, OA's shape and pattern of play was seriously challenged and the back line, unsurprisingly, lacked some of the fluency which has been an effective feature of recent weeks.
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Nevertheless Richard Gregg and his colleagues were still able to fashion more clear scoring opportunities, their best being a scything run from Stanley who was stopped just short, the resultant charge being held up over the line.
Unable to make any decisive dent in OAs' defence with their simple and swift movement of the ball from wing to wing, the game was ultimately decided on penalty kicks, Walsham converting four out of six attempts, twice the number of kickable opportunities enjoyed by their visitors.
What proved to be a crucial advantage, the penalty count came the home side's way courtesy of some over eagerness from OA's defenders together with a number of unfathomable decisions ruled against them in and around the rucks.
The Woollams' men were sound throughout in both scrum and line out where 18 year old Vassie, in only his second game at this level, offered Botterman the alternative target to the immaculate James Pavitt.
Vassie, once again equipped himself well at blindside, relishing his share of ball carrying duties and on one occasion meandered through three tackles to set up Stanley's successful kick which levelled the score at 6-6 with 20 minutes remaining.
Earlier Gregg had opened the scoring though Iain Young had denied the visitors an interval lead with his kick after 42 minutes.
Peter Clifford, who had come off the bench to replace Will Farrer after a clash of heads with Azzopardi had resulted in stitches for both players, assumed kicking duties.
The replacement centre seized his chance of glory and landed three from four attempts from distance in the second period to win his side the points and close the gap between Walsham and OAs in London One.
OAs: Azzopardi,Ashford, Stanley, Edwards, Panting, Gregg, Evans, Gelman, Botterman, Nelson, Mate, Pavitt, Vassie, Henderson, Lye. Subs: Summers, Peach, Binfield.