OAs lose third straight game

Gregg kicks a conversion

Gregg kicks a conversion - Credit: Archant

For the second time this season Albanians have lost three games in a row and, as has been the case on various other occasions since the turn of the year, Billy Johnson’s men were in large part the architects of their own destruction, writes Brian Quinn.

There was not much between the sides in open play but the amount of unforced errors and handling mistakes which peppered this OA performance ensured attack after promising attack foundered before a meaningful breach had been forced in the Blackheath defence. This, allied to the loss of form at the lineout, normally such a bastion of Albanian possession, meant the visitors left Rectory Field disappointed, losing 27-10.

Things had started cheerily enough. Danny Holmes, a serious threat throughout, made good ground as his side mounted a patient, well structured attack on the right and, after a penalty, took a lineout five metres out. But the throw wasn’t straight and Blackheath cleared to midfield. It was Simon Whatling who opened the scoring with a penalty on eight minutes.

Richard Gregg’s penalty attempt, after sixteen minutes, struck the right upright and play continued in midfield in almost nondescript fashion.

Five fateful minutes just before the break virtually ended this match as a contest. First Jack Walsh, man of the match by a distance, expertly delayed his pass and Richard Windsor crashed over for the opening try. Whatling’s conversion attempt missed but from the restart Walsh combined with Jesse Liston for James Catt to score. Whatling added the extras as he did three minutes later when A’s presented the ball to Liston who strolled over from thirty metres.

Thus stung Albanians opened the second half more purposefully and Brett McNamee’s strike against the head served notice of intent. Gregg kicked the first OA points with a penalty moments later and for much of the next half hour Blackheath were on the end of serious pressure. Walsh, and the lack of OA precision ensured the score stayed as it was.

Deep in the last quarter Blackheath took control again and stormed for the visitors’ line. Haydn Stringer and Ian Vass, in separate incidents were both sinbinned for illegal efforts in defence. Ironically this motivated the depleted side into their best passage of play and after a determined charge upfield Matt Chambers crossed for Gregg to convert.

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A surprise turnaround was too much to expect from the gallant thirteen and Walsh, prominent again, created the overlap for Seb Nagle-Taylor.

The three newly promoted sides in National One now form their own group at the bottom of the table and Worthing, next week’s visitors to Woollams, are at least five points short of safety. They have nothing to lose and will therefore be dangerous opponents especially since A’s just pipped them in the tightest of contests in December. Kick-off 3pm.