OAs pay the penalty

London One Old Albanians 8 Barnes 15 OLD Albanians paid the penalty for not converting territorial dominance into points at Woollams against Barnes on Saturday. With both Gregg Botterman and Paul Mansfield returning to action, OAs pack was close to full

London One

Old Albanians 8 Barnes 15

OLD Albanians paid the penalty for not converting territorial dominance into points at Woollams against Barnes on Saturday.

With both Gregg Botterman and Paul Mansfield returning to action, OAs' pack was close to full strength and set about keeping possession away from the Barnes backs, who had overwhelmed the Woollams men in November's away fixture.

With the exception of a mighty drive by Barnes which gained 35 metres, OAs had the best of the mauls and the home front row of Gelman, Botterman and Pearson gave their opposite numbers an uncomfortable afternoon.

On numerous occasions, the home side were encamped on the Barnes try line, only to be thwarted by a mixture of resolute defending and a number of bizarre refereeing decisions which served to let a creaking defence off the hook.

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The second half was played almost exclusively in Barnes' half and Gelman, Bennett and Mate repeatedly battered the final line of defence without ever actually piercing it.

OAs found themselves chasing a game which they had led courtesy of a Richard Gregg penalty in the first minute, as a result of two defensive lapses in a first half which the visitors had just shaded.

With 11 minutes on the clock, OAs' defence fell for a couple of unsophisticated dummies sold by Johnnie Fennel who fed hooker Andy Codey for an easy score under the posts. Then, indicative of their inaccuracy throughout, Simon Gregory kicked away possession and Barnes countered with a move down the right from inside their own half which was finished by winger Tom Archer. In between, Fennel had converted a penalty just seconds after his captain Givens had received a yellow card.

OAs had crucially conceded eight points whilst a man to the good and languished on the wrong end of a 15-3 scoreline at the break.

When play resumed the home forwards continued to build on the attacking platform established earlier but, sadly, on this occasion their team mates in the back line were not up the challenge and continually squandered good possession won the hard way.

Richard Gregg struggled all afternoon with his distribution and, when he was able to get a reasonable pass away, those around him seemed totally incapable of holding onto it. The frightful number of unforced 'knock- ons', together with Serrano's and Edward's struggle to find any cohesion in the centre stifled a succession of promising moves and an effective supply line to wingers Mark Mansfield and Evans was never allowed to emerge.

With their forwards in deadlock and backs in disarray, it was no surprise that OAs' solitary try came as a result of a breathtaking piece of individualism from Mansfield. On the hour, Phil Friel caught an attempted clearance just inside the Barnes half, close to touch and fed Mansfield inside. Making his home debut, the flying winger set off on a curving 50-metre sprint into the opposite corner which outflanked the whole Barnes defence before diving over for an outstanding score. The conversion was missed and OAs' pack went into top gear in an attempt to close the deficit.

After five minutes of unrelenting pressure, the Woollams men won another scrum within sight of the line. A blatant offside saved the day for Barnes whilst the perpetrator went unpunished. Barnes were then inexplicably awarded possession having been judged to have turned the subsequent scrum, with OAs rolling steadily forward, denying them a certain score.

OAs fought on but their appalling handling continued to ruin any chance of a result.

Both James Pavitt and Ed Panting came off the bench after long absences. Panting was playing his first game of the season after serious injury and his first contribution was a reliable catch under pressure, a salutary lesson to many of his colleagues.

OAs return to action on Saturday when they entertain South West One side Coney Hill from Gloucester for a place in the quarter finals of the EDF Intermediate Cup. Kick off is 3pm.

OAs: Simon Gregory, Mark Evans, Janes Serrano, Tryfan Edwards, Mark Mansfield, Richard Gregg, Phil Friel, Adam Gelman, Gregg Botterman, Andy Pearson, Arthur Mate, Roly Burr, Alex Bennett, Mike Rout, Paul Mansfield. Subs: Simon Williams, James Pavitt, Ed Panting.

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