OAs pipped by Ealing in thriller

Action from OAs against Ealing.

Action from OAs against Ealing. - Credit: Archant

TOO often this season the OA faithful have tried to predict how their team will fare against this opponent or that, writes Brian Quinn.

Action from OAs against Ealing.

Action from OAs against Ealing. - Credit: Archant

So often have these musings been wide of the mark that supporters now arrive hopeful of a prime performance but a tad nervous in case they witness something from further down the scale.

The previous week’s outing to Lancashire showed exactly how exciting this league can be and, despite the narrowest of victories, much head scratching was observed as spectators considered the visit of champions-elect Ealing. In International circles it has often been said of the French that one is never sure which team will turn up; there have been certain parallels at Woollams this year.

The watching crowd need not have worried; this was a match straight out of the top drawer and though A’s this time came a close second to this fine West London side James Shanahan’s men can feel proud of their attitude and performance.

Shattering commitment attended the opening exchanges and just five minutes had gone when Tight Head Prop Tim Brockett was stripped of possession in the Ealing half. Matt Chambers charged from the back of the pack, his serpentine run deceiving the defence as he crossed untouched at the posts. Richard Gregg converted.

There was a chance for Max Crumpton three minutes later but the final pass just did not go to hand. This was after Ealing had been pressured into a lineout error, surprisingly the first of six in the afternoon.

Ealing are not at the top for nothing and Owen Bruynseel’s scorching break on the right for his first try sixteen minutes in reminded all of the fact. The conversion failed, one of five such lapses on the day.

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Olly Marchon intercepted a loose pass as the first quarter ended for Gregg to convert but Ealing power, especially in the scrum began to tell. Tom Parker took advantage after twenty eight minutes and Brockett two minutes later, neither score converted and a Gregg penalty gave Albanians a two point lead at the break.

Stef Liebenberg’s sniping bore fruit with the bonus point try two minutes after the restart and Gregg’s conversion put nine points between the sides. Just four minutes later flying wing Phil Chesters showed a clean pair of heels to the OA defence as Ealing regrouped and forced a sharp turnover. Tom Wheatcroft managed his only conversion of the afternoon and in this purple patch for the visitors Bruynseels gave his men back the lead with his second strike of the day, again after a defensive mishap.

Still in the third quarter, and not to be outdone, Marchon’s electric pace put his side back in front but this time Gregg was unable to add the extras. Ten minutes later the pendulum swung again and Parker notched his second from the base of the scrum to restore a three point edge.

Fully a quarter of an hour remained for Albanians to rescue the game and much of this time was spent deep in Ealing territory. Desperate assaults on the visitors line from all parts of the field were repulsed with equal skill and vigour and, though sorely pressed, the Ealing defence held.

Coach Shanners was a mite disappointed afterwards saying “Nobody likes to lose a game as good as that. It was played with great intensity throughout and I believe it was a great spectacle”. He added “We have not been as consistent as I would like during this season but we have gained seven League points against Ealing. No other club has done that. I’m very proud of the boys and this performance should bode well for what will be a tricky final quarter of the season”.

‘Tricky’ starts next week with the visit to Wharfedale, implacable opponents in their North Yorkshire home. It continues the week after in the Forest of Dean at Cinderford. The only thing supporters can be sure of is there is plenty of drama to come before season’s end.

Team: Gregg, Adams, Lombaard, Holmes, Marchon, Shanahan©, Liebenberg; Briggs, Crumpton, Schillaci, Bickle, Hamilton, McNamee, Cooper-Millar, Chambers. Reps: Fahrenheim, Staff, Hughes, Stanley, Speirs.