EDF Energy Intermediate Cup Second Round Old Albanians 43 North Walsham 23 NORTH Walsham returned to Woollams seeking revenge for their league defeat there only two weeks earlier but once again had to settle for second place in a red-blooded cup encounte
EDF Energy Intermediate Cup Second Round
Old Albanians 43 North Walsham 23
NORTH Walsham returned to Woollams seeking revenge for their league defeat there only two weeks earlier but once again had to settle for second place in a red-blooded cup encounter.
OAs always maintained the initiative, creating more scoring opportunities but their London One rivals were able to keep within striking distance until the last 10 minutes when two late home tries killed off any remaining hopes.
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Keen to bring on the action on a bitter afternoon, the Woollams men started brightly and after conceding an early penalty against the run of play, forced their opponents onto the back foot.
Twice Walsham were obliged to defend powerful attacks, from Dene Miller and then Russell Osman, but had no answer to a smart move along the back line which Mark Mansfield finished with aplomb.
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The sides then traded successful penalties before the visitors quickly responded to Chris May's try in the corner, set up by a tap penalty from Oliver Peck. OAs had seemed poised for another score after Miller's run had set up a clear overlap but Osman's outside pass was intercepted by Stephen Simms and the winger had the pace to go all the way.
For all their territorial advantage, OAs' lead had been cut to two points. A second try for Mansfield, converted by Richard Gregg, back to his best kicking form, restored a fairer reflection to the balance of play with OAs leading 22-13 at the break.
OAs' feisty prop, Adam Gelman, opened the second-half action, twice boring deeply into a massed defence as Paul Gustard and Alex Bennett had done to such effect earlier. Restored to his favourite position in the second row, Bennett was revelling in making the hard yards and looking as sharp as at any point in his time at Woollams. His try, to open the scoring after the break, was typical of his performance as the big man steamed over the line from 15 metres out whilst Gregg once again bisected the posts with a kick from the touchline.
Walsham were down to 14 men at the time but when Gustard received his customary yellow card, it was time for them to build upon their numerical advantage, which they succeeded in doing with tries from flanker, Chris Godwin, and a second from Simms.
Despite failing to convert either score, Walsham now needed only one converted try to take the lead and, as the confidence began to build, their supporters might have sensed a reward for their long journey to Hertfordshire in the form of an unlikely cup win.
Any hopes of a passage into the next round of this, the last Intermediate Cup competition, were dashed by James Kriukelis' neat score after a characteristic charge by Bennett had been taken on by Gustard.
When Oliver Peck capped an intelligent performance with a late try it was all over for the valiant Norfolk men who witnessed yet another Gregg special sail over.
A comprehensive victory lost some of its sparkle as OAs' unlucky flanker Jeremy Edwards incurred a painful leg injury in his first match back following a month out. Joe Peach came off the bench and fellow debutant Peter Nelson replaced Andy Pearson late in the game.
All attention turns back to London One action on Saturday when unbeaten league leaders Shelford visit Woollams, with kick off at 3pm. OAs' own perfect home record of five wins from five goes on the line in what promises to be a thrilling spectacle.
OAs: Chris May, Dene Miller, Russell Osman, Tryfan Edwards, Mark Mansfield, Richard Gregg, Oliver Peck, Adam Gelman, Gregg Botterman, Andy Pearson, Alex Bennett, James Kriukelis, Dan Henderson, Jeremy Edwards, Paul Gustard. Subs; Nathan Byrne, Peter Nelson, Joe Peach, Ed Panting.