OAs show worth
London One Worthing Raiders 38 Old Albanians 13 OLD Albanians gave a positive performance despite losing to promotion chasers Worthing Raiders on Saturday in London One. The Woollams men continue to struggle with injuries to key players and a disappoint
Worthing Raiders 38
Old Albanians 13
OLD Albanians gave a positive performance despite losing to promotion chasers Worthing Raiders on Saturday in London One.
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The Woollams men continue to struggle with injuries to key players and a disappointing tendency for others to declare themselves unavailable for crucial games such as this one.
With conditions ideal for expansive rugby, OA coach Bruce Millar was forced to make positional changes in an attempt to achieve the necessary balance in their back line, where their strike players were gradually overwhelmed with defensive duties.
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Having survived Worthing's initial onslaught with only one try conceded, the Woollams men settled down as their trusty pack dragged them back into the game. Without their influential hooker Gregg Botterman, who tweaked a hamstring in training, Alex Bennett assumed the captaincy and gave an inspirational display of aggressive ball carrying.
The OA forwards were hungry for possession in the quarter that followed, with prop Adam Gelman and Arthur Mate, in the second row, eagerly taking their turn to spearhead the visitors' attacks.
The hard work paid off in the 22nd minute when Mate was stopped just short of the line and the ball recycled to replacement winger Paul Ashford, who made no mistake from a good scoring position. Richard Gregg converted and then slotted a drop goal from 25 metres which deservedly increased the OA lead to five points.
A restless crowd, unused to such impudent treatment in their home stronghold, were relieved to see a Ben Coulson penalty go over, though his next failed attempt renewed the anxiety.
When Mate received a yellow card, harshly administered for not releasing, Worthing gratefully took the three points on offer though, indicative of OAs' determination, the 14 men regained the lead from a 35-metre penalty by the in form Gregg.
The impressive OA resistance suddenly collapsed in the final six minutes before the interval when Worthing turned a three-point deficit into a 13-point credit.
The second half belonged to Worthing despite great work by Darragh O'Mahoney and Gregg, who continually put their bodies on the line in bringing down bigger men, often in full flight.
OAs repelled Worthing's best efforts for nearly 20 minutes, their only points coming from a penalty but the pressure was steadily building. It was no surprise, therefore, when Williams broke the stalemate, catching a crossfield kick and neatly evading the attentions of Mark Mansfield and Mark Evans.
Any faint glimmer of hope of a fight back was finally extinguished when, from the restart, Mike Rout got his marching orders for a deliberate intervention when clearly offside.
Worthing pressed home their advantage but OAs maintained their spirited defensive performance which limited the high flyers to one further score.
Gelman lifted the hearts of the Woollams travelling faithful with a defiant burst which gained 20 metres and Tryfan Edwards combined with Evans in a move which might have produced a sting in the tail against less alert opposition.
OAs now look forward to back-to-back home games. Having been reinstated to the Intermediate Cup following Coney Hill's ejection for having fielded an ineligible player at Woollams, OAs face South West One leaders Bracknell in the quarter final on Saturday, February 23.
Next they face a critical league match when struggling Basingstoke visit Woollams on Saturday, February 16 with a 3pm kick off.
OAs: M. Mansfield, P. Ashford, D. O'Mahony, T. Edwards, M. Evans, R. Gregg, P. Friel, A. Gelman, A. Pearson, S. Williams, A. Mate, A. Bennett, P. Sullivan, M. Rout, P. Mansfield. Subs Used: G. Botterman, D. Fergusson, R. Burr.