OAs take derby honours

London and South East One/Herts. President s Cup Quarter Final Old Albanians 8 Hertford 5 HAD Adam Robert s penalty found its mark in the dying moments, the complexion of this memorable double-header could have been so different. Hertford would have st

London and South East One/Herts. President's Cup Quarter Final

Old Albanians 8 Hertford 5

HAD Adam Robert's penalty found its mark in the dying moments, the complexion of this memorable 'double-header' could have been so different.

Hertford would have stolen a league point and earned themselves a period of extra time in which to fashion a defence of the County Cup they had won in 2007/8 for a record fifth consecutive year.

In the event, the kick fell short and OAs were able to close out a deserved victory which secured, not only a notable league home/away double over their close rivals, but also saw them into the semi final of the County President's Cup.

With local bragging rights also at stake in this match sponsored by International Labmate, the two sides tore into each other from the outset in a pulsating game which had both sets of partisan fans riveted to every phase of the action.

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The Woollams' ground staff had worked hard throughout the week in clearing snow and the result was a playing surface in prime condition for this time of year, inviting both sets of backs to express themselves after the restrictions of the big freeze.

A well drilled Hertford pack posed problems for OAs all afternoon with their powerful scrummaging but, on the whole, The Woollams' men displayed more imagination in attack, where wingers Dene Miller and Ed Panting both looked dangerous when in possession.

If Hertford had the edge in set scrums, OAs ruled the lineout with old campaigner James Pavitt setting up a stream of possession for his side, whilst managing to disrupt Hertford ball on a regular basis. Pavitt crowned his first game of the season with a superb all round performance at lock and, together with Paul Gustard returning at openside, gave their opponents an uncomfortable afternoon in the loose.

The story behind a 5-5 half time scoreline tells of two well matched sides sharing territorial advantage with solid defensive work serving to limit the number of clear scoring opportunities.

Tom Chesters opened the scoring for OAs after 10 minutes going in at the corner after Adam Gelman, up in the line, had used all of his considerable strength to offload whilst under pressure. Richard Gregg was unlucky when his attempted conversion from an extreme angle struck an upright. The home side had a great chance of extending this lead shortly afterwards with a clear overlap evident, but were undone by a poor pass which forced a knock on.

To their own frustration, Hertford had squandered two earlier penalty attempts before gaining parity on 34 minutes as OAs' defence appeared to freeze and Roberts sprinted in to take full advantage. His kick was less effective, however. The successful move had been started by Sean Hardy, Hertford's hard working number 8.

Spare a thought for luckless Andy Pearson, OAs long serving tight head prop who injured a foot in the opening exchanges and played on valiantly for most of the half with what later transpired to be a broken bone.

Applying a more patient build up to that too often seen of late, OAs continued to look threatening in the second period with scrum half, Mark Evans having probably his best game of the campaign, appreciated no doubt by his father Lou, the ex Wasps number 9, visiting from his base in Somerset.

When centres Tryfan Edwards and Terry Adams were able to link with their wingers, the visitors clearly had their hands full and the view from the stands was that adopting more of a wider game would probably have been the key to breaking the deadlock. Such a promising move ended once again with a handling error though the surface was beginning to become a little greasy at this stage.

When OAs looked to be taking control, however, they lost one of their danger men, Miller, when he was adjudged to have tackled a defender without the ball after Gustard had kicked ahead.

The current County champions will doubtlessly reflect on the 10 minutes which followed as an opportunity lost. When their numerical benefit called for them to take the initiative and open up their game, they appeared to do the opposite. To their credit, OAs stuck to their own game plan and played out the danger period with few alarms. Indeed with Miller still warming up for his return to action, he Woollams' men made their decisive move.

Richard Gregg shuffled 'into the hole' behind a ruck and when the pass came his way, the classy outside half sent his drop goal high over the sticks to the delight of the home supporters.

In the remaining 15 minutes Hertford rallied and continued to pressurise OAs at scrums but were not allowed to get back into the game by a mean home defence, bolstered by Arthur Mate coming off the bench to take over prime ball carrying responsibilities from the reliable Alex Bennett.

Delighted OAs coach, Bruce Millar, praised his squad after the victory for responding so well to his pre-match demand for more personal and collective responsibility.

Next week OAs travel to fulfil another local derby engagement, this time against Bishop's Stortford whom they beat last October at Woollams.

OAs: Tom Chesters, Dene Miller, Terry Adams, Tryfan Edwards, Ed Panting, Richard Gregg, Mark Evans, Adam Gelman, Gregg Botterman, Andy Pearson, Alex Bennett , James Pavitt, James Kriukelis , Paul Gustard, Simon Lye. Subs; Peter Nelson, Arthur Mate, Oliver Peck.