OAs take local honours

London and South East One Bishop s Stortford 7 Old Albanians 16 OAs extended their perfect record against Hertfordshire clubs this season with a hard fought victory over Bishop s Stortford. The tally now stands at seven wins out of seven in all competitio

London and South East One

Bishop's Stortford 7 Old Albanians 16

OAs extended their perfect record against Hertfordshire clubs this season with a hard fought victory over Bishop's Stortford. The tally now stands at seven wins out of seven in all competitions.

Stortford themselves were out for revenge on their home turf having experienced earlier defeats at Woollams in both league and Intermediate cup competitions.

OAs deserved win on the latest occasion was fashioned from self induced adversity, having been obliged to play most of this match one down on numbers. First the abrasive Paul Gustard was given an enforced 'rest' early in the game and then with the second half barely started Dene Miller saw red for a clumsy tackle which was adjudged to have been dangerous by the match official, whose tight control throughout kept the lid on a potentially volatile environment.

Having absorbed their opponents early onslaught OAs slipped into a steady rhythm and posed most of the questions in a first half which they led by a single try scored by power house Arthur Mate on the half hour.

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Despite missing a penalty in the difficult cross wind, Richard Gregg, last week's match winner, quickly settled into the role of playmaker, ably supported by a slick back line. With Terry Adams back to match fitness, his link with the consistent Tryfan Edwards in the centre is blossoming into a very effective partnership both offensively and on occasions when a stern defence is called for. Mark Evans continues to show a rich vein of form and, upon switching from scrum half to wing when Oliver Peck replaced the injured Tom Chesters after 20 minutes, he promptly led two dangerous breaks down the left.

It was left to the forwards to make the initial break through, however, when Arthur Mate, on whose shoulders the major ball carrying duties fell in the absence of Alex Bennett, crashed over following a truck and trailer movement executed to perfection by his pack. With Gustard still off the pitch, OAs appeared to move up a gear as instanced by Adam Gelman's unceremonious handing off of several attempted tackles leading up to the score.

Not the biggest side in the competition, Stortford still field a well organised scrum, behind which lurks a very mobile unit with no shortage of speed and flair.

Their tendancy on the day, however, to cut inside when on the burst, rather than continue to move the ball out wide did not appear to best serve their cause, particularly when enjoying the benefit of the extra man.

Joe Vassie joined the action in the third quarter after James Kriukelis failed to shrug off a painful knock on the knee and the young back row settled in quickly to crown his debut at this level with a fine piece of finishing mid half. Gustard, playing in the less familiar role at number eight released Evans whose charge set up a drive by Botterman, and his eager pack, from which a delighted Vassie grounded the ball.

The 14 men continued to press forward and in the next attack Mark McCraith, the home skipper, was sent to the bin as his side conceded a penalty for killing the ball when under extreme pressure.

Richard Gregg made no mistake with his kick and OAs were sitting on a 13 point lead with a quarter of an hour to play.

With even numbers restored the Silver Leys Men began to run out of ideas for ever piercing OAs defensive line and their try came as a result of a mistake. Gustard was in the process of making a run out of defence when he opted for the low risk, or so it seemed, with a kick for the near touch line.

To the horror of the ex-Saracen, his punt found not the line but the grateful arms of David Rose.

The combative home number eight countered strongly sparking a cross field move which saw winger Ed Merrivale, on the overlap, cross in the corner and decisively ground the ball behind the sticks. Tom Coleman, the league's top kicker this time found no problem with the wind and his side were suddenly back in the hunt.

The two sides locked horns for the next ten minutes with Peter Nelson maintaining a steady performance at tight head. Gregg sealed the victory deep into injury time with a penalty decisively despatched under considerable pressure.

OAs coaches and physios will have a busy time ahead of a testing weekend for their squad. On Sunday February 28 the Woollams' men travel across town to meet St Albans RFC for a place in the final of the Herts. Presidents' Cup.

A day earlier they are obliged to trek up to Norfolk in order to fulfil the twice postponed league encounter with North Walsham.

OAs: Tom Chesters, Dene Miller, Terry Adams, Tryfan Edwards, Ed Panting, Richard Gregg, Mark Evans, Adam Gelman, Gregg Botterman, Peter Nelson, Arthur Mate, James Kriukelis, Dan Henderson, Simon Lye, Paul Gustard. Subs: Andy Clark, Joe Vassie, Oliver Peck.