OAs triumph in Hertfordshire derby

13-man OAs hold out against Hertford

National League 2 South

Hertford 6 Old Albanians 23

IN a season and a bit in League 2 South, the concept of a local derby has been alien to OAs; arguably Ealing were the nearest ‘neighbours’. Now Hertford have risen back into the league and present an opportunity for an afternoon of missed opportunities, unforced errors, cheap shots and bitter recriminations for both sides. Yes, it was welcome back to the good old days of local derbies, Hertfordshire style!

What more mouth-watering scenario could there be than 10 minutes left of the second half. Hertford were 18-6 adrift but with the wind up their tails as they forced OAs into their 22 metre area and won a penalty.

It should be explained that this area of the pitch, whilst not a sheer drop, would test the abilities of a mountain goat to keep its footing. Hertford gloatingly opted for a scrum as OAs No 7, Jack Micans, received a yellow card for slowing matters down. The home side where then awarded a further penalty and made the same call – this time the ball shot out but a scrum was awarded against OAs on their 10 metre mark. A further penalty and again Hertford opted for a scrum, this time forcing prop Charlie Hughes into a misdemeanour allowing him to renew his acquaintance with Micans on the naughty bench with seven minutes to go. Another penalty was awarded which Hertford took a scrum from only to win a further scrum. This time, however, the referee penalised the home side awarding a penalty to OAs, whose section of the crowd erupted with bragging rights, space at the bar and victory assured.

In the cold light of day this win, devoid of any bonus point, hauls OAs up to fifth in the table. In the manner of local derbies, the first try was opportunism born out of sloppiness. Mark Evans cut a good line after nine minutes towards the right wing and sensed No.8, Andy Daish, outside him. Evans must admit that passing to Daish’s boot is not mentioned in the coaching manual, but against the odds it struck gold as the ball flew straight and true along the line with Daish on hand to deliver the touchdown.

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Richard Gregg was only inches away with his kick but made amends with a conversion and two penalty kicks later in the game to compensate.

Four minutes later OAs extended their lead to 12-0 from an unremarkable lineout on the Hertford 22 line as the ball went from Evans to No 10, James Shanahan, and on to Chris Lombaard who made full use of the slope described above and an altered direction of running to touch down under the posts, improved by Gregg.

For the next quarter of an hour OAs kept the pressure on Hertford with runs from Man-of-the-Match Daish, wing Ollie Marchon and lock, Lloyd Bickle culminating in a Gregg penalty. True to the nature of local derbies, Hertford fought back with two penalties of their own from full-back Rob Richardson before half time as the sides went in at 15-6 with OAs contemplating a resurgent Hertford and defending the slope after the break.

To underline their determination, Hertford kicked off deep into OAs’ territory, an OA misfielded and a penalty was awarded to Hertford from the ensuing ruck. This was fluffed by Richardson and OAs’ ran the ball back to the Hertford 30-metre line and won a penalty themselves, slotted by Gregg.

From the restart the ball was fed to hard-working flanker, Ollie Cooper-Millar, who ran fully 40 metres upfield before being stopped, only for the ball to be lost into touch. Much the same happened to a penetrating run by Terry Adams but his pass went behind Marchon as the opposition 22 was in sight.

At this point, with so much good OA effort going to waste, Hertford began to believe in themselves again and over the next ten minutes exerted sufficient pressure to pitch camp in the OA 22 metre area seeking the two scores that would turn a 18-6 deficit into an unlikely victory. However the home side’s failure to make the most of the succession of penalties that from that narrow escape in their 22, OAs worked the ball upfield to force handling errors from their opponents, the ball ran loose over the line for Shanahan to apply the coup de grace.

OLD ALBANIANS: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Marchon, Shanahan, Evans, Cecere, Cope Ross, Comb, Bickle, Cooper-Millar, Micans, Daish.

Reps: Bailey, Hughes, Farenheim, Bruzulier, Spiers.