OAs want Jersey upset

Player-coach wants to scupper Islanders’ promotion hopes

OLD ALBANIANS’ player-coach James Shanahan wants his side to go to Jersey this weekend and upset the Islanders’ promotion challenge.

Jersey are hot on the heels of league leaders Ealing Trailfinders with three games left to play but OAs have ambitions of their own and Shanahan, pictured below, believes his side is more than capable of causing an upset.

“It’ll be very tough, they’re fighting for promotion and haven’t lost at home for God knows how long,” he told the Herts Advertiser after Saturday’s 54-19 victory over Westcombe Park.

“I’d imagine the reason for that is because it is difficult for any part-time side; we’ve got a 5am start on Saturday morning and we’re expected to play 11 hours later so it’ll be difficult.

“If we go over there and play like we did here in the first half with that level of intensity and play like we did against them here and stop them getting any momentum then we can cause an upset. I still want to do that because I want to finish as high as we can, which is fourth, and we need to win all our games to finish fourth.”

Shanahan was pleased with his side’s first half display and the way they finished against Westcombe Park but admitted he was disappointed by the way they came out after the interval.

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“We moved the ball quickly from the breakdown and we went through the phases with a lot of intensity,” explained Shanahan.

“We scored five really good tries but I was disappointed with the second half; we got on the wrong side of the referee we forced things and made mistakes. I think that was partly down to Westcombe Park really getting stuck into us at the breakdown area but I still think we need to be more efficient and effective. The last 20 we scored three good tires though so in all a very happy day.”

Shanahan and the club’s other coaches have encouraged the team to play an expansive brand of rugby this season and with the weather taking a turn for the better and the pitches firming up OAs are finding that task that little bit easier.

“All season we’ve tried to play like that no matter what we’ve been faced with,” added Shanahan.

“It helps massively if the ball’s dry, the pitch is dry, there is not a lot of wind and it’s a lovely day. It was a great day for running rugby and I think first half and in the latter stages of the second half we showed that.”

OAs still have four games left of this, their debut season in National Two South, and after a long season of hard work and graft Shanahan says the players are looking forward to their summer break.

“We’ve got a lot of niggles, bumps and bruises really,” he explained.

“There’s a lot of tired boys; we had a week off a few weeks ago which helped massively and then, no offence to Newbury, but that game kind of helped us. It wasn’t really a game of rugby it was more a team run out but last week was tough and this week was tough physically at the breakdown.

“We are hanging in and once the season’s done in four games’ time I think the boys will enjoy a month or six weeks of not doing a lot on the rugby field.

“It’s been a good season but we just need to finish well in the last four games.”

* OAs’ game with Jersey this Saturday is the first of a series of fixtures which could have an impact at either end of the table.

A week on Saturday OAs entertain Southend at Woollams looking to pip their visitors to fourth place in the National Two South table before travelling to Shelford on Tuesday, April 26, and Hinckley on April 30 with the the home sides involved at the wrong end of the table. OAs’ Tuesday night trip to Shelford kicks off at 7.45pm.