OAs whitewash Clifton

Woollams’ Men complete the double over West Country side

National League 2 South

Clifton 10 Old Albanians 25

Following a 31-16 win at home before the year end, OAs duly completed the double over Clifton – a whitewash of sorts as the manner of winning was fitful and mistake-ridden. A bonus point for four tries ensured maximum points from the trip to Bristol; OAs remain fifth in the league but still have Taunton and Henley snapping at their heels. This season OAs have scored 891 points and with five games left the magical one thousand points beckons.

The actual whitewash was as unexpected as it was ridiculous. Several points of reference exist to ascertain which colours a club plays in. OAs play in navy, claret and gold hoops, Clifton in black and lavender hoops. Referee, Rob Warburton, would have none of this insisting there would be a clash so OAs were forced to don a white rugby-style shirt with mauve flashes courtesy of Clifton’s spare strip locker.

Two seasons ago, OAs went to Clifton with high hopes of winning an Intermediate Cup semi-final only to be sent home on the end of a sound thrashing. Half of that Clifton side are now playing for Bristol in the Championship, so the ‘double’ is fair revenge.

For OAs heroes one had to look no further than Nos. 15 and 14, Richard Gregg and Chris May respectively, who each bagged a brace of tries. Gregg converted only one in a swirling wind, but did add a penalty just after half time to bring his personal tally to fifteen points for the match.

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As much as they struggled to get a rhythm, OAs were helped by their hosts’ shortcomings. Fly-half Chris Ashwin missed two straightforward, kickable penalties as OAs raced to a 10 point lead in the first 20 minutes. Also, a certain Clifton try was ruined by a forward pass, their rolling mauls were easily disrupted and their handling errors – starting with poor distribution from the base of the scrum – were reliable providers of turnover ball for OAs. However, they did score the try of the match when winger Rob Viol, ran 50 metres to score just before half time and narrow the margin to 10-17. Viol nearly scored again in the second as Ashwin punted for the corner in his own half and Viol’s chase was only just touched down in the dead ball area by an OAs’ defender.

Gregg’s first try after nine minutes owed much to James Shanahan’s dummy to pass a ball from 25 metres out to the three quarter line which he switched inside for Gregg to cross the line unopposed. Tom Gillings, ever eager to please, attracted a yellow card for a deliberate knock on in front of the OA line. As he did, it became clear that Clifton were spurning place kicking opportunities near the try line for kicks to touch or taps. Fine if your handling is on top form and your line out is unbreachable, but this was not the case for Clifton and Shanahan again made a break in his own half to feed Terry Adams who ran a swerving 35 metres to give the score to Gregg up in support to dot down and convert.

Not to be outdone, May’s first was just as spectacular as Stefan Liebenberg dummied the back row at a scrum and broke away with May in support to run in from 50 metres to make the score 0-17. Viol’s try then narrowed the margin and on the stroke of half time Ashwin kicked his only penalty of the match.

As a result, OAs went into defensive mood for the first 30 minutes after half time, although the lure of the bonus point for the fourth try was always there for Adams whose 60 metre run from OAs’ 22 line ran out of support players at the last ditch. Inspired by this, OAs piled on the pressure and spent fully five minutes on Clifton’s line with each attack being soundly repulsed and a penalty awarded, until Ashwin earned a yellow card and, in despair at not scoring at all, the next penalty was handed to Gregg who broke the scoring deadlock at 10-20.

To OAs’ great credit and with Ashwin still in the penitentiary, May scored the bonus point try from the restart to put the issue beyond doubt. Good performances from skipper Marc Comb, Andy Daish, Gillings and Ollie Cooper-Millar in the lineout ensured that the points came home to Woollams. Resurgent and relegation-challenged Westcombe Park are OAs opponents next week at home.

OAs: Gregg, May, Adams, Lombaard, Edwards, Shanahan, Liebenberg, Cecere, Cope, Laws, Comb �, Gillings, Cooper-Millar, Bache, Daish. Reps: James, Ellershaw, Alford, Lincoln, Panting.