Oas win derby
London One Tring 16 Old Albanians 27 OAs dominated this feisty local derby but had to wait until Paul Gustard s try late in injury time to be absolutely sure of the points. Always a difficult side to face at their Cow Lane stronghold, Tring, better acqua
Tring 16 Old Albanians 27
OAs dominated this feisty local derby but had to wait until Paul Gustard's try late in injury time to be absolutely sure of the points.
Always a difficult side to face at their Cow Lane stronghold, Tring, better acquainted with the heavy conditions underfoot, defended like demons against an Old Albanian side determined to turn their current run of form into a precious away win.
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With local bragging rights on the line, there was an intensity about this game which occasionally bubbled to the surface but, to his credit, the match official was able to keep control without resorting to the string of yellow cards which some of his colleagues employ as a matter of course. As a result, the large, partisan crowd were warmed on a bitterly cold afternoon by an all action game as the home side closed ranks in their attempts to repel OAs' sustained onslaught.
Wingers Dene Miller and Mark Evans made the early running and Terry Adams, restored to fitness after a hamstring injury, quickly resumed his effective partnership with Tryfan Edwards in the centre. The well-organised home defence answered all the early questions posed of them and demonstrated their conviction by combining to halt skipper Gregg Botterman on his charge to the line.
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OAs missed the opportunity to go ahead with a penalty and after 15 minutes of dominance were stunned as Tring, in their first visit to their opponents half, snatched the lead through captain Tom Newton's clever run in. Adams forced another penalty, converted by Richard Gregg, as OAs strived in vain to translate a sustained period of pressure into a try. 'Whitewash fever' then appeared to set in as successive knock-ons spoiled gilt-edged opportunities.
Then, in the next foray and with the line at their mercy, OAs' final pass was intercepted by Tim Holgate just 10 metres from his own line.
The flying winger showed the finishing prowess which makes him the league's top scorer with a devastating sprint all the way to the visitors' line.
OAs needed to find something special in order to pierce Tring's massed ranks.
The required touch of magic came just before the interval in the form of a delightful move down the right. Tom Chesters, starting at full back after missing three games, launched the move with an elusive run from his own half that was taken on by Edwards. Adams appeared out of nowhere to take the pass in his stride and cruise over in the corner.
As half time loomed the referee called upon both teams to cool some over exuberant play.
So having enjoyed 80 per cent of the play and monopolising the chances on offer, the Woollams men and their travelling faithful, were left to ponder on a seven-point deficit.
Tring had an early penalty success from Liam Chennells after the break which sparked his side's best spell of the contest and some measured kicking for touch tested OAs' line out credentials. Queensland lock James Kriukelis had jumped well throughout and, after taking a painful knock on the knee, Arthur Mate assumed the responsibilities of target man to good effect. The big Zimbabwean, always a threat as ball carrier, has improved his handling skills over the course of this season to become a very valuable member of an improving pack, which exhibits a potent blend of youth and experience.
Nor does this side lack commitment and drive, exemplified each week by the selfless endeavours of Andy Pearson, loose head prop on the field of play and club captain off it. Pearson once again was in the thick of the action before his replacement by Adam Gelman who kept up the pressure on his opponents at set pieces and the breakdown.
It was Gelman himself who powered over after a controlled drive had pushed the Tring defenders back some 20 metres and Gregg consolidated the lead with the conversion and then a sweetly struck penalty.
Chennell's penalty, given against OAs for a line out infringement in the next passage of play, revived home hopes and served to close the gap to five points, with the referee having declared some ten minutes of injury time to play.
Aware of their opponent's ability to counter attack from any position on the field, OAs set about delivering a win with a spell of tight forward play.
The effects of a massive defensive effort were beginning to tell in the stamina of the home ranks and possession from a line out set up another rumbling drive from Botterman's men. Paul Gustard was on hand at the back of the next scrum to choose his moment and crash over the line to set the seal on a hard-fought victory. The result sees OAs remain sixth in table.
Spectators at Woollams on Saturday can look forward to another local derby as 'the old enemy', Bishop's Stortford, arrive to play for a fourth round place in the EDF Intermediate Cup, with kick off at 3pm.
OAs: Chesters, Miller, Adams, Edwards, Evans, Gregg, Peck, Pearson, Botterman, Byrne, Mate, Kriukelis , Henderson, Alford, Gustard. Subs; Gelman, Lye, May.
l TWO members of the OA Saints have been selected represent England. Sarah McKenna and Karina Page have been called up to play for the England Development XV when they take on Italy A on Friday at London Welsh.
McKenna has also been selected to play in England A's match with Italy on Sunday which also takes place at London Welsh.
On Sunday, OA Saints won a close game with an 8-6 victory over Plymouth Albion at Woollams to consolidate their mid-table postion in RFUW Championship South One.