Old Albanian captain Shanahan unimpressed with Blackheath defeat

THE correlation between the show being over and the fat lady singing was cruelly illustrated at Woollams last Saturday when Old Albanian entertained Blackheath, the second oldest rugby club in the world writes Brian Quinn.

The visitors’ pedigree is a matter of record and they are rightly regarded to be in for high honours in this league come the season’s end.

They had already come close to Esher this season and that alone is a measure of the task which faced James Shanahan’s side on a cool, bright afternoon. It may be that the hosts were surprised at the way the first half turned out.

A tentative first five minutes was abruptly ended when Chris May intercepted a loose pass 30 metres out and sped in under the posts for Richard Gregg to convert.

This was answered by Blackheath playmaker, Rory Teague, 12 minutes in, who found a gap in the defensive line and converted his own touchdown. Honours were even so far.

At this point Andrew Daish departed the action with a back injury and his loss was to be keenly felt. Indeed the visitors had already begun the kicking tactic, nicely orchestrated by Teague, which was to serve them so well. As possession from the lineout was an OA problem for most of the day.

Around the park OAs’ forwards held sway and defended very well at the driving maul, eventually making ground of their own against a heavier pack.

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The Albanian scrum was working well and such pressure was exerted on the visitors that James Cleverly replaced Simon Legg, a giant of a Blackheath prop, towards the end of the half.

The work of the front row was not limited to the tight scrum; just into the second quarter Aaron MacDougal broke powerfully and handed on to Billy Johnson who crossed near the posts. Gregg converted.

Blackheath threatened over the next 10 minutes but were let down by their own mistakes and resolute defence.

Gregg was able to increase the gap with a successful penalty after 32 minutes despite the work of David Allen who was the pick of the Blackheath forwards at this time.

Three minutes later, in trade mark OA fashion, three rapier-like thrusts organised by Shanners saw Ollie Marchon tear over on the left for the try of the day and again Gregg obliged with the extra points.

The visitors replied immediately and Geoffrey Griffiths crossed wide out, too far for Teague to improve.

A half-time score of 24-12 made great reading for the Woollams faithful who were still not too worried when the kick-off reception was fumbled and the resulting penalty was converted by Teague.

Replacement hooker Max Crumpton had an immediate hand in matters scoring the bonus point try after 53 minutes, again converted by Gregg. Again the restart was knocked on.

Blackheath now stepped up a gear and in a devastating four minute spell Thomas Bason and Gavin O’Meara both scored tries which Teague converted and there were now just two points separating the teams.

Albanian’s brave defence held out for 12 minutes and then the dam burst as Blackheath added 22 points without reply.

Teague’s superb kicking game now put the visitors in total control and Gethin Davies, Griffiths (again) and Richard Windsor all crossed the whitewash. Teague added two conversions and a dropped goal, scoring in all four possible ways.

A furious Shanahan was incensed at the way he felt his side had sat back on their early splendid efforts.

“We put our plans into operation to great effect and the half-time lead should not have been a surprise to us” he said.

“It has been said that if we relax against any team in this league we will be made to pay. Now it has been proved. We will not make the same mistake again.”

Next Saturday’s trip to Esher will tell if lessons have been learned.

Team: Gregg, May, Collins, Lombaard, Marchon; Shanahan�, Liebenberg; MacDougall, Cope, Schillachi, Bickle, Phillips, Johnson, Cooper-Millar, Daish; Reps: Crumpton, Cade, Chambers, Davis, Speirs.