Old Albanian eye fourth place finish

Action from Old Albanian's win over Macclesfield earlier in the season.

Action from Old Albanian's win over Macclesfield earlier in the season. - Credit: Archant

MACCLESFIELD needed something out of this match to stay in the National One survival battle with Wharfedale, writes Brian Quinn.

As things turned out the Yorkshiremen gained a losing bonus point at Tynedale so the Blues opened the smallest of gaps over their rivals with the two points they took from this encounter. It was typical end of season fare, frenetic at times and with more errors in tactics and playing precision than either side would have wished for. However it was still an exciting game and A’s, safe in fifth place at the moment will not be displeased with the four tries they scored.

A’s kicked off and Macclesfield launched the first attack. When this broke down Chris Lombaard tore into Blues territory, as he was to do several times in the afternoon. On this occasion the final pass went right instead of left where the support was and the hosts cleared their lines successfully.

Billy Johnson, who had a fine game, made his own opportunity with seven minutes gone and weaved over to the left of the posts for the opening score. Richard Gregg made light work of a tricky conversion.

Alarm bells rang twice for Albanians in the next five minutes when possession was spilled at the base of scrums which had seemed safely won. A clearing kick from close to the visitors’ line failed to find touch and was swiftly run back towards OAs right corner. The pass found Matthew King who made no mistake. Matt O’Regan’s conversion attempt drifted wide.

Still in the first quarter James Shanahan made his habitual telling contribution with a massive fake pass to put Lombaard through at the posts for Gregg to add the extras.

For the next 10 minutes Macclesfield applied increasing pressure and Tom Davenport made the extra man with a neat try on the left. Again O’Regan’s kick slid past the upright and missed conversions were to be the only difference between the sides at the end of the day.

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Now it was the visitors who dominated play for 10 minutes and a searing break from Ollie Marchon took play to within feet of the line. He decided Stef Liebenberg had the better scoring chance and made the pass. But the unfortunate scrum half was a metre in front of his winger and a defending scrum resulted. A’s were still in the Blue’s 22 but a rushed pass allowed grateful defenders a clearing kick which went into touch fully seventy metres downfield.

There followed another shambles behind the now defending Albanian scrum and at the reset No8 Francis Barker touched down for a pushover try. O’Regan converted successfully this time and Blues had a three point interval advantage. They were within an ace of a bigger margin moments later but were penalised for crossing almost in the act of touching down in the right corner.

The Macclesfield lead was maintained throughout the third quarter as play concentrated in midfield. Then the hosts were assailed with whatever had afflicted the back of the Albanian scrum, a grateful Liebenberg took possession and cantered to the line. This, and Gregg’s third conversion, gave A’s back a lead they were not to lose. Billy Johnson added the bonus point try four minutes later after a Macclesfield scrum was disrupted ten metres out. Gregg maintained a 100 per cent conversion record.

It was with the last move of the game that hard working David Marwick earned just reward for the Blues’ efforts with their bonus point try. It was not converted but it gave his side their second bonus point of the day. Time will tell if it’s enough for safety.

Tynedale are the final visitors to Woollams next Saturday and Albanians will want to get that little bit closer to fourth place and to avenge the defeat by the North Easterners in the opening game of the season. Kick-off 3pm.