Old Albanian iron out mistakes to beat Richmond

Liebenburg goes over to score against Richmond

Liebenburg goes over to score against Richmond - Credit: Archant

Old Albanian and Richmond started Saturday’s game with something to prove to themselves and their respective supporters.

Gregg takes on two

Gregg takes on two - Credit: Archant

Everyone assembled at Woollams agreed that too many needless penalties and too much possession had been given away in the previous fortnight and the low National League One status of both sides reflected this.

The visitors good intentions were somewhat disrupted even before the first whistle when scrum half Paul Nash was injured in the warm-up and was replaced by Jack Franklin, his first start in two years. James Kyle was hurriedly drafted into the squad.

Richmond began brightly enough with the strong wind at their backs and were soon in OA territory even though they appeared under pressure at scrum and lineout. The back row handled and drove well and loose head Jeremy Cunnew made a nuisance of himself all afternoon.

Louis Grimoldby opened the scoring for Richmond when he converted a penalty after a quarter of an hour but from the restart the Albanian pack charged into their opponents’ 22.

Richmond’s defence held the first drives but a defending scrum was disrupted and the loose ball smartly gathered by Nick Stevens who dived over at the posts. Mr Kelly had already blown for a previous offence, however, so Lawrence Rayner obliged with the opening three points for OAs.

Richmond’s attack re-gathered from the first Albanian handling error and Cunnew was on hand for the first try after 25 minutes, Grimoldby adding the extras.

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Though seven points adrift it was apparent that most of the indiscipline and imprecision of the previous fortnight had been improved during the week and A’s conceded very few penalties.

This more careful, patient approach paid dividends with five minutes left in the half when Rayner crossed wide out on the right after a powerful attacking scrum and unselfish work by Chris Lombaard. Rayner’s penalty was taken left by the breeze just before the interval.

Albanians’ intelligent use of the elements continued after the break and throughout the second period and half backs Ian Vass and Stef Liebenberg made excellent ground in attack and defence.

OA dominance at scrum and line capitalised on field position and, 15 minutes in, Liebenberg found the gap and surged over giving Rayner an easy conversion and his side the lead for the first time.

The remainder of the game became very much the province of the two defensive setups as Richmond coped manfully with the wind and Albanians probed with increasing power; but there was no further score and A’s gratefully accepted their third win of the season.

Head Coach Andy Holloway declared himself happy with the afternoon’s work. “We were a lot more precise today and discipline was noticeably better,” he said. “We have lost a few opportunities this season and it is time we helped ourselves to the chances we undoubtedly create. That was a good professional performance.”

Henley, conquerors of mighty Doncaster, are next week’s opponents and, if Albanians maintain their improvement, it will be an enthralling clash.

Team: Rayner, Allan, Spiers, Lombaard, Earle; Vass, Liebenberg; Hughes, McNamee, Staff, Itoje, Johnson©, Cooper-Millar, Stevens, Thompson-Stringer. Reps: Cope, Schillaci, Hamilton, Gregg, Marchon.