Old Albanian maintain fine run of form

Cambridge 31

Old Albanian 46

National League One

OLD ALBANIAN maintained their good run of form with their fourth win in a row on Saturday, writes Brian Quinn.

The visitors started strongly and the backs put their usual wide game into spectacular effect as early as the first minute when, after three phases, Terry Adams scythed through a sundered defence to score the first try.

Richard Gregg had no trouble with the improving kick. From the touchline he also converted the try scored 10 minutes later by the bustling Sam Collins after the attack had stretched the Cambridge back line first right and then left.

James Spiers took a smart interception 15 minutes in and raced 70 metres to the line and this time Gregg’s kick shaved the left upright.

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Still on somewhat of a roll the visitors increased their lead even with reduced numbers when Brett McNamee ploughed through the midfield and Spiers finished wide out, giving his side a bonus point in the process. Gregg, who had now taken over behind the scrum, could not add the extra points.

OAs had been reduced to 14 men when Stefan Liebenberg was sent from the field after 30 minutes. Cambridge had made a dangerous attack close to the right touchline and deep into the Albanian 22. Liebenberg, standing in his in-goal area, took possession of the loose ball and aimed a straightforward clearance kick towards the hosts’ grandstand.

Somehow it found a Cambridge hand and deflected into the arms of right wing Pat Tapley who accelerated towards the corner. Aware of the danger Liebenberg followed up smartly but his hurried tackle put Tapley up in the air and then onto his back. Referee Philip Davis had no hesitation in acting on the IRB directive and sending the disconsolate scrum-half from the field.

There had been no intention to injure and Liebenberg was commiserated with by every Cambridge player he passed on his way to the touchline.

Inside centre Mike Gillick found the gap which put the hosts’ first points on the board and his unconverted try brought the first comfort to his beleaguered side on 36 minutes but this was cancelled out three minutes later with another surgical strike from Adams who collected James Shanahan’s pinpoint kick. Shanahan’s conversion attempt dipped under the bar.

Immediately after the restart Ollie Cooper-Millar made his substantial presence felt with a typical drive to the left of the sticks for Gregg to convert. Seven minutes later Cambridge scored again when No 8 Steve Hipwell almost ambled over from a scrum close to the OA line. Adam White’s kick was successful.

On 48 minutes visiting No 8 Matt Chambers did some effective ambling of his own before transferring to Chris May who released Spiers into the right corner. Lawrence Rayner, deputising for Johannes Lombaard, added the extras.

With an hour gone Tapley this time got over the line for White to convert and Cambridge earned their own bonus point five minutes later when Hipwell again broke from the base of a scrum. Gregg’s penalty with seven minutes left ended the Albanian scoring. The visitors were reduced to 13 men with five minutes to go when Adams was sin-binned for playing the ball on the ground. Tapley’s second try, converted by Harry Key, brought matters to a close.

Coach Shanahan was pleased with the win and with the way the side responded to the loss of Liebenberg, saying: “It is not easy to play well when you’re a man down but it does concentrate the mind wonderfully.

“However we did give away too many penalties and we will be looking at that situation during the week.”

He also congratulated Ollie Marchon on his selection for the England sevens squad for the Dubai event. “Obviously we will miss him but nobody deserves it more,” he said.

Albanians are now fifth in the table with this fourth win in a row and entertain Coventry at Woollams on Saturday.

Old Albanian: Gregg, Spiers, Adams, Lombaard, Collins; Shanahan, Liebenberg; Hughes, McNamee, Cade, Bickle, Cooper-Millar, Johnson�, Hankin, Chambers.