Old Albanian march on with away win in Coventry

National One Coventry 34 Old Albanian 39

OLD Albanian enjoyed another first in National League One when they visited Coventry at the Butts Park Arena last Saturday, writes Brian Quinn.

It did, however, take some time for OAs to get fully into their impressive stride and it was not until the end of the first quarter that the visitors troubled the scorer.

By this time the Coventry pack had gained initial ascendancy and monopolised possession; as early as the fourth minute the hosts had taken the lead when Tom Collins tore over on the left for Cliff Hodgson to convert.

By now Albanian had conceded three penalties at the breakdown and had been virtually denied possession for fully a quarter of an hour. Yet the competitive nature of the Albanian tight forwards ensured the deficit was no greater and Will Briggs, Brett McNamee and Sam Staff in particular deserve special mention.

Then with 17 minutes gone OAs made their first meaningful incursion into the Coventry half; James Shanahan forced the gap and deftly put Olly Marchon through it.

Three minutes later Ross Hamilton gave his side the lead for the first time when he powered over on the right after a rampaging break by McNamee. Sam Stanley added the conversion.

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The advantage immediately passed back to Coventry when Matt Hankin saw yellow for an offence on the floor.

Hooker David McGregor was then forced over the line and though Hodgson’s conversion attempt failed scores were level again.

Not for long; Greg Evans collected a wayward restart and set off for the OA posts as if he was on rails.

His 70 metre sprint was dead straight yet a mesmerised Albanian defence could do nothing to stop him. Hodgson had no trouble with the extras.

Despite this setback OAs started gradually to exert an influence on possession and with Hankin back on the field started to make holes in the Coventry midfield.

Stanley had decreased the points margin with a well struck penalty with almost half an hour gone and when Terry Adams took a neat switch pass from Shanahan, Hankin was on hand for the scoring pass five minutes before the break.

Stanley’s conversion gave the visitors a three point lead at half time.

Shanahan scored the bonus point try shortly after the restart following a slick miss move and Stanley’s conversion opened the gap to 10 points.

Coventry’s challenge increased; they earned their bonus point after a series of drives on the OA left and Collins scored his second near the corner flag, too far out for a successful conversion.

With an hour gone Evans, scorer of the try of the day, saw yellow and Richard Gregg, who had taken over from Shanahan, jinked his way over on the left after a short penalty.

His conversion opened the gap to 12 points but Coventry were far from finished.

Forward power brought play back into the OA 22.

A driving maul ensued and threatened far out on the visitors’ right, and from this Terry Adams emerged with the ball thus drawing a sharp intake of breath from watching Coventry and England forwards of yesteryear!

Matters were put right when Brett Daynes crossed at the posts.

Hodgson’s conversion narrowed the gap to just five points but a penalty conceded 35 metres out and just moments later gave Gregg the opportunity to stretch it again. He made no mistake.

The game now moved into injury time and though Coventry’s forwards pressed once more another try seemed unlikely.

Certainly Hodgson thought so when he settled for a penalty with the last kick of the match, bringing his side their second bonus point of the afternoon.

Rosslyn Park pay their first visit to Woollams this Saturday .

After their seven try demolition of Wharfedale last weekend, they will be difficult to stop. Kick-off is at 3pm.

OA: Marchon, Adams, Lombaard, Stanley, Speirs; Shanahan, Liebenberg; Briggs, McNamee, Staff, Bickle, Hamilton, Cooper-Millar, Hankin, Chambers. Reps: Crumpton, Cade, Jubb, Holmes, Gregg.

n Hitchin Colts turned up with a very strong and well organised team and had the better of the first half as they outscored the OAs by three tries to nil.

At half-time, OAs regrouped and after some encouraging words they started catching restarts, competing at the breakdown and generally supporting each other in open play.

In doing so, they won the second-half by three tries to two with the match finishing OAs 17 Hitchin 31.