Old Albanian provide perfect send off with Blaydon victory

Chris Lombaard scored a try in his final game for Old Albanian RFC. Picture: DANNY LOO

Chris Lombaard scored a try in his final game for Old Albanian RFC. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

Old Albanian gave the departing members of their squad – including player-coach James Shanahan – the perfect send off with a bonus-point 29-24 win over Blaydon at Woollams.

The number ten is heading to Blackheath next season, and with players such as Billy Johnson, Chris Lombaard, Harry Bate and Nick Stevens also either leaving or retiring, it will be a new-look side that trots out in National One next year.

They needed a try on the last play to snatch the win away from a Blaydon side who were relegated as a result.

The visitors from the south bank of the Tyne had taken the lead after 18 minutes thanks to their pack, who were impressive throughout.

Coached by former Newcastle Falcons prop Micky Ward, they pushed their way over the Albanian line and caused the hosts problems for most of the first period.

Max Malins, who along with Ali Crossdale made a return from Saracens duties, levelled things up before Lombaard marked his retirement with a try moments later.

That gave OAs a half-time lead and Malins extended the advantage with a penalty shortly after the restart.

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But Blaydon gave themselves a lifeline with a converted try and penalty of their own to make it 17-17 going into the final minutes.

A penalty try with two minutes to go put Albanian in front but amazingly Blaydon levelled again almost instantly.

But a mix-up form the kick-off allowed Sam Lunnon to stroll in for the winner as the final whistle blew.

Shanahan said: “We had a little bit of luck at the end but then we bombed three of four chances for tries so we probably deserved it. “Obviously Blaydon are playing for their lives and showed a lot of character and heart. They were physical up front so it took a while to break them down.

“It was nice to have Max Malins and Ali Crossdale come back, which just give us a bit of pace, something we’ve lacked in the back-line. That added to us.

“I’m just happy with the bonus-point win and to leave the club in a really strong place.”